Place graphics card on preheated baked tray and bake for 10 minutes
Allow to cool in oven for 45 minutes
Apply thermal grease
Reassemble graphics card and laptop
I thought I would write a quick blog about something a little funny that I’ve been doing at home recently. This isn’t directly related to DediPower but anyone with a passing interest in technology might find it amusing. I also just want to point out this was my own personal property, the techniques here are not endorsed by DediPower and if you do try it for yourselves and it goes wrong don’t try and blame me!
I recently had my laptop start going faulty. It’s about 4 years old and out of warranty. Garbage would be written over the monitor, Windows would boot but would often blue screen. Not great for a laptop that was quite expensive when it first came out. The BIOS screen was also covered in various strange artefacts which pointed to the graphics card and that it was definitely a hardware issue.
I tried various things, making sure the internal cables were seated properly, power supply was ok, fans not blocked, leaving it off for a while, reset bios etc. etc. I didn’t have much hope but it was worth a try. The laptop is a little different than most in that it has an interchangeable NVidia graphics card, not the usual integrated type. At this point my three main options were to buy a new graphics card (if possible), buy a new laptop or try and repair the graphics card. The last option seemed like it should be the first one to try.
What had most likely happened is that a solder joint on the graphics card had become cracked. Over the course of years the graphics card would have heated up and cooled down hundreds of times. Each time this happens the board would have flexed slightly putting strain on the solder. Eventually this caused a crack somewhere. The fact that there was weird garbage on the screen but that it appeared to work pointed to frame buffer corruption which in turn points to a dodgy memory connection. I thought if I can spot the broken joint then I could maybe get that fixed and save having to buy anything. Once I got the card out of the laptop I saw the memory was BGA mount which means the “pins” are underneath the chips. Nothing I can see or do by hand, doh.
At this point I did some research on the net, and did come up with a possible solution that a few other people had tried with some success. What I effectively wanted to do was re-solder a joint, if it’s not possible to re-solder one joint its maybe possible to do all of the joints at the same time. We all happen to have such a device perfect for this, an oven! The idea would be to heat the oven enough that it allows the solder to flow but not hot or long enough to actually damage anything! Thinking that I have nothing to lose I decided to give it a go. So I stripped down the graphics card by removing the heat sink, cleaned the thermal compound off of the GPU. I fashioned four little stands for each corner out of foil to make sure the board had no contact with the baking tray I was going to sit it on.
So all ready with my graphics card prepared I preheated the oven, and once ready stuck the graphics card in for 10 minutes at 180C / Gas Mark 4. I must admit feeling a bit stupid at the idea of cooking a graphics card but the theory was sound. So after waiting for 10 minutes with my fingers crossed I turned off the oven and opened the oven door a bit. I wanted to allow the card to cool down slowly. So left it for about 45 minutes. I checked everything looked ok, applied some new thermal grease to the GPU on it and put the heat sink back on. I then assembled the laptop to the point where I could power it up.
So this was the key moment, had I completely destroyed the graphics card? Would everyone laugh when I told them what I’d done… I pressed the power button and… and it had worked! BIOS screen and no corruption at all. I slightly couldn’t believe that cooking it in the oven had actually fixed a bit of hardware but it had indeed. It’s been a week and it’s still going strong. So in closing I will say if you have an old piece of hardware die or develop problems it might just be worth baking it in the oven, you never know your luck!