15" MacBook Pro (SB) Thermal application/guide

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by fr4c, Feb 28, 2011.

  1. fr4c, Feb 28, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2011

    fr4c macrumors 65816

    fr4c

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2007
    Location:
    Hamster wheel
    #1
    After all the reports of the possible overheating of the newly updated MacBook Pro’s, I thought I’d go ahead and do a teardown of the 15” MBP and offer some insight on the process on replacing the stock/factory thermal paste. A good set of tools is definitely recommended, and a spudger tool and a pair of tweezers will help too when you’re putting everything back together. Since I don’t believe iFixit has done a step-by-step guide on the new MacBooks, I would strongly suggest individuals who have never done this before not to take this on as a first project. If you’ve taken MBP’s apart before, then I would rate this 6/10 in difficulty.

    [​IMG]

    Example of the miniature ribbon cable = PITA. It’s in the center of this image, right above the RAM and at the lip/edge of the fan cutout.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Display cable, requires you to lift a metal bracket before the ribbon can be pulled out. Be careful as it's very fragile.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Ribbon cables along the left side of the logic board. You can see the really small one again at the edge of the fan cutout.

    [​IMG]

    Logic board removed from the unibody.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Logic board with heatsink. After removal it’s actually not too bad compared to what’s out there, but still too much thermal paste in my opinion.

    [​IMG]

    Cleaned up and ready to be put back together with a application of Arctic Silver 5. I don’t have a picture of the AS5 applied, but I only used a thin layer. Rule of thumb is to put the amount of TP roughly to the size of a grain of rice, but adjust accordingly to the size of the chip. I used a toothpick to spread it evenly, then put the heatsink back on. A good idea is to “wiggle” the heatsink just a tiny bit to make sure theres proper and even contact between the 2 components, and also helps to spread your thermal compound. Then screw on evenly from opposing corners.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    NOTES:

    Roman2K~ on 4/15/2011

    I have gone ahead and re-applied the thermal paste on the 4 chips (CPU, GPU, Thunderbolt controller, southbridge).

    Before:

    GPU heatsink:

    [​IMG]

    Dirty. Nice job, Apple "Geniuses"... (I had them re-apply termal paste on both the CPU and GPU.)

    Southbridge heatsink:
    [​IMG]

    Excess of thermal paste coming out of the edge of the heatsink. Originally, I wasn't planning on re-doing the southbridge or the Thunderbolt controller, but upon seeing such horror, I would'nt have been able to live with myself knowing that such a mess was living underneath my MBP's keyboard.

    GPU & CPU:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Nasty. They told me they cleaned up the stock application and re-applied only the necessary amount. Right :rolleyes:. Not to mention, the screws were only loosely tightened. They did swap the motherboard for a new one, covered by the first year Apple Care (in order to alleviate my doubt about the CPU coming from a poor batch), so I can't complain about them specifically.

    Thunderbolt controller:

    [​IMG]

    Kind of clean, relative to its neighbours, though way too thick and uneven.

    Southbridge:

    I'm sorry I forgot to take a picture of the southbridge, but it wasn't pretty, as the picture of the corresponding heatsink (above) can attest.

    After:

    Thunderbolt controller & southbridge:

    [​IMG]

    As documented by somebody early in this thread, their heatsinks are elevated by a good millimeter above the corresponding chips. Thermal paste isn't appropriate in this case. I put thermal pads leftover from an EK waterblock. They fit perfectly underneath the heatsinks: there's a good, tight contact after screwing them back on.

    GPU & CPU:

    [​IMG]

    All cleaned up. I found a toothpick to be the perfect tool for removing thermal paste between the tiny elements (transistors?) surrounding the main chip. Precise yet soft wood.

    GPU & CPU:

    [​IMG]

    Arctic Cooling MX-2 applied, ready to be spread by the heatsinks. There's a little more than necessary but at least I'm almost certain it spread over the whole surface. Also, the MX-2 is liquid enough that the pressure from the heatsink only leaves the thinnest layer necessary to fill surface imperfections while excess is pushed to the edges (proved over and over after dozens of desktop CPU and GPU heatsink and waterblock un-/mounting).

