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I've decided that it's time to open my beast after i've noticed that one of my 4870's memory climbed above 93 degrees while playing Mass Effect.

The idea behind photographing the process is to allow a better perspective than what the service manual gives.

What was done?

  • Cleaning the fins on both video cards heatsinks with compressed air
  • Replacing thermal paste on both GPUs and the CPU to Shin Etsu G751
  • Replacing memory thermal pads on both GPUs from crappy stock ones to those
  • Modding the retention clip as described here. All Credit goes to Ashtefere:) please rep him for that, he deserves it!

Tools used

  • small Phillips screwdriver - it matches all the screws inside your Alienware
  • can of compressed air
  • a small plastic prying tool that Dell once sent me, i used it to pry open the center control cover.

Materials used

  • Shin Etsu G751 thermal paste - i bought mine on eBay, but there are a lot of places that sell it. The reason i used it is because according to a lot of reviews this is one of the best performing pastes, only problem is that it's a pain to apply (there are guides for that too :) )

  • Thermal pads

Step by step (More or less)

Ok, here we go. Try to remember the sizes of the screws you are pulling out, and store them somewhere so they don't get lost (i use a vodka shot glass :) )

Removing the Center control cover

8TnLz.jpg

i started with placing a towel on my working area to make sure i do not scratch the laptop while i work on it and removed the charger and battery.

u586a.jpg

Unscrew two screws as shown to remove the compartment door.

uG70Y.jpg

Unscrew the two screws located on both sides of CPU Fan, they are marked as M2.5XL17.

Now turn the laptop around and open the screen as far as possible.

PsRLd.jpg

using the pry tool, or a flat screwdriver, gently pry the control cover up.

I found that in my case it's best to start from the right side.

eDsQt.jpg

Be careful as there's a cable you need to disconnect before you pull it out.

EDIT: For those of you who struggle a lot with taking the cover out, make sure you read this mod by Aikimox.

Keyboard

718WO.jpg

Unscrew the 5 little screws holding the keyboard and then gently pull it up.

sDFw6.jpg

lift the keyboard up,disconnect those two cables and remove the it.

Video cards.

Since both video cards are going to get the same treatment, i'll describe just the master.

We are going to pull it out, remove the heatsink, clean it and perform Ashtefere's retention clip mod

Keep in mind that it will void your warranty!

8Sxqp.jpg

Remove the bracket.

04MJh.jpg

unscrew both screws that hold the video card.

apTmP.jpg

Disconnect the CF cable from the card, i used my nails to do it.

Note that the location of the CF connector on the second card is under the heatsink and you'll need to remove the heatsink before disconnecting the CF cable there.

Now pull the card up from it's outer side to remove it and expose the fan.

MYoui.jpg

blow compressed air to clean the heatsink and the fan.

hzQxQ.jpg

Unscrew the 4 screws that hold the heatsink down, following the numeration next to those screws.

4v03q.jpg

Now, after unscrewing those screws, the heatsink will probably be still attached to the video card pretty hard. Pry it up gently using the pry tool but make sure to do so where there's no electronic stuff under the tool.

Gh6px.jpg

This is what you'll see.

W9ctt.jpg

Next, clean the old thermal paste using alcohol pads, and remove the old thermal pads from the memory.

N9JqG.jpg

Reapply thermal paste on the video card.

I replaced the old thermal pads with with new ones, Ashtefere suggests applying a thick thermal paste on the memory (Shin Etsu would work since it's very thick)..

9r7JI.jpg

Next, Ash's retention clip mod. I will not repeat him, he explained it beautifully in his guide.

This is just to demonstrate how the screw looks like with the washer on it.

Follow his guide to reassemble the heatsink on top of the card and return the card to it's place. (Don't forget the crossfire cable).

Repeat with the slave card.

CPU

To access the heatsink of the CPU we will be removing the palmrest and the magnesium cover.

fYuzu.jpg

With both video cards back in place and screwed in, turn the laptop, and unscrew three screws inside the battery compartment that are marked M2.5XL5 to release the palmrest.

OFO1Y.jpg

With the pry tool pry the palmrest down and then lift it up to remove the little cable that connects the touchpad.

O1mi8.jpg

Ok, here i forgot to take a number of pictures so I will explain everything on this one.

