On the contact material front I've read all sorts of instructions on how to spread it out "properly" etc and I wanted to share the CORRECT way to apply compound with you all.
I learned it from a builder of high power custom amplifiers. I've added my experience to this as well.
#1 If they sell it online it's crap, a storefront like CompUSA will have the compound they use when building warranted systems for sale.
#2 Clean both surfaces with vinegar, then alcohol, then rub the crap out of them with really cheap toilet paper. Better than steel wool, finer than ebon rouge.
#3 Carefully build a single blob at the center.
#4 Lay device containing chip flat on a firm but non-marring surface.
#5 Slowly lower waterblock onto surface with 20° rotation twisting back and forth.
#6 KEEP twisting back and forth. Brutally. You're crushing the air out of it like its time to feed a child murderer a pillow.
#6a I MEAN BRUTAL, keep the pressure on. You're doing this to maximize performance not to have a run-of-the-mill card. If you're not willing, don't start.
#7 Hold it there and have someone else assemble the bracket.
#8 Wipe up all that wasted money from around the edge with yarn-on-a-stick.
Thermal conduction compounds are used to fill the voids where the surfaces DON'T make immediate contact, it is NEVER as efficient as direct contact. If there are air gaps due to the uneven surfaces of the heat spreader OR the waterblock, you will trap air within these. You cannot apply compound like tile mortar, you have to make it wet both surfaces as it expands. This is one of the problems with most manufactured heat sinks installed on graphics cards, they blob it on then just tighten the screws. I recently rebuilt a pair of 6970 vapor chamber cards and one had to have an aftermarket kit because it's vapor chamber plane was concave! The other one was riding on enough "thermal glue" for me to sink five 4930s.
They both, three years old, work better than they did new.
Edited by prjindigo - 11/6/13 at 11:27am