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[Guide] Cleaning and reseating your graphics card  

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
I'm going to enter the market of making hardware guides. This is my first. Could you please provide some constructive criticism as to what i may do better next time?

Cheers.

***

Cleaning and reseating your graphics card heatsink

Why?

A lot of people think that once you've fitted a graphics card you can leave it and that's that. However, they can soon become dirty and start overheating which leads to random crashes, corruption, spending and endless hair pulling. The idea of this guide is to help people suffering with these problems by fixing them step by step.

How do i know whether my graphics card is overheating?

If you are playing games with no problems, likelyhood it isn't. The first sign of an overheating core is graphical corruption. Odd black squares, stretched textures odd coloured lines are a sign that your GPU is under pressure.

Overheating GPU core

Firstly, check the temperatures of your CPU core. You can do this using a number of programs such as Everest and ATI tool. The maximum it should be is 80c. Anything over this will slowly start to damage the core and anything nearing 100c will damage and possibly cause the computer to crash altogether.

Overheating Memory

Overheating memory is just as bad, but has different consequences on your PC. Instead of seeing graphical corruption, the computer will simply crash and you'll be forced to manually reboot. Again, use either Everest or ATI tool to measure the temps. Again, do not exceed 80c.

Note: Graphics cards can take much more heat than CPU's.

Cleaning your graphics card

Before starting be sure that you are grounded and carrying no static. Don't wear static inducing clothing and before starting work, touch a grounded metal item such as a radiator.

Alternatively, purchase an anti-static wrist band such as this one and clip on!


Step 1: The first step is obviously to remove the graphics card. Only remove the card once it has been sat idle with no power going through it for a few hours. If you remove the card soon after using it, it will still be hot and may still be holding power (which is bad for you).

Step 2: Next, get a small Phillips head screw driver and remove the screws holding down the metal or plastic shield on top of the card.


Once you've done this, you'll probably notice a lot of dust, dirt and general crap. Do not simply blow this off! (or breathe in). Get a vacuum cleaner and suck it up. By blowing it off, the dust lands on your floor and gets sucked back into your PC again.


Use a brush attachment to get between the fins of the heatsink. Also pay attention to the blades on the fan.

Warning: Do not touch chips or other parts of the circuit board with vacuum. It is easy to scrape off weak parts like transistors and capacitors or break them by transferring static electricity through them.

Step 3:

The next step is to remove the metal heatsink and fan. This can be a daunting thing to do since your GPU core is directly beneath. It will require you to remove more screws. Be careful not to remove the screws that hold the fan to the heatsink however.

Once the screws are removed you'll notice the heatsink doesn't just pop off. You need to give it a bit of a tug since the old thermal conducting paste will be sticking to the GPU core and heatsink. Exert a little pressure, but be careful.


You'll see something similar to the picture above. The main chip in the middle is the GPU core and the black chips directly around it is the memory. As you can see on the heatsink, the memory chips have little white pads that sit on top of them. They conduct heat and should not be removed (unless absolutely necessary).

The main GPU core will be covered in a stick paste. This conducts the heat from the core into the metal heatsink and is vital (so don't put the card back together without it!)

Removal of the paste is simple. Use a piece of kitchen roll, cloth or anything relatively lint free and use it on the end of your finger to rub the paste off. It might take a few sheets to completely get rid of it. Some pastes can be very sticky and might not be possible to remove with simple cloth. In this case, you'll need more complex cleaning equipment. Buy some small lint free cloths and a bottle of isopropyl alcohol. One popular brand is Articlean which comes with a removal and purifying liquids. See here

Apply some isopropyl alcohol to a lint free cloth and slowly rub the core. This will be more effective in removing the paste. Make sure the cloth is not dripping, and simple mildly moist.

Clean it until it shines!



Step 4:

The final step is to put it all back together again. First, we need to apply thermal paste. As i said earlier, this is absolutely necessary. Without it your card will burn up and die. There are lots of pastes available, but i (and the majority of the modding community) like to use Arctic Silver 5. It is pretty cheap, comes with enough for 10 heatsink seatings. It also works for all chipsets including GPU, CPU, Northbridge, Southbridge and even CrosslinX. However, due to it's conductivity, don't put it near the memory chips.


Place an amount verticle along the core equal to the size of two rice grains. You can now either leave it like that and place the heatsink on or choose to spread it manually which is what i do. I don't know what works best really.


I used the end of a card (Tescos - Every little helps) to evenly spread the paste over the core. Make sure to cover the middle of the core, the edges don't matter quite so much, but don't be lazy. There is likely to be some uneven parts, but the pressure and heat from the heatsink will cause the paste to change to an almost liquid which will enable it to even out.

Put everything back together the way it was remembering to plugin the fan. Put it in your PC and make sure it all works.

Step 5

Check it works and alas, it does:


Post any questions, extra info or suggestions here.

Cheers!

Questions:

Q: How often should i do this process?

A: I believe you should take the shield off and suck up the dust every couple of months. But, you only need to replace the thermal paste once a year.
post #2 of 19
cool guide...

I do this every other month to my whole system...

more out of boredom than anything else tho
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post #3 of 19
Tesco card ftw!!!
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post #4 of 19
Nice Guide
    
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post #5 of 19
Aye nice guide, +Rep. Might I make a suggestion? Everytime you take off the cooler, you should change the thermal paste instead of once a year. It is also recommmended to Replace the Thermalpads on teh memory.
post #6 of 19
Rep+ excellent guide
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post #7 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by 10acjed View Post
cool guide...

I do this every other month to my whole system...

more out of boredom than anything else tho
Same here!

But nice guide!
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post #8 of 19
Rep+ nice guide... Cool shotgun shells to..How do you clean them??..lol
    
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post #9 of 19
I got a little question...

if i was going to Bake my graphics card ( am sure that u have heard of that process ), at that time is it necessary to remove the thermal paste.

any help appreciated
post #10 of 19
Thread Starter 
It is necessary. Also, epic bump btw.
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