Sunday, October 02, 2005

I Hate Hardware

About a year and a half ago, I bought a laptop. While it isn't the greatest computer ever, it has generally served my needs. However, I've been having more and more trouble with it lately. The first sign of serious trouble was when the computer shut itself down while I was playing bzflag, leaving a message in the system log about the temperature exceeding 90 degrees Celcius. After that, I of course took precautions to ensure that it was well-ventilated, even to the point of buying a special laptop cooling device (basically an elevated stand with two enormous fans mounted in the bottom). However, the condition of the system has continued to deteriorate. I felt pretty confident that I knew the cause -- dust buildup in the ventilation system, and so yesterday I pulled out a set of screwdrivers and set out to clean every last dust bunny out of the system. Sure, I said to myself, I've never opened a laptop before, but I've assembled a desktop, so I'm totally qualified!


My laptop is currently in pieces all over the floor of the apartment. Taking it apart wasn't too bad, aside from the fact that you have to remove about 20 tiny screws, most of them totally inaccessible. Even getting the CPU out wasn't too bad, and when I did I found (as predicted) a huge wad of dust wedged between the heatsink and the fan.

But here's the fun part: there is no way to reattach the CPU to the motherboard! The problem is that the fan/heatsink assembly on this thing is huge -- it covers almost a quarter of the area of the case. To reassemble everything, I need to open the socket, insert the CPU, and close the socket again -- however, if I insert the CPU while it's attached to the assembly, it blocks access to the socket's open/close control. So it appears that the only way to put the CPU back onto the motherboard is to remove it from the heatsink, stick it into the slot, and then reattach the heatsink.

And (joy) I can't get the heatsink off the CPU or out of the fan assembly; they all seem to be practically welded together. When pulling didn't work, I headed to Fry's and bought some nasty-smelling solvent that's supposed to dissolve the thermal adhesive holding the CPU to the motherboard. All it did was give me about a half hour of ventilating the area while I waited for the lightheadedness to wear off. I'm currently seeing what happens if I leave the whole mess in the freezer for a while; several people have told me that might work (presumably because the various components shrink away from each other as they cool).

Once I get the CPU back in, all I have to do is reapply thermal adhesive, attach the heatsink+fan assembly to it, then find all 30 or so screws I took out and figure out where each one goes. At this rate, I'll be amazed if the whole thing works even if I do get it all back together in one piece.


At 3:50 AM, Anonymous Benjamin Seidenberg said...

If your laptop is recent, I suggest finding the service manual. I found the manual for mine online and it has step by step instructions for assembly/disassembly, with instructions about each screw. It really helps.

(USER astronut ON THE DOMAIN dlgeek ON the TLD DOT net)

At 9:42 AM, Blogger dburrows said...

The service manual might have been useful for the screws, but it doesn't seem to provide any useful info on detaching the CPU from the heatsink and fans. In fact, as far as I can tell, it doesn't say anything about this. It does say to unlatch the CPU before removing it, but the position of the latch makes it physically impossible to do this unless you first get the fan assembly off.

Probably I'm missing something that's so simple they don't expect to have to tell anyone about it.

At 7:41 PM, Blogger dburrows said...

Sorry, but due to the high level of spam it's attracting, I've had to lock comments on this post.


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