cooking hardware

In the winter of 2007 I purchased a Dell XPS M1530 laptop, after customization it was almost $2k. This laptop has replaced my desktop and is my main source of computing these last five years, and I have to say that this little beast has served me well. I was problem free until this summer, when I started getting random blue screens of death. I noticed that the BSOD often occured when watching H264 encoded video or when performing any other CPU intensive task. This didn’t bother me much, but lately the problem has gotten worse in a different way.

Lately when I boot up my laptop there is a 50% chance of it not booting. The lights turn on, the fan turns on, the display is blank, nothing happens. Initially I thought it was a display issue but reasoned that it couldn’t be since I didn’t see my HD and CPU activity lights blinking. I tried various things to get it to boot, but nothing worked. By some dumb chance of luck I had turned my laptop on, and put it in my backpack before turning it off. While in my backpack the fan continued to run and the laptop got very hot, eventually draining my battery. When I realized this, I plugged my charger in and powered the laptop on, to witness it booting up, leaving me very confused. This has been going on for the past two weeks. If my laptop fails to boot, I let it heat up and drain the battery and it always boots up next time around. The problem with this approach is that it takes almost 45 minutes to do and is very inconvenient.

After snooping around the web I learned that the real problem is that my GPU is defective, or rather the little solder balls that connect my GPU to the motherboard are probably to blame. It would seem that over time the heating and cooling of the GPU causes the solder joints to flex and unflex, eventually leading to microscopic cracks which compromise the connection. Heat seems to allay this problem somewhat. Upon learning this, I looked on youtube and found videos of people opening up the laptop, removing the heatsink, and using a butane torch to heat the outer area of the GPU. The apparent affect of this is that the solder joints will reflow and connect well.

I don’t have a butane torch, so I tried the next best thing – a heat gun. I followed the instructions on the youtube videos closely and cooked my GPU with full heat for about 10 minutes, let it cool and put everything back together again. I am happy to announce that since then my laptop has booted up 10/10 times so far. Yay for cooking hardware!

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