How to re-thermal paste an ATI 5770 Mac Edition Graphics Card

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Machines, Jul 15, 2015.

  1. Machines macrumors 6502


    Jan 23, 2015
    Fox River Valley , Illinois
    With the older cMP systems , all the factory installed video cards need maintenance now . At load , many GPUs will become too hot and will fail as their factory thermal paste becomes dry (too much or non-moist paste will also act like a thermal insulator, which is the opposite of what we require) . In some cases, the paste just evaporates away completely leading to an imminent failure . With higher end graphics cards , this can happen in as little as two years . All cards with Mac ROMs are expensive and used 5770 M.E. cards currently sell for around $200 . It is not difficult or costly to save these cards and prolong their operational life . Here is a step by step guide on how to save your valuable 5770 .

    A factory Mac Edition ATI 5770 Graphics Card with one Dual Link DVI and two mini DisplayPort connectors .

    Tools , Equipment and Materials Needed (all are static control friendly) :

    1) Static Control Wrist Strap for grounding .
    2) Black Stick .
    3) Nitrile gloves (optional) .
    4) Unused drip coffee filter , lint free .
    5) Cotton applicators with wood stick .
    6) 1 inch wide bristle paint brush , generic .
    7) 1/4 inch wide , long handle bristle brush . Dick Blick brand .
    8) P0 size Philips screw driver .
    9) Arctic USB fan , with a long cable .
    10) 91% or higher Isopropyl Alcohol .
    11) Surgical pliers , stainless .
    12) AS5 or MX-4 Thermal Paste , < 1 gram .

    coffee filter

    cotton applicator , with wood stick .

    our trusty black stick .

    one inch wide , bristle brush .

    1/4 inch wide , bristle brush .

    surgical pliers , stainless steel .

    91% + alcohol .

    P0 Philips screwdriver .

    USB fan , use with extension cable .
  2. bladerunner2000 macrumors 68020


    Jun 12, 2015
  3. Machines thread starter macrumors 6502


    Jan 23, 2015
    Fox River Valley , Illinois
    Procedure :

    Place Nitrile glove(s) on and ground yourself . Discharge static from body on an occasional basis .

    Turn graphics card upside down , so that its PCB is facing you .

    bottom's up .

    Remove the screws from the X shaped heatsink fastening bracket with the P0 Philips screwdriver . Loosen the screws slightly in an X pattern , loosening one screw first and then its opposite . Do the same procedure with the two remaining screws . Do this procedure several times until all the spring loaded screws of the bracket release .

    close up of the retaining X bracket .

    Place the bracket to the side and carefully swivel the PCB so its GPU chip is facing you . The PCB is still attached to the heatsink / shroud unit by the fan wire , so exercise caution . The wire is fragile and short . Place the heatsink / shroud on its side temporarily , next to the card's PCB .

    Our progress , so far .

    close up of the fan wire connector on the PCB .

    Carefully grasp and pull up on the fan connector with your pliers . You might want to place downward pressure on the PCB during this operation .

    pliers , pliers .

    Those wires are fragile ... so do this slowly .

    We are free .

    Once the heatsink / shroud has been detached from the PCB , we can safely clean the heatsink's thermal area of dry paste . The paste of both the GPU and the heatsink thermal areas in this example is around 85 percent dry .

    thermal area of heatsink , with dry paste .

    Take a plain cotton applicator(s) and remove the dried paste from the heatsink .

    initial cleaning of heatsink , no alcohol is needed yet .

    Once all the dry paste from heatsink has been removed , clean the thermal area with another cotton applicator but this time with the applicator dipped with alcohol . place tip of applicator on a piece of cloth to remove excess alcohol (I use my shirt) .

    cotton applicator infused with alcohol . rub thoroughly on pad to remove trace amounts of old paste .

    There is a reason why we need to do this , as the thermal area needs to be clean enough so that when the new paste is applied a microscopic bond between the GPU and Heatsink thermal areas can occur . This is critical for heat dissipation purposes .

    Once the heatsink thermal area has been cleaned with the alcohol infused applicator , buff the area with an unused coffee filter . This will remove even more old paste and provide an even better area for the new paste to be applied .

    coffee filter buffing of the heatsink thermal area .

    There will now be some loose lint from the applicators and filter around the thermal area . Use the one inch bristle brush to rub them away .
  4. Machines, Jul 15, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2015

    Machines thread starter macrumors 6502


    Jan 23, 2015
    Fox River Valley , Illinois
    Now , use the USB fan to blow away any possible remaining contaminants from the thermal area .


