Apr. 27th, 2010

zwol: (burn zombies burn)
Computers are not generally equipped with air filters, so it is necessary to clean accumulated dust off all the heat sinks from time to time. If you don't, eventually your computer will fail to boot because the heat sinks are so clogged with dust that the CPU or the video card goes into thermal protection shutdown before it ever gets out of the BIOS. This is, alas, exactly what happened to me this morning.

Unlike with my previous computer (which had an excuse, being a Shuttle microdesktop box with far too much stuff crammed into not nearly enough space) it was easy to get the CPU fan off the top of the CPU heatsink and vacuum out all the dust, without having to get out a screwdriver or anything. The video card, on the other hand... Video cards these days all seem to have this clever plastic duct and fan arrangement that sucks air through the GPU heat sink, which is a good idea since the expansion card area doesn't get that much airflow otherwise. But this means the heat sink proper is inaccessible, unless you take the duct off. It would be relatively easy to make the duct a snap-on arrangement, like the CPU fan is.

Did ATI do this for their model X1900? They did not. To expose the heat sink, you must completely disassemble the heat-rejection assembly and detach it from the video card. This requires the removal of twenty-one screws, of five different types, requiring three different screwdriver sizes; some of them are difficult to put back in their little crevices without a magnetic screwdriver, and none of them are made of proper quality steel — I ruined several of the screw heads and sheared one of the screws clean off, putting it all back together. Why do people still use Philips heads for screws that need to be torqued? There are many excellent alternatives. Some of the screws were self-tapping into plastic, which is never acceptable and yet features in every single episode of this show.

If I had been doing things properly, I would also have needed to clean off and re-apply two different kinds of thermal grease. Which I do not have. And to add insult to injury, it turned out that the heat sink itself had a closed top — imagine a stack of thin rectangular tubes, instead of the usual fins. This meant I couldn't get all the dust out, after all.

But the computer works again! So we'll call that a win.

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