Be gone. Noisy Macbook Air!

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by netddos, Apr 15, 2008.

  1. netddos macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2005
    #1
    First of all, let me start out by saying that I love Macbook Air.

    Apple really knows how to attach emotion to the devices they make. It's something that no other company can do with their products.

    If I had to pick one major fault for Macbook Air (1 USB port and lack of CD drive don't really bother me) is that it is noisy.

    For a product that's designed mainly for light weight tasks, fan reving at 6200rpm after watching youtube or running screen saver is not favorable.

    From browsing around the forum, I started to think that the source of heat issue on Air came from the way Apple applied thermal paste.

    Poor application of thermal paste is a common practice for many companies and I guess it was also an oversight that Apple has made.

    So I pop opened the back. I've done it by unscrewing screws in the back. It is probably one of the easiest laptops to open its innards.

    I was greeted immediate with the heatsink. I was surprised. Heat sink is nothing but a thin plate of aluminum. No fins. No nothing.

    I unscrewed the heatsink from the PCB.

    And viola...

    As you can see..they overused themal paste. This isn't a sandwich. It's a CPU core.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    After a clean up.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Much better :D

    [​IMG]

    Applied Arctic Silver 5..


    Then I reassembled everything back up.

    Ran youtube..and waited for the temperature to go up.

    Result
    When watching youtube video at full screen for 10 min.

    Before
    Core temp- 71 c
    Fan- 6200rpm


    After
    Core temp- 63c
    Fan- 4200rpm

    Needless to say. HUGE improvement.

    If you got a noisy Macbook Air...and if you got the gut to open up and reapply thermal paste..I'd say go for it. :D
     
  2. stakis macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2007
    #2
    People may say this VOIDs the warranty but is there any way for Apple to know this was done...??
     
  3. netddos thread starter macrumors regular

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    Oct 22, 2005
    #3
    Yes it will void your warranty..only if you make it look obvious. :p
     
  4. Shrek-Moscow macrumors member

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    Apr 11, 2008
  5. phatjoe macrumors member

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2008
    Location:
    IL
    #5
    I've read before that apple is known to apply to much thermal paste.

    This seems to be a BIG FIND for the many MBA owners with high revving fans. Interesting that something as simple as to much thermal paste may be the cause of so much fustration...

    Seems like an easy fix :D
     
  6. chrono1081 macrumors 604

    chrono1081

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2008
    Location:
    Isla Nublar
    #6
    I see thermal paste nightmares from many companies. When applying thermal paste a thin, even coat is what you want a lot of companies have assembly line workers who think its like squirting icing on a cupcake!

    I must be super fortunate because my macbook pro runs soooo cool. I have yet to hear the fans. I can feel a gentle breeze from the back of the machine but I hear nothing, no dvd drive, no fans, no harddrive....(and yes it runs)
     
  7. NC MacGuy macrumors 603

    NC MacGuy

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2005
    Location:
    The good side of the grass.
    #7
    I'm curious if you used the same stock seemingly generic heat sink compound vs. the Arctic Silver if you'd have the same results. Is it the higher grade compound or the re-application that lowered the temps?

    Just a thought...
     
  8. Scott6666 macrumors 65816

    Scott6666

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2008
    #8
    Which could of course explain the variability of comments about the Air. Each assembler applies a slightly different amount from their colleagues. Perhaps each assembler applies a different amount themselves between different Airs they are working on. Some get the good MBA's others the bad.

    Now OP, could you redesign the heatsink, add a few fins or something and market it back to us? :D

    You also have to wonder why Apple can't spring for a little Artic themselves for an $1800 computer
     
  9. Phil A. Moderator

    Phil A.

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2006
    Location:
    Shropshire, UK
    #9
    Yeah - the thermal paste will be applied properly :D

    On a serious note, I don't think opening the machine and doing this will automatically void your warranty: If you damage anything while you're doing it then that would be a different matter...
     
  10. Phil A. Moderator

    Phil A.

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2006
    Location:
    Shropshire, UK
    #10
    Although I've never considered my MBA to have a problem (the fans run pretty much constantly, but I do push it hard), this topic piqued my interest enough to have a look-see myself. Taking the MBA apart is very easy, as is getting the "heatsink" (I hesitate to call it that!) off, although some of the screws are pretty small so a steady hand is needed.

    The application of compound was, if anything, worse than the OP, so I cleaned it all up, put some new gunk on, and put the machine back together.

    With some trepidation, I started the machine and ran a couple of yes >/dev/null commands to stretch the processor's legs. At first I thought I'd broken something because the fan refused to spin up to 6200 RPM (in fact, it barely moved past 2,400).

    However, I then realized that it was simply because the cooling system was doing it's job properly and there was no need to get the fan up to any speed. I finally got the fan to peak by running 4 yes>/dev/null commands and a couple of youtube videos for about 15 minutes. As soon as I reduced the load, the speed started plummeting and as within 5 minutes the temperature was down to 55 degrees and the fan back down to 2,400 RPM.
    This is obviously how the MBA is designed to work (near silently) and it makes you wonder how Apple's contracted assemblers seem to consistently screw up the application of gunk to the heat sinks.