Basically what we're going to do is remove the magnesium cover. before we do that we will need to:

  • disconnect LCD/Wifi/BT cables. They are marked with yellow.
  • Next we will need to open the 10 screws that hold the cover down, those screws are marked with red and with a P letter on the cover itself.
  • Disconnect the Crossfire cable from the master video card so you can pull it out.
  • Finally, after the cover is removed, we'll unscrew those four screws that hold the heatsink down. They are marked with blue

Pi8Bi.jpg

Clean the CPU and the heatsink from the old thermal paste with alcohol pads.

fM8EX.jpg

Next i reapplied Shin Etsu G751 thermal paste on the CPU and replaced the thermal pad on the heatsink with a new one.

That's it. Next, reversing the steps i reassembled the whole thing.

I had a hard time putting the LCD cable back in place, took me maybe 3 tries before i got it right.

Results

WTkH2.jpg

Those are readings before and after, both after about 30 minutes of playing mass effect 2 so to me this comparison looks valid.

Thanks to Ashtefere's mod,replacement of thermal paste and pads to better ones and cleaning the dust I can see

  • about 5-7 degrees temperature drop on the CPU, and i have reason to believe that it'll keep dropping as Shin Etsu has about 3 days settle in time
  • 11-19 degrees GPU temperature drop (!!!)
  • 11-18 degrees GPU DISP/IO temps drop
  • 19-24 degrees GPU /IO temps drop
  • 15-20 degrees Shader temps drop

5 Minutes Furmark run

QX28B.jpg

No game warms the GPUs as furmark does, so after running it for 5 minutes and seeing the temperatures stabilize where they did i am very happy overall.

EDIT:

Additional Resources

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Frustrated with my temps and knowing Dell didn't do a thorough job I decided to do a cleaning myself. It went great thanks to your guide. I didn't have paste to re-paste with so I did everything except repasting the GPU's, CPU and replacing the thermal pads. There was plenty of dust to get rid of since my system will be pushing a year old as of July this year. I decided to do the retention mod too. I will redo this when I re-paste everything with shin-etsu and add new thermal pads, I simply can't afford to get these for awhile. I placed cardboard insulating washers made for seating a mother-board to a tower's chassis without grounding out. I cut them straight in from outer edge straight in to the inner circle of the washer so when I was done I had 6 C shaped washers.

http://forum.techinferno.com/members/brian-k--albums3-200.htm

I did this so I can slide the washers in between the gpu's tension screws top and the retention bracket arm to create more tension on the gpu chip without the need to remove anything at all from the gpu cards since I wasn't repasting and had no need to disrupt the seating of the heatsink and thermal paste. I didn't remove the retention clips or loosen any screws. I tightened the screws down to a tightness that felt safe first to be sure they were tight. The screws labeled on the retention braket arms that were marked 1 were extremely tight and could not be improved. The screws labeled 2,3 and 4 were loose enough to screw them in a small fraction on each and this was on both cards. I noticed by the description in Michael's guide and Ashtefere's explained the need when reassembling the gpu heatsink after a repasting and thermal pad replacement, to retighten these screws in the order of screw one first then two, three and finally 4. What I noticed is that the tension of these screws as labeled is less as the labeled number goes up. So the screw and retention arm one has the most tension on the gpu chip and the second is not as tight as the first with the subsequent screw three having even less tension on the gpu chip and screw four has the least tension on the gpu chip from factory shipped condition. The gpu retention arm and screws labeled 1 are the tightest and need no added tension. Screw 2, 3 and 4 each have subsequently less tension. I placed my fingernail under the edge of screw 2 and wedged carefully the washer in place between top of the retention arms screw and the arm pressing down on the gpu chip. When I did this I was very careful because you can hear the stress from this tightening as you do this, which I determined when I pushed my fingernail between there so I know that they definately need to be tighter but also if your not careful you'll hear as StamatisX calls it... the crack! To remind everyone the screw labeled 1 was too tight for any improvement because I couldn't tighten screw any more sfely nor get my finger nail under the head of the screw which showed me compared to the others this one had no slack and seems sufficiently pressing tightly to the gpu chip. I proceeded by pushing my nail under outer edge of the screw head and the retention arm. You can find a small enough tool or flat head screw driver to hold the arm in place, push the washer into the space created by finger nail or thin prying tool like a wedge. The washers will hold enough tension on the 3 of the 4 heat sink retention bracket arms and the C shape we cut makes it easier to slip on without loosening or removing these screws like the clips that are used in the system. Proceed after adding the washer to screw labeled 2, to do this to 3 next and then 4 last. Just to be sure all this stays true for you before adding tension to the same ones I did first by trying to lightly pry under the screws head and the retention arm to see if it gives and allows you to put space in between them while not forcing anything so you don't crack the gpu chip. So with both this guide and Ashtefere's mod guide, it wasn't all too hard but before I started it seemed very delicate. I also added tape to the areas that seemed to me and were described and pictured in detail to be letting hot air back into the system on the heat sinks. So for those looking to do some cleaning you can do the retention mod, clean the system and seal the heatsinks leaking heat ducts with the tape mod even if you don't plan on repasting yet. Plus if you are removing both GPU's in a crossfire setup, the second card you need to remove has the crossfire cable that you detach from the first card, leave the cable attached to the second card, unscrew and remove both cards without removing the crossfire cable because you don't need to in this case and it's not accessible for removal without completely removing the heat sink from second Gpu card anyway. I can't say that without paste you wl see a huge improvement in temperatures but I can say it must be an improvement over standard configuration. Thanks for the great guide Michael and Ashtefere!

