How to Remove the TIM from a Stock AMD Heatsink and CPU

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Like it says – Patrick Walsh (aka 9mmCensor)

This is a guide for those that installed the stock heatsink and fan assembly with the included TIM (Thermal Interface Material or called Phase Change Material Pads), who wish to get the most out of the stock heat sink or use an aftermarket unit.

Here is the step-by-step guide:

What you will need:

  • Solvent, I used Carburetor Cleaner ($5 Canadian) or a similar solvent such as Acetone or Xylene

    * Warning * Acetone that is highly concentrated will eat the PCB, so if you are using acetone, be very careful. Nail polish remover is something many people use, as it is cheap and readily available. If you use nail polish remover, make sure there are no oils or fragrances added to it. Before using a solvent, make sure there are no additives, such as fragrance or minerals, to it. Also, read the warning labels on the solvent you are using as some of them are rather dangerous and special precautions must be used.

  • Lint Free cloth (cloths used for cleaning glasses are ideal and they are inexpensive)
  • Q-Tips
  • Razor blades or credit card for applying a quality thermal paste
  • A good quality thermal paste – I used Arctic Silver 5 ($10 Canadian)
  • Plastic scraper (I used a plastic ruler)
  • Heatsink, either an aftermarket heatsink or the stock one you will be removing (I used a Vantec Areoflow)
  • Screw driver for screws and helping to get the heatsink off
  • Freezer
  • Lapping Kit

Goods

Procedure

Step 1: Turn off the power to the computer and remove your watch (this is to prevent you from knocking things around). This can be done by removing the motherboard from the case or not. I did not and have a mid-town so it is doable. If you are using concentrated acetone, I would recommend that you do remove the motherboard, as it will allow you more freedom and will be easier to do carefully.

Step 2: Unplug the fan from the header and remove the heatsink from the motherboard.

Step 3: Remove the fan from the heatsink. Even if you aren’t going to use the stock heatsink, you might as well clean it now while you have everything ready.

Step 4: Put the heatsink in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

Step 5: While your heatsink is chilling out, it is now time to clean the CPU die.

You will notice the old TIM is all over the core and around it. Spray the solvent (carburetor cleaner) onto your cloth and rub the die to remove the thermal pad. The solvent is