Pictures of re-applying thermal

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by dudeitsjay, Mar 29, 2009.

  1. dudeitsjay macrumors regular

    Mar 26, 2009
    As title states. Just decided to take pics and post em up for fun. Took about 20 minutes and I replaced the stock crap of a thermal paste with some quality Arctic Silver 5. Immediate drops in temps ranging from 10 to 25C. There was a lot of gunk ontop and around the chips--an elephant could've done a better job. My recommendation: reapply it if you're temps are reaching over 85C like mine were doing youtube/megavideos/hdplayback and getting stuttering every so often.. It voids the warranty, but who's to know? Just don't screw up anything in the process. I'm here to help anyone who wishes to do this.

    Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Paste $8.99
    70-90% Rubbing Alcohol
    5-15 Q-tips
    Plastic card (I used guitar picks) to evenly apply the paste
    Steady and calm hands.

    Unscrew the bottom aluminum. It should be 6 very smalls, 2 smalls, and 2 not so smaller than the rests =]. You will immediately see the heatsink. There should be 6 (or 4 I forgot) screws to remove, remove the L arm, and just lift it off. Just look up the forums on disassembly.
    1) Look at the crappy job they've done. You can't see it in the pictures, but it was terrible. 2 cm high wall of china style thermal application that surrounded the 9400chip and intelchip.
    2) Dab Qtip into Alc, not too much. Then proceed to gently clean and remove the thermal paste. Clean it off the chips, around the chips carefully, and from the bottom of the heatsink.
    3) Apply the new arctic 5 paste. Don't apply a rice grain. That is for the desktop cpus. I applied 1/3 the size of rice on these smaller chips. Spread them evenly.
    4) Reassemble and see the immediate drops in temps! Wait for a month to burn in the new thermal paste and see another 3-8C drop.

    I'm actually at work typing this up so it's very vague lol. Ask, and I'll try to answer/help. The pic of applying the thermal paste evenly shows a crappy job of doing it. I did it over a couple times to get it smooth, just don't have the pictures for it. Also, this can be done at an apple service center but costs up to $110 if you don't manage to convince them to put it under apple warranty coverage.
  2. Scottsdale macrumors 601


    Sep 19, 2008
    It is SAD that Apple pays attention to all details that we see on the outside of the computer... but FAILS miserably on quality control of the most important things - like component installation. This poor quality control is probably behind MILLIONS of dollars of repairs on the MBA alone. It is SAD SAD SAD that Apple cares so little. In the end, you would think that Apple would have learned its lesson again and again. But opening a new Mac usually shows how little Apple truly cares. That's what happens when you pay someone $1 per hour to build the most expensive personal computers in the World.

    I am usually disappointed whenever I open one of my Macs. My rev B MBA has been a real performer and beautiful on the outside. I refuse to open it, as I know something like this will disappoint me. Especially when I spent $2499 on the computer, and Apple cannot even apply $.50 worth of thermal paste properly on the CPU and GPU.

    Your thread has given me the incentive to go crack it open. If my thermal paste looks anything like yours, I will follow your advice.

    Thanks for sharing.
  3. dudeitsjay thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 26, 2009
    =D. Its not only the technique in their application. Its the quality of the paste. Not to geek out, but there is a small delineation between thermal paste and thermal grease. Currently, Apple uses thermal grease (most of the time white-like gooey substance), as opposed to thermal paste such as the Arctic Silver 5 I used. Paste tends to be thicker, easier to apply, and a better thermal conductive substance.

    Compare Apple's application of thermal grease to the Arctic Ceramique, though I'd assume Apple would be using a lesser quality grease than AS.

    Arctic Silver 5 Paste
    Thermal conductance >350,000W/m2 °C

    Arctic Ceramique Grease
    Thermal conductance >200,000W/m2.°C

    Real-world differences can range between 3C and 10C by using the paste instead of the grease.

    Anyhow, I highly recommend you do it, because my guess is that all the MBAs aren't properly seated with quality thermal paste. Besides, its fun and you get to look at the insides of this crazy genius design =D.
  4. tubbymac macrumors 65816


    Nov 6, 2008
    Cool pics. Yeah the sad thing is that almost all notebook manufacturers, whether Apple or anybody else, have really terrible thermal paste. Some even use the cheapo thermal pads that come with like 5-10 dollar heatsinks.
  5. gcmexico macrumors 6502a


    Dec 22, 2007
    New York City
    just out of curiosity

    what were your fan speeds before and after?
  6. imax2k2 macrumors regular

    Feb 25, 2009
  7. dudeitsjay thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 26, 2009
    I really didn't keep an accurate log of all that data, since I came in buying the MBA rev B knowing the thermal grease was still an issue. I only just installed SMC yesterday. Currently on no SMC controls I idle at 47C at 2499RPM doing webbrowsing etc. When I hit up hulu and such, I'll go north of 60C until the fan automatically kicks in to around 5000RPM. I haven't had the fan hit over 70C and force the fan to go to max 6000RPM+ except for the time I completely covered the vents with blankets while I was watching a movie in bed.

    After toying around with the SMC, I've realized its pretty pointless--the auto function does its job well enough.
  8. silentio macrumors newbie

    Mar 28, 2008
    I tried to perform this procedure, but I'm stuck at the step of removing the heatsink. The screws are simply too small. I've gone all the way down to a #000 Phillips and I still cannot unscrew the heatsink.

    I have a bad feeling that I may even have damaged the screw heads. Did you have any problem getting the screws undone? I looked at disassembly guides and the screws on their heatsink seems to be larger than mine.