IMG00081-20110328-2027.jpg

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IMG00078-20110328-2016.jpg

IMG00077-20110328-2016.jpg

IMG00079-20110328-2017.jpg

Edited by mw86
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awesome man, glad it helped you.

Was kinda hard to follow what you did, when you'll get your paste and do it again, i think we'd all appreciate some pictures to go with those additional instructions.

Great stuff !

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What size of screwdriver is that, 2mm? Looking for one online. I've stripped too many laptop screws in my previous laptops :)

Do you think MX-4 would work just as well for the CPU and GPU? I don't plan on doing the retention mod, so I'm not sure if the paste will be too thin.

Edited by Huuy

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The screwdriver is 1/8", but any small phillips will do, just be careful not to strip the screws like you mentioned.

MX-4 will definitely give you a 3-4 degrees improvement, why aren't you considering the retention mod ? it's quite easy to perform and does wonders to your GPU temps

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I'm just worried about cracking the GPU. Although I've done plenty of mods on the Clevo W860CU (case cutting, copper shim, paperclip), I guess I could give it ago. At least this time I have warranty, lol. Did you put thermal paste on the memory?

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I'm just worried about cracking the GPU. Although I've done plenty of mods on the Clevo W860CU (case cutting, copper shim, paperclip), I guess I could give it ago. At least this time I have warranty, lol. Did you put thermal paste on the memory?

Yeah you should put paste on the memory. When I did the mod it was on a 4870 set of cards. There the memory is not coming in contact with the heatsink unless you use a thermal pad. I remember the situation is different with 5870s and you can use a dense thermal paste instead.

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Oh, I don't really plan on using paste on the memory, I've heard of a few people frying their card because of it. I'm wondering if the pads you bought would be just as effective.

@mw86, what size washer did you use?

Thanks

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Oh, I don't really plan on using paste on the memory, I've heard of a few people frying their card because of it. I'm wondering if the pads you bought would be just as effective.

@mw86, what size washer did you use?

Thanks

Yeah. I think that replacing Dell stock pads with better ones is a good idea

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I just found out that the 5870M requires 0.5mm pads, and the 4870M requires 1.0mm.

I think I'll just replace the pads/thermal paste for now, and see where I'm at. Thanks for the guide though, very easy to follow. I may try the washer method that mw86 used, I'm just a little iffy about the thermal paste on the memory chips

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Quick question, Why do we void our CC warranty if we do this? It seems AW/Dell are the ones to blame for the ridiculous high Temp of our Laptops, they should thank us not void our warranty..

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Quick question, Why do we void our CC warranty if we do this? It seems AW/Dell are the ones to blame for the ridiculous high Temp of our Laptops, they should thank us not void our warranty..

it doesn't REALLY void your warranty unless you plainly tell the rep that you've done it. ;)

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If you temporarily use the washers and never even have your heatsink off it's even harder to tell you've been tinkering. The washeer mod was incredibly quick and easy. I'll edit this post later with the dimensions of the washer I used. Remember it is cardboard insulating washers those you find insulating motherboards on metal chassis's.

