The Thermal Paste Reapplication Endeavor

murdercitydevil

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Feb 23, 2010
1,561
0
california
I posted a little while ago about reapplying thermal paste on the 2010 MBP. I wanted to do this not because my temps were sky high and my machine was overheating, but for 2 reasons: First, I knew for a fact that when I opened the machine up and peeled off that heatsink, I would be absolutely sure to see a mess of (presumably) low quality thermal paste slathered on there like A1 on a cheap steak. I knew that a proper application would lower the temps at least somewhat, and give me peace of mind that it was a job done right, rather than a rushed effort done by a chinese child who couldn't care less. Second, I pride myself on being a DIY person, as well as a person who likes to learn new things. I know many of you will think or say how stupid it is to take apart your MBP and "void" your warranty for "no reason", but I consider this type of thing fun, and a learning experience. Should I ever need to actually fix a problem or replace an internal component, it will be all the easier to do so now that I have a greater knowledge of how the innards of an MBP work. So, without further ado, the pics!

I didn't take too many pictures because better quality ones can be found on ifixit's teardown, but here they are anyway. (BTW, ifixit is a GREAT source for anything of this nature, major props to them) Most of the pics are blurry because I have an old camera and because I had shaky hands (high on caffeine pretty much all the time).

As you may know, battery removal requires a triwing Y0 screwdriver. I ordered the 26 piece kit from ifixit and it's awesome, couldn't have done any of this without it. A shot of my tools and the progress thus far, measured in screws.


Here is the MBP with the battery removed. I of course took great care in keeping everything perfectly intact. There's no way to tell that the battery was removed, so it would be pretty difficult for Apple to prove I voided the warranty.


Fans taken out, all cables disconnected.


For the most part, taking the whole thing apart was pretty straightforward. It took me a long time because I was being extra careful. Really the only difficult parts involved the logic board itself. Just as I thought, after I took off the heatsink, I discovered thermal paste spread around like goddamn cake frosting.


The heatsink was just as bad. Sorry again about the terrible quality pics.


It was a real chore to clean all this stuff off without spreading it even more. A mixture of Q-tips soaked in rubbing alcohol and a small microfiber lint free cloth did the job. Here you can see the nice shine on the chips' heatspreaders.


The heatsink cleaned up nicely as well. I had a strong urge to lap the damn thing with 2000 grit like I did for my desktop's heatsink. If I had more time and patience I probably would have done it :p

Finally, here is my application of Arctic Cooling MX-2. I couldn't do a perfect job because my trusty little plastic spreading tool was nowhere to be found, so I did the best I could with my finger wrapped in plastic (credit card was too big). I used around a 10th of how much was originally on the chips, I think.


And that was basically it. Putting it back together was much harder than taking it apart. The biggest problem was putting the logic board back in without damaging anything. The microphone that hangs underneath it was impossible to position right, until I re-read what ifixit said about sticking it in its position in the speaker, and after that it was super easy. I reconnected all the cables, put the battery back, closed her up, and booted up. At the login screen, I was shocked to see that my keyboard wasn't working. I had a feeling during the reassembly that the keyboard ribbon wasn't fully inserted, and I turned out to be right. I had to open the MBP back up (luckily battery removal wasn't necessary) and shoved it in there as far as it would go. After that, everything was perfect.

So, results! As I expected, nothing tremendous. My original idle CPU temp was around 43-45 degrees, after it was about 5 degrees cooler, around 37-38. Highest load temperature, conducted with 4 instances of "yes > /dev/null" in terminal, was about 86 degrees. The fans were running at 3k RPM, set with smcfancontrol. After the thermal paste job, load temps dropped almost 10 degrees, topping out at around 76-78. The GPU temps dropped almost 10 degrees as well during CPU load (don't have the exact numbers, I deleted the text file where I had recorded them). So overall, not a total waste of time!

That's basically it. I wouldn't recommend this to everyone, but if you're a tech enthusiast and like taking things apart, it was definitely fun. Thanks for reading!
 

upaymeifixit

macrumors 6502a
Feb 13, 2009
787
1
So this may get a lot of laughs, but I don't know much about all this thermal conductivity stuff. How would Vaseline and Toothpaste work?

Second question is, does anyone know how easy this would be on a Rev. A MacBook Air?
 

DesmoPilot

macrumors 65816
Feb 18, 2008
1,171
26
So this may get a lot of laughs, but I don't know much about all this thermal conductivity stuff. How would Vaseline and Toothpaste work?

Second question is, does anyone know how easy this would be on a Rev. A MacBook Air?
Would probably kill your system in a matter of minutes, only use actual thermal paste.
 

upaymeifixit

macrumors 6502a
Feb 13, 2009
787
1
Would probably kill your system in a matter of minutes, only use actual thermal paste.
Alright, just a thought. I've read about it somewhere, and they said it worked, but I just wanted to see if anyone else had any ideas about it.
 

murdercitydevil

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Feb 23, 2010
1,561
0
california
So this may get a lot of laughs, but I don't know much about all this thermal conductivity stuff. How would Vaseline and Toothpaste work?

Second question is, does anyone know how easy this would be on a Rev. A MacBook Air?
Seriously? At the very least get some Arctic Silver, it's dirt cheap and sold at most computer stores (Fry's, Microcenter, etc).