    I'm going to hunt for a #0000 Phillips tomorrow. But this whole thing is really getting me down.
  9. bugout macrumors 6502a

    May 11, 2008
    is everything!
    I just did it with a #000 without issue.
  10. bugout macrumors 6502a

    May 11, 2008
    is everything!
    Wow.. I'm seeing dramatic temperature drops.. at least 13-18 degrees.

    I mostly run xp in a vm and watch tv via EyeTV on an external monitor. Those fans really starting blowing after a few minutes at around 5k and 75 degrees.

    It's been running at 2.4k and 62 degrees for the last half hour. Amazing.

    WTF is wrong with apple.. sheesh.
  11. dudeitsjay thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 26, 2009
    I did it with a #000 phillips. Just have to add a little downwards pressure (not too much) and rotate slowly so you don't strip the heads. I used the same screwdriver for taking off the bottom aluminum casing as for taking off the 6 heatsink screws. Best of luck, I'll be here to check up on your progress.

    Nice. More people need to realize how easy this is and how much of a difference it makes. At least have the genuisbar take care of it...
  12. silentio macrumors newbie

    Mar 28, 2008
    I finally managed to get the heatsink out with a really small phillips. Applied the paste. I used OCZ Freeze, supposed to be really good. It was really difficult to get an even surface.

    Here are the results: My MBA's CPU is running hotter than before I started. Previously, I idled at about 47 - 50, now, it's about 50, not much difference. With a single browser open with two tabs, one youtube and one flash game, it goes up to 71 really fast. Used to hover around till it got to about 67.

    I don't know what's wrong. And I've only used the machine for a little while since I reapplied. Will use it a bit more later and report back again.
  13. nph macrumors 6502a

    Feb 9, 2005
    Now I am curious to take a look at my first gen MBP to see if Apple fixed the thermal paste when I sent it in right after I bought it three years ago. Back then it came back and had dropped 20 degrees F. Still running hot though.
    Quite happy with my MBA so far but of course if it can run even cooler that would be great!:)
  14. Mactagonist macrumors 65816

    Feb 5, 2008
    NYC - Manhattan
    You probably used too much.
  15. bugout macrumors 6502a

    May 11, 2008
    is everything!

    Or too little...

    You might want to check youtube for some videos on how to apply thermal paste.
  16. dudeitsjay thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 26, 2009
    +1 to both
    OCZ freeze is an inferior thermal conductor to AS5. Therefore, You won't be feeling the drastic difference resulting from paste quality. You also want to use about 1/3 of a rice size and spread it out evenly. 1/3 of a grain of rice was perfect for me. Also, there is a chance that your apple application was done correctly, since your previous idle/load temps looked pretty ideal. Make sure that you completely cleaned the chip and heatsink before applying the new paste. The pastes infiltrate the chip and heatsink at a molecular level and require alcohol to clean completely. If you mix pastes, you end up with a bad compound...
  17. nsbio macrumors 6502a


    Aug 8, 2006
    Question: how do other manufacturers compare to Apple with thermal paste application? Anybody opened Dell or Lenovo laptops?
  18. tubbymac macrumors 65816


    Nov 6, 2008
    It's just as bad. My guess is the chinese factory workers who are applying the paste aren't given time to carefully spread the paste. It's probably just squirted on, and then they just put the heatsink/fan on top as fast as they can.
  19. fr4c macrumors 65816


    Jul 27, 2007
    Hamster wheel
    Just took my MBA Rev.B apart to change the thermal paste, again it was a mess in there. Not as bad as some I've seen, and before I changed it I didn't experience any stuttering or overheating issues. Mainly wanted to see what it looked at inside and apply AS5 as I do with all of my computers.

    So far, results right off the bat showed between 5C to 8C change in idle temperature. Normal web browsing did not make the computer even go past 50C. Loaded up a few 720p trailers from and was able to play through them without the temperature shooting past 60C. Streaming Hulu full screen with a browser open gave me a temperature of roughly 65C. During all of this the fan was at the default 2500rpm.

    Just for fun, I continued to stream Hulu in the background and started a Skype video chat with my girlfriend. Temps now sit at roughly 77-79C with system fan on at 5000rpm. Immediately after I quit both, temperature shoots down to 50C within seconds and fan slowly turns down to the default speed.

    Just thought I share my results, and will post back any changes after I put the computer through its paces to settle in the AS5.
  20. silentio macrumors newbie

    Mar 28, 2008
    Is that right? I actually read a couple of enthusiast sites and they all seem to agree that OCZ Freeze was as good, if not better than AS5. As for the application, perhaps you guys are right, and I've got it too thick or too thin. I've got it to be just opaque, a touch less and it would be a translucent layer. This is in following OCZ's application instructions.

    I believe you may be right about my original temperatures. What was really bothering me were the fan speeds, not the temperatures, which refused to spin back down after going up to 6200. And it went up to 6200 really easily.

    In any case, my MBA is not any worse off than it was previously. After a couple of days, I noticed that it works exactly the same as before I re-applied the paste. Thanks for all the tips, I'll report back if I decide to redo it or see any change in results.
  21. seamonkey420 macrumors newbie


    Apr 3, 2009
    minneapolis, mn

    i've opened many a dell laptops and they are NOTHING like the macbook air and over use of thermal paste (surprisingly so.. )

    my macbook air was overflowing w/it! but now she's all cleaned up and running even better! :)
  22. dudeitsjay thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 26, 2009
    You're right. OCZ Freeze > AS5
    Only con I've been hearing about the OCZ is that it is thicker than AS5, and thus a bit harder to apply. That was a general consensus after googling around...

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