I like DIY (Do It Yourself) projects more than anything. Well, as long as it's simple. Since I had 3/4th of Arctic Silver 5 (thermal paste) lying around and my laptop fan spun up everytime I wanted to watch a video, I decided to open up my laptop and clean the cooling system (copper heat sink and fan). I mean, how hard could it be?
It turns out not very. I know that when the Top Gear team uses the term "How hard can it be" it most certainly ends up with a big crash, lots of smoke and a bill with a very large number on it. So here is my bill (average prices):
- Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Paste – €10.5, £7.5
- Screw Driver Set – €13.3, £9.6
- Anti-static Wristband - €4.3, £3.1
- 99.5% Ethanol – smuggled from a reliable source
- Microfiber Cloth - €2.1, £1.5
- Finehaired Brush – €3.2, £2.3
- A stiff card of some sort. A credit card is perfect.
Tweezers are not on the list and they will really speed up the work, at least if you drop screws all over the place, like me. Another thing that will speed up the final assembly is putting screws in small containers (I used five: heat sink, hard drive bay, screen, CD/DVD, and chassis). And one other thing before you start: set aside at least two hours for this project. I did it in 1 hour 10 minutes but I am fairly experienced.
- Put on your Anti-static Wristband and connect it to any metal surface that has ground contact. Remove the laptop battery and AC cord (we don't want any current in the components when we are fiddling around.
- Remove all screws and panels from the main chassis. If the HDD bay comes loose, or the DVD-burner, gently remove them (pull straight out of socket, don't wriggle it around) and put them somewhere safe.
- Depending on your computer make you should be able to remove the chassis, uncovering the motherboard. Don't be afraid to use some force, but if it gets stuck watch for additional screws before proceeding. I had one extra screw under the HDD bay, and two more where my RAM is installed.
- Remove the heat sink and the fan. Be careful not to loosen any connections on the motherboard. As you can see from the pictures further below it looks like a baby monkey put on the thermal paste. It is way to much, which overflows and traps heat in the CPU and chipset.
- Use the brush to get the dust of the fan. If you want you could open it up even more, or remove it. Just remember to reconnect it to the motherboard if you do.
- Clean the contact areas of the CPU, chipset and heat sink by dropping small amounts of Ethanol on the microfiber cloth and rub the cloth in circles over the contact areas.
- Repeat step 6 until you can see your own face in the contact areas. It should be clinically clean.
- Apply very little thermal paste to the CPU and chipset. Use the card to smear it out evenly over the CPU and chipset. Don't get thermal grease outside the contact area, this will trap heat (the heat sink has no contact with it and therefore the heat cannot escape).
- After you are done put back the heat sink and fan (there should be contact). Screw back the screws, put back the chassis, hard drive and DVD-burner. Put the battery back in and fire up your computer. If you happen to have a CD in the drive you might get a slight shock.
Final note: The temperature decrease will not appear to be noticeable at first (the thermal paste needs about 200 hours to settle) but you will notice it. My computer has an idle temperature of 33°C which is 4°C cooler than it used to be.