    Once this has been done , do not touch the thermal area for any reason with your hand . It must be free of even something as thin as fingerprints . Remember , we need that magical microscopic bond . Fingerprints and other thin debris will prevent that .

    We can now apply the thermal paste to the heatsink thermal area . This is called tinting and it is especially useful for metallic based thermal paste , like AS5 , since there is a long curing process involved . Tinting reduces the curing period and will help get us cooler results quicker at load . At idle , there is not much of an improvement from tinting .

    applying AS5 paste to heatsink thermal area , "tinting."

    Apply a small amount of paste to the heatsink thermal area . Once applied , spread the paste with your black stick until a very thin coating on the entire thermal area has been achieved .

    Our trusty black stick in action on the heatsink front .

    We're done with the heatsink , so let's move on to the GPU .

    Remove dried paste on the PCB GPU thermal area with a plain cotton applicator(s) .

    The GPU with dried paste being removed .

    Once the old paste has been removed , take an alcohol infused cotton applicator and clean the GPU thermal area of trace dried paste . remove excess alcohol from the cotton tip , as before .

    alcohol infused applicator cleaning the GPU thermal area .

    Now , buff the GPU thermal area with another coffee filter and polish up that area until it shines . Despite the quality materials we use , there will be debris that looks like this close up :

    lint and debris still on the GPU thermal area , after removal of old paste .

    Take the one inch bristle brush and brush away this lint .

    Now , blow the GPU thermal area with the USB fan . This will remove any remaining trace contaminants .

    blow me away ...

    The GPU thermal area should look like this , now :

    Nice and shiny

    We are now ready to apply the thermal paste to the GPU chip .

    new AS5 paste on the GPU

    We apply a bit more paste on the GPU thermal area than when we did on the heatsink thermal area . All the same , we use our black stick again to spread the paste as a thin coating completely covering the GPU thermal area . Remove any excess paste initially applied at this time . We want as thin a layer as possible. If you see the metal thermal area exposed through the paste , you've applied too little .

    The coating is a bit thicker on the GPU thermal area , compared to the heatsink thermal area .
  5. Machines, Jul 15, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2015

    Machines thread starter macrumors 6502


    Jan 23, 2015
    Fox River Valley , Illinois
    Here is how the paste looks once completely spread thinly on the GPU thermal area .

    new AS5 paste on the GPU thermal area .

    And here is how the heatsink / shroud and PCB / GPU look with the newly applied thermal paste .

    newly applied paste on both thermal areas . We are nearly done .

    Reattach the fan cable to the PCB socket . You might want to use your black stick to push down carefully on the top of the connector to verify a secure connection has been achieved .

    With the heatsink / shroud in the position shown in the picture above , lower the PCB on top of the heatsink /shroud and carefully align the fastener holes of the X shaped heatsink bracket .

    see how the two holes of each fastener position align ?

    A close up of one pair of holes , from the heatsink and PCB parts .

    When you have both the PCB and Heatsink holes aligned , for all four fastener positions , place the X shaped bracket on top of the PCB . Screw in all four screws of the bracket now , in an X pattern , to equalize the downward pressure . First one screw (number 1) is screwed in a little , then do the same for the opposite screw (number 2) . Then repeat with the two remaining screws (3 and 4) . Continue this procedure until all screws are firmly attached . Visually verify screw tightness , up close for each fastener . The screws will look exactly positioned like they did from the factory, before you began the card tear down . The plastic shroud will wiggle just a bit in places and that is normal .

    fastening method.jpg

    If there is any dust on the blades of the video card's fan , use the 1/4" bristle brush for cleaning .

    For this re-thermal pasting job , I used AS5 . Arctic Silver 5 is a metallic based thermal paste made almost entirely of silver particles . It is a highly quality and well proven paste . But , it does take around 200 hours to cure and theoretically the paste is capable of shorting electronics if paste residue winds up in an undesirable location . I have never experienced a short with AS5, though . AS5 is considered non toxic and I am not worried about getting some on my hands or accidentally consuming tiny amounts .

    An alternative paste is MX-4 , a non-metallic paste composed of carbon particles . There is no curing time necessary for this paste and tinting the heatsink is unnecessary . The makers of MX-4 claim the paste lasts around 8 years . I cannot verify that claim .

    Once reassembled , I install my ATI 5770 Mac Edition cards into a special test bench designed to stress test and verify the re-thermal pasting job . I run these tests in Windows 7 Professional .

    I run the UNIGINE Valley stress test for 12 hours and verify stability , GPU thermals , video card fan speeds and ability of the card to operate at load .

    I have used both MX-4 and AS5 and there really isn't too much practical difference between the two . The fans run a little slower with MX-4 , but the max temps of the GPU at load are almost identical .