    Results (running on battery, integrated GPU)

    Absolute maximum load temperature:
    93°C => 88°C
    Note: temperature rises to 94°C but only briefly as when when fans reach 6200 RPM, the CPU is cooled town to a stable 88°C. Before, temperature rose to 93-95°C and stayed there.

    Idle temperature (no applications loaded, Finder only):
    45°C => 37°C

    1080P video in VLC:
    85°C => ? (not tested yet)

    1080P video on YouTube:
    85°C => 67°C
    Brief initial peak at 76°C tighly controlled by fans speeding up to 2500 RPM for less than a minute.

    Average usage (multiple Chrome tabs, paused YouTube videos, iTunes playing, MPlayerX paused):
    55-65°C => 45-47°C.

    General:
    Before the "re-pasting", the top left area of the keyboard was always hot (but still sustainable to the touch). YouTube videos would make it hot the point I couldn't leave my finger on it. Fans rarely spinned at their minimum speed (2000 RPM), and it felt like they were useless.

    Fans now stay at 2000 RPM nearly all the time. They did speed up to ˜2500 RPM (barely audible in a silent room) once when the CPU cores reached 85°C until they got it down to 76°C, and proceeded to progressively slow down to 2000 RPM (their minimum, inaudible). I love this behaviour.

    The top left area of the keyboard rarely gets hot anymore. Warm sometimes. Slightly warm most of the time. That's because the CPU never gets to stay hot long enough now: fans actually manage to move heat away from the heatsink now.

    To me, that was the whole point of this operation. Temperatures aren't that much lower, but the top left area is now cool and I never hear the fans. Exactly what I expected.

    Difficulty:

    Very easy, actually! aznguyen316's teardown video guide on YouTube was the exact and only instructions I needed to proceed. This video is brilliant, really! Much thanks again to him for this gem, a gift to other MBP 15 2011 owners.

    Tools needed:
    • Phillips screwdriver
    • TX6 Torx screwdriver
    • Toothpick (in place of spudger): for both unplugging the various kinds of cables, and cleaning up intricate parts of the chips
    • Nailpolish remover
    • Coffee filters
    Conclusion:

    Success! Thrilled with the result. Smooth, easy process (for the most part thanks to aznguyen316's video guide). 100% clean chips. I can only recommend thermal paste clean re-application to all owners of an MBP.

    As an added bonus, I now know my MBP inside out. It's not a black box anymore. Apple produce some serious quality products, zero doubts about that. The tight internals just speak for themselves. Sturdy components, neat cable routing, sleek black PCB motherboard with robustly soldered elements. Eye-candy for me :). It's a shame that the assembly chain ends with such a poor job at applying thermal paste. Neglected as seemingly irrelevant, but absolutely vital in the end.

    aznguyen316 on 4/11/2011

    Thanks to aznguyen316 we have a video of the process.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlMxoHK0Os4


    alphaod on 3/8/2011

    For everyone else's benefit…

    [​IMG]

    Do not reapply the thermal paste under those heatsinks. They are for better or worse nothing more than just a cover; the gap between those piece of metal and the chips is about .5mm so you can only use thermal pads or if you must use thermal paste, you need a mesh to enforce it.

    If you try to put more than a thin layer of thermal paste in that space you are probably doing more harm than good; I had to order replacement thermal pads to replace the one I removed out of ignorance.


    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    Preliminary Results:

    Specs: 15" MacBook Pro 2.3GHz/8GB/750/6750m/Hi-ResAG

    Stock, the MBP idled at about 48C during browsing with multiple tabs, email, and iChat open. Watching something on YouTube (720p) or Hulu (480p) would make the laptop jump up to about 80C.