    If you have a steady hand, and can work patiently and methodically, it's definitely a modification worth doing (altogether, it took me about 1/2 hour) - the difference is like night and day (and this from someone who didn't think he had a problem :D)
     
  11. 1appleAday macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2008
    #11
    pardon my silly questions, but how do you clean up the thermal paste? where can you get Arctic Silver 5, and what tool do you use to apply it? and how do you know how much is enough?

    someone can make a business out of this i suppose!
     
  12. pilotError macrumors 68020

    pilotError

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Location:
    Long Island
    #12
    Newegg and others sell a 2 part cleaning solution (about $5) that will take the old compound off and prep the CPU for application of new compound.

    Once its clean, put a line about the length of a grain of rice in the center of the CPU and use a piece of cardboard or a credit card and spread it thinly and evenly across the CPU. Be careful not to get any on the circuit board as the stuff is conductive.
     
  13. 1appleAday macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2008
    #13
    Thanks for the quick response! I searched newegg and found there are several arctic silver products. which one is the best?

    good thing the stuff is not expensive. bad thing is i'm not sure if i have the guts to do it.....sigh
     
  14. Scott6666 macrumors 65816

    Scott6666

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2008
    #14

    Can't you just clean it off with alcohol and q-tips?
     
  15. netddos thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2005
    #16

    Just make sure the alcohol is over 80% in concentrate.

    My guess is that it is the combination of both.

    Generic paste is usually made out of silicon.

    Silver used in Arctic Silver has much better heat capacity.

    Overusing thermal paste makes it act as an insulator rather than as a medium that transfers heat from the core to heatsink.
     
  16. iHerzeleid macrumors 6502a

    iHerzeleid

    Joined:
    May 5, 2007
    #17
    What exactly makes the over use of thermal paste bad? Im just curious.
     
  17. tom. macrumors 6502

    tom.

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2007
    Location:
    UK
    #18
    Better?
     
  18. Scott6666 macrumors 65816

    Scott6666

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2008
    #19
    I went to the Arctic Silver website and then off to one of their review sites. According to them:

    1) Arctic Silver conducts about 10x better than silicon

    2) Metal to metal conduction is still better than thermal compound conduction so you should use just enough to fill gaps between the chip and the heatsink but block as direct contact as little as you can.
     
  19. Phil A. Moderator

    Phil A.

    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2006
    Location:
    Shropshire, UK
    #20
    As an update to this after I've been able to do some meaningful "real world" tests: I've been working on my MBA all evening using Zend Studio, Safari and remote desktop.
    Extensive use of Zend Studio (which is based on Eclipse, and therefore Java) would normally cause the fans to kick in pretty quickly. However, tonight I have the following stats: Temperature: 49 degrees. Fan Speed: 2499 rpm

    I haven't heard the fan all night :D
     
  20. pilotError macrumors 68020

    pilotError

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2006
    Location:
    Long Island
    #21
    The Arctic Silver 5 is what you need. The only real difference is the size of the tube. The $5.99 one is more than enough.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835100007

    Here's the 2 step cleaner

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835100010
     
  21. sparkstack Guest

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2008
    #22
    The only thing to watch out for is to not apply too little paste. Because the Air's heat sink is so thin, and the way it is mounted is not ideal. There are some screws around the outside of the heat sink, then there is a a boomerang shaped metal bracket in the middle held by a single screw. The boomerang bracket is supposed to be positioned so that the ends of the bracket force the heastink onto the core of the processor and the ICH chip. there is even little alignment holes in both the heat sink and the boomerang bracket to minimize the misalignment.

    Anyhow, the danger is, too little paste and you don't get the die of the processor and the ICH chip to fully mate with the heat sink.

    I presume that Apple apply so much paste to provide full coverage of the die even if the boomerang bracket is misaligned. It would be nice however, if they sprung for some Arctic Silver while doing so.
     
  22. Pine-Tree macrumors member

    Pine-Tree

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2005
    Location:
    Arizona, USA
    #23
    Thanks for the links, added it to the cart and found out that shipping is as much as the products!! Wish I had a local computer parts store that sold them to avoid the shipping charges, oh well. Looks like a fun weekend project for my MBA, it's just that I've never done this before and so I'm a little worried of screwing it up. The pic's and instructions don't make it seem too bad though, we'll see.

    On a side note, the other day I noticed that there is a small rattling noise whenever I move my MBA around. Like there might be a loose screw floating around in there; might have to find out where it goes. I don't think I've seen the answer to an earlier post, but is there a security or warranty strip inside to know that you took it apart??
     
  23. sparkstack Guest

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2008
    #24
    There is no security seal or warranty strip. Don't forget the bottom has to come off to replace the battery.
     
  24. ayeying macrumors 601

    ayeying

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Location:
    Yay Area, CA
    #25
    I can promise you that the thermal paste was NOT the only reason for noisy macbook airs. The system itself is a very compact system, and to produce the same amount of heat as a regular notebook in a compact enviroment is stressful for the system.

    My macbook air had a lack (not enough, not entirely missing) of thermal paste and even with the fix, it was still pretty noisy under what I do.

    So it kinda does depend on what you run. If all you run is iTunes and Pages, then it'll be a great system.
     

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