As per your second question, I don't know, check the guides on ifixit and you should get a pretty rough estimate of the difficulty.
 

upaymeifixit

macrumors 6502a
Feb 13, 2009
787
1
As per your second question, I don't know, check the guides on ifixit and you should get a pretty rough estimate of the difficulty.
I'm actually looking there right now. I don't know if I'd be up to that. It looks like iFixit only has instructions for the Rev. C (I think that's Rev. C anyway) and I have the Rev. A. It looks similar though, I wonder if it would still work.

lol, I started looking for my computer specs (yes I forgot them! :eek:) on the computer I'm on (MacMini) and started freaking out because I thought it was too good to be true. It was.
 

vant

macrumors 65816
Jul 1, 2009
1,231
1
Warranty is voided when you do this.

Also, AS5 has dried on me multiple times. I've lost a proc using that crap. I use AS Ceramique now.
 

N3ox

macrumors newbie
Apr 26, 2010
29
0
murdercitydevil, please use "macro" mode when you take short distance photo :)

Thanks anyway !
 

thejadedmonkey

macrumors G3
May 28, 2005
8,148
1,114
Pennsylvania
Warranty is voided when you do this.

Also, AS5 has dried on me multiple times. I've lost a proc using that crap. I use AS Ceramique now.
I did this on my MBP while replacing the bottom casing (it was a non-unibody) and Apple continued to warranty it, and even replaced the motherboard... which didn't fix the problem, but now it's hot as anything again and I need to redo the thermal pasting again.:(
 

Sneakz

macrumors 65816
Jul 17, 2008
1,171
198
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
In the description of the sixth picture, what you called the heat spreader is actually the die. No heat spreaders on mobile CPUs. Just thought I'd mention it.
 

whooleytoo

macrumors 604
Aug 2, 2002
6,571
654
Cork, Ireland.
Forgive my ignorance here, but is the purpose of the thermal paste to help conduct the heat away from the processor? If so, does reapplying the paste cause the outer case of the laptop to get hotter, or does it just mean the heatsink/fans or whatever work more efficiently?
 

tatical

macrumors member
Jun 7, 2009
43
0
Thanks for posting this. I've been thinking about doing this for my MBP mid '09 because it runs hotter than I think it should.
 

Jazwire

macrumors 6502a
Jun 20, 2009
896
117
127.0.0.1
Wow, thats enough paste for 10 laptops.

I'm tempted but probably wont for warranty issues.
Seriously how hard is it to train someone to put a reasonable amount of paste on, Apple could cut there thermal paste budget by 1000% !

Not to mention have less heat related issues.

Are you listening Steve, higher stock prices. :)
 

ExcelonGT

macrumors regular
Feb 9, 2008
147
3
So this may get a lot of laughs, but I don't know much about all this thermal conductivity stuff. How would Vaseline and Toothpaste work?

Second question is, does anyone know how easy this would be on a Rev. A MacBook Air?
I did this on my macbook air rev A and it took me about 15-20 minutes. Id say it was very easy. made a HUGE diference on my Macbook Air when I reapplied with Arctic silver.

i cant believe apple hasnt corrected this problem
 

upaymeifixit

macrumors 6502a
Feb 13, 2009
787
1
I did this on my macbook air rev A and it took me about 15-20 minutes. Id say it was very easy. made a HUGE diference on my Macbook Air when I reapplied with Arctic silver.

i cant believe apple hasnt corrected this problem
This really makes me want to do this. I'm just so afraid I may break something.
 

Pressure

macrumors 601
May 30, 2006
4,074
308
Denmark
Wow, awesome disregard of your AppleCare. Oh scratch that, your previously AppleCare ;)

With that said, many of us also did this with our original MacBook Pro's from 2006. Those things also ran scorching hot!
 

alphaod

macrumors Core
Feb 9, 2008
22,173
1,216
NYC
Wow, awesome disregard of your AppleCare. Oh scratch that, your previously AppleCare ;)
It doesn't void your AppleCare; I've done this to all my computers; never had any issues with repairs; I've even done it on computers that have been taken in for motherboard repairs.

Forgive my ignorance here, but is the purpose of the thermal paste to help conduct the heat away from the processor? If so, does reapplying the paste cause the outer case of the laptop to get hotter, or does it just mean the heatsink/fans or whatever work more efficiently?
The CPU and GPU has a very small surface. Therefore smaller surfaces are less efficiency to transfer heat way; therefore the heatsink with it's multiple fins are used to maximize surface area. The only way to transfer the heat to the heatsink is to connect the 2 somehow; this is where thermal paste comes in.

However if too much is used, it becomes a capacitor and holds in the heat (which causes problems); too little means there is not enough heat transferred; so using the right amount (a very paper thin film) is all that is needed.

Seriously how hard is it to train someone to put a reasonable amount of paste on, Apple could cut there thermal paste budget by 1000% !
Just squeezing a tube on and shoving the heatsink on most likely takes 5 seconds, while carefully spreading it out may take a few minutes. So for a whole computer it may not sound like much for a few extra minutes, but imagine having a thousand workers; that's a few thousand extra minutes lost that could have been used to make many more computers.

Most people don't care enough to be able to tell the difference anyways, so why waste man-hours on that.
 
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