    After AS5 application, idle is now at about 37C with normal browsing, email, and iChat. Heres the kicker, streaming Hulu (480p) in the background with full-screen YouTube (720p) brings the MBP only to about 68C. The GPU temperatures were recording on average about 5-10C cooler than the CPU. This makes the MBP nearly silent now, as the fans don’t kick in until the laptop reaches about 80C in my case.

    I'm going to let the paste settle for a few days and report back with any changes.

    Full set with higher resolution images:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/fr4c/sets/72157626045020161/with/5487489942/
     
  2. dta macrumors newbie

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    Feb 25, 2011
  3. HBOC macrumors 68020

    Joined:
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    Location:
    SLC
    #3
    great guide!

    I upgraded the HDD in my early 08" MBP but that is about as much "tearing down" that I have done. I don't think I will do this, as I haven't noticed any real heat issues on mine yet. Perhaps when i upgrade the HDD and RAM i might get a wild hair...
     
  4. Looon macrumors 6502a

    Looon

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2009
    #4
    lol spending thousands on a laptop, and then having to modify it yourself so it doesn't melt. Apple quality. :apple:
     
  5. axu539 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2010
    #5
    Thank you very much for this. I've taken apart machines before, but I'd never done a TP reapplication. I was planning to do so eventually for my new incoming 17". I will definitely be using this thread as reference!
     
  6. sammich macrumors 601

    sammich

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2006
    Location:
    Sarcasmville.
    #6
    That sucks how it looks so bad. Moreover, I'm definitely not breaking open anything this new and expensive.

    That said, if I get any problems, I'll be swapping these MBPs fast and early, before they get a chance to have too many refurbs in stock. Maybe before long they'll start throwing free stuff at me (aim: 512GB SSD or a 27" ACD :D)
     
  7. Prodo123 macrumors 68020

    Prodo123

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    Nov 18, 2010
  8. axu539 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2010
    #8
    Quick question. When you initially remove the heatsinks, does it take much effort to take off due to the already applied thermal paste? The worst thing about taking apart a computer is having to apply force to do anything.
     
  9. fr4c thread starter macrumors 65816

    fr4c

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Hamster wheel
    #9
    Definitely, so you should not attempt to do this unless you know what're you're doing, in the event that you damage something else in the process.

    It pried apart pretty easily, but then again the MBP is only 2 days old. I can't imagine it being hard to take apart regardless as I've done this on Santa Rose/Penryn chipsets that's been running on stock factory gunk for a year or two.
     
  10. Prodo123 macrumors 68020

    Prodo123

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    Nov 18, 2010
    #10
    Damn, now I'm stuck between "Make Apple replace this laptop over and over again" and "Not get this laptop replaced even if it gets wrecked"
     
  11. axu539 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2010
    #11
    Sounds good then. I will probably test my temperatures first, and if they idle at anything higher than 50, I'll be performing this surgery. How long did this take you, overall?

    To give you a sense of how technically skilled I am, I can stick in an Optibay in about 15 minutes, and replace a white macbook display in about 30 minutes. Not the fastest, but not the slowest.
     
  12. Prodo123 macrumors 68020

    Prodo123

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    Nov 18, 2010
    #12
    CPU replacement, which includes popping out CPU's from my laptop & desktop, takes around 20 minutes. Not that hard.
     
  13. alphaod macrumors Core

    alphaod

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2008
    Location:
    NYC
    #13
    Since you already posted this one up, I figured I'd just add a few pics of my own…

    Big globs of thermal paste:
    [​IMG]

    Thin films of Arctic Silver 5 applied (I thinned it out a bit more after taking this pic):
    [​IMG]

    You want the thermal paste to be as thin as possible. Some people like it put a little bit on the chip and let the two surfaces spread it; I like to spread it out with a razor blade before mounting the heatsink on.
     
  14. aznguyen316 macrumors 68020

    aznguyen316

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2008
    Location:
    Tampa, FL
    #14
    Great guide, I will NOT be doing this though lol, although I've torn down an M11x and a couple other laptops to apply thermal paste.