Edited by mw86
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Oh, I don't really plan on using paste on the memory, I've heard of a few people frying their card because of it. I'm wondering if the pads you bought would be just as effective.

@mw86, what size washer did you use?

Thanks

For the washers I used, the inner circle is 3mm wide to and outer diameter is 8mm wide.

IMG00088-20110426-2236.jpg

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Well I followed your guide and replaced the thermal paste/pads. Man took me like 2-3 hours, way too much to remove. The problem I have is that the AC adapter doesn't work, I don't know what's causing it. GPU fried maybe? when I went into BIOS it doesn't show the AC Adapter, when I ran on battery HWinfo32 is showing both GPU's so I don't think I fried them. I tried removing the battery and just have the AC adapter plugged in but the laptop won't boot, the power cord blue light is on when plugged in.

I'm wondering if I may have disconnected a power cable from the motherboard. Dell is sending a replacement so hopefully that fixes the problem.

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well for a start I'd open it up again and check that all the cables are well connected and try again. worst case, you got Dell to take care of you. good that you still got warranty ;)

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Found out the problem, the card must have not been seated correctly. reseated both GPUs and everything is running nicely. No more CPU fan kicking in because I'm watching a video :). I noticed there's a small scratch on the LCD screen, not sure how that happened. Anyone know a good scratch remover?, it's only a small mark (kind of like when a pixel dies). I probably should have been more careful, I can only blame myself for not having the correct tools and room.

thanks for the guide though, very easy to follow.

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Sorry your screen got scratched... I'm glad you got your cards seated back in their slots properly.

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I don't know if you can remove the scratches, but what I do is ALWAYS have my alienware fabric over the screen when I am opening the laptop. It helps a lot because you'd need really push it to scratch it this way.

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You think Dell may replace it with a new one? I've only had the laptop for a month now, I guess I could try and pass it off as I had the scratch when I received the unit. I probably should have put a cloth over it but when I removed the keyboard it didn't look like anything was popping up that could scratch the screen.

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Ha well I learned my lesson from M11x. Alienwares aren't as user-friendly to do user replacements and mods, as say Thinkpads. There are lots of booby-trap cables that you can easily break if you're not careful - that are hidden beneath certain parts you're trying to remove. If the scratch isn't that big, and it might have been there since you received the system and you JUST noticed it - I'd ask for replacement. :) If Dell did a proper job with thermal conduction system, it would never happen. :P

Also, whoever decided it was a good idea to make the damn plastic cover that needs to be popped out, needs to be shot.

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Yeah, I loved how easy it is to replace HDDs and RAM, but when it comes to re-pasting the CPU, it's a whole other story. I'll call Dell and see if they will, if I get a no, oh well. For some reason now the alienhead above the keyboard changes color, as if the power cord was unplugged. At first I thought it was the HDD but I thought only the eyes flash if there's HDD activity.

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      4. Restart the OSD application by double-clicking the file.
      5. Done!
      The Area-51 m17-R1 install should be similar to the steps for the other laptop revisions above. They all basically follow the same process anyway, apart from filenames/paths.
      @robby_hd was kind enough to make a red version of these icons for the M17x R3 / M18x R1 which can be downloaded from his post here.
      **There seems to be a security issue with Windows 8/8.1 at this point in time since it doesn't allow modified exe's. I will update this post with a solution once it has been found. Also a few Alienware owners are having an issue with the unmodified OSD and Windows 8. Only the default Windows 8 OSD displays and not the Alienware version. Try the solution posted by Dell here and then attempt installing the mod.
      The below screenprint is a workaround by editing the security policies to allow the unsigned exe to run in Windows 8. If you are not aware of what these settings do and the repercussions of changing them, please do not attempt it.
      - Open the Group Policy Editor by typing "gpedit.msc" in the search or run text box.
      - Duplicate the settings below.
      Area-51 m17-R1.zip
      M17X R1-R2 & M15X.zip
      M17X R3-R4 & M18X R1-R2 (Windows 7).zip
      M17x R4 & M18X R2 (Windows 8).zip
      AW 14-17-18 (Windows 8).zip
      M17X R4 & M18X R2 (Windows 8.1).zip
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