    I usually get a GPU max temp of 85 C with the 5770s , which might seem a bit high . However, the test bench is not an enclosure in the traditional sense as it is open air . It has no case fans and the only fan is the stock Intel Pentium heatsink fan , which does not cool the graphics card .

    P7154183.JPG My Lion Li test bench for re-certifying graphics cards .
  6. bladerunner2000 macrumors 68020


    Jun 12, 2015
    Way too much thermal paste and actually more dangerous than what you'd have before. You only need enough thermal paste to make enough contact between the GPU chip and the heatsink. Not only did you put a giant amount of paste on the chip, but you also needlessly put down a whole ton on the heatsink itself.

    Secondly, the spread method isn't necessary either as you could simply put a small grain of rice amount parallel to the chip itself as it's elongated and reduce potential airbubbles. See proof here:

    Also, as you already have the heatsink taken off the GPU, you should have taken out the fan and cleared out any dust (which there likely is plenty of).
  7. Machines thread starter macrumors 6502


    Jan 23, 2015
    Fox River Valley , Illinois
    Actually , the spread method of applying thermal paste is tried and true . I have been using this method for at least ten years and have talked to techs that have been successfully using this method for 10-15 years . I rebuild graphics cards for high end rendering systems . I don't know if I included it in the instructions , but I continuously remove a lot of paste from the thermal area as I spread it . It winds up on the black stick and cleaned onto a rubber pad . I have noticed in the past the grain method provides a dangerously uneven application with GPUs .

    You should familiarize yourself with the concept of tinting heatsinks, when using metallic based pastes . It is a valuable process .

    And for the sake of simplicity , I also did not include the fact I clean my components with an industrial grade compressor . Not many readers will have access to one or even have a good idea on how to safely use one with electronic components .
  8. elvisizer macrumors 6502

    May 29, 2003
    San Jose
    Spreading the TIM over the surface is fine, I've always done it that way and it appears to give more even results than the grain of rice in the middle method.
    Having TIM applied to BOTH the heatsink and the GPU core, though? That's too much TIM. Apply to one surface only.
  9. 666sheep macrumors 68040


    Dec 7, 2009
    What the next guide will be?
    How about "how to power up your Mac Pro using the power button in 12 easy steps"?
    ;) :p :D
  10. Machines thread starter macrumors 6502


    Jan 23, 2015
    Fox River Valley , Illinois
    The manufacturer of AS5 recommends tinting the heatsink, due to the long curing period of metallic based paste . I have had good results with this . With the application of non-metallic MX-4 , I do not tint the heatsinks . And the max GPU thermal readings during extended stress tests are sufficiently cool without tinting with this type of paste .
  11. Machines, Jul 15, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2015

    Machines thread starter macrumors 6502


    Jan 23, 2015
    Fox River Valley , Illinois
    Not everyone who visit MacRumors is a tech or a troll :p .

    The guide was intended for ordinary Mac Pro users who want to keep their machines alive a bit longer on a budget .

    As a matter of fact , before I wrote it I carefully looked to see if any site (e.g. iFixit) had a Mac Edition ATI 5770 tear down and maintenance guide . There wasn't any and I thought I'd do it first and lend a helping hand to anyone who had this card .

    Keep in mind , there are a lot of screws on these cards , no manufacturer repair guide available , a lot of different pastes and cleaning methods . I simply wrote a guide of one of the methods that work for me .

    I had a talk with an executive at a major and local Mac parts upgrade and systems sales company (unnamed, since I sell to them) a week ago and he claimed they had very good results repairing graphics cards , in house . One of the means was re-thermal pasting, even after artifacts occurred . The other was using one of the two board level repair techs they have , to replace caps , etc. I am pleased to offer some preventative maintenance advice before a component needs the TLC of an expensive board level tech .
  12. redhatcode29, Jun 11, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2018

    redhatcode29 macrumors 6502


    Jul 21, 2014
    Kuala Lumpur
    --- Post Merged, Jun 11, 2018 ---
    Hi, nice guide u hv put up. True, i checked ifixit, there is no teardown guide.

    I am about to ‘oil’ my noisy 5770 fan. Any advise or guides ? Also need re paste i guess, the previous owner did not re-attach the bracket evenly, or is this normal ?

    Edit: mine is not the stock gpu, its an after market ati sapphire radeon 5770.


    Attached Files:

  13. h9826790 macrumors G5


    Apr 3, 2014
    Hong Kong
    This is what will happen if apply too much thermal paste on a GPU :eek:


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12 July 15, 2015