    Quick Q to the OP, since you seem to know what's good, why AS5? I've read that's a bit old now and MX-2 and MX-3 are better suited now and are less risky as they aren't conductive if you make a mess. Just curious as I used to be a big AS5 fan when I had my first AMD build 10 years ago, but now just use MX-3.
     
  15. fr4c thread starter macrumors 65816

    fr4c

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2007
    Location:
    Hamster wheel
    #15
    Thanks for adding the pictures, and there definitely seems to be inconsistency in the amount of TP applied. Definitely worth it in my opinion to swap out the factory goop and replace it with something better.

    AS5 is capacitive, but you should still be careful not to create a mess when applying. It's really a personal preference as the AS5 does take about 200 hours to cure/break-in completely as well as thermal cycles. MX-3 on the other hand is much less demanding. In the end there might be at most a 1-2C difference in cooling between the 2, which 99.8% of us probably won't even bat a eyelash.
     
  16. dta macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2011
    #16
    But, what will happen if we appy too thin thermal paste? Will that damage the computer? More generally, what is thermal paste what is it for?
     
  17. dnkbro macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2010
    #17
    :eek:

    That is a ridiculous amount of thermal paste on your stock unit. WTF was :apple: thinking? Why don't they teach the people assembling the computers to not use so much paste? They could cut costs this way and ensure people don't receive units prone to overheating.
     
  18. dnkbro macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2010
    #18
    Thermal paste is used to "fill" the gap between the processor and the heatsink due to the uneven nature of the two. If both surfaces were so precisely flat that there were no spaces between the two, techicnally no thermal paste would ever be needed. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. Too much paste causes excess temperatures. It is much more difficult to apply "too thin" of a layer than it is to apply "too much."
     
  19. dta macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2011
    #19
    But would the thermal paste thickness stay constant in time, or will it get thinner/diffused away? I mean would a 1mm thick layer of thermal paste remain 1 mm thick 6/12 months later (of course, I know the concept of conservation of mass, but just curious if there might happen any kind of melting etc.)
     
  20. wibblenut macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2011
    #20
    I was just looking at thermal compounds - there's one made from synthetic diamonds called IC Diamond, which is none-capacitive and claims to have a higher thermal conductivity than silver and therefore more effective than compounds like AS5. Does anybody have any experience with this product?

    Does replacing the thermal paste void the entire warranty/applecare, or just the cover for the logic board? I'd be hesitant to do it myself without fully understanding these implications.
     
  21. stylinexpat macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2009
    #21
    Great thread. Thanks for the detailed write up. I'm not sure I would have the balls to do this myself but may consider asking one of the tech guys at Apple to help me out with this once I upgrade to the new 15" MBP.
     
  22. 1BadMac macrumors 6502

    1BadMac

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  23. alphaod macrumors Core

    alphaod

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2008
    Location:
    NYC
    #23
    It voids nothing if you don't damage anything; I saw no stickers or coverings that said "Warranty voided if removed/opened."

    I even told the Geniuses at my local Apple Store I was going to do it to fix my heating issue. Their response was, "tell us if it fixes it."
     
  24. dagamer34 macrumors 65816

    dagamer34

    Joined:
    May 1, 2007
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    #24
    Of course, better thermals = better performance due to Turbo Boost, so you get a 2 for 1!

    I've applied Artic Silver before (heck, I even did a pinmod back in the day, 1.6Ghz -> 2.13Ghz) but I'll wait to see if the thermals get crazy before going convincing myself that AS5 is necessary. So many screws.....
     
  25. snouter macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    May 26, 2009
    #25
    Great post.

    What is weird is, even from my limited PC homebuilding experience, I know about using too much thermal paste and the adverse effects on heat.

    Everyone had to know there was going to be more heat by throwing a quad in this chassis.

    It's disappointing that this slipped through production and testing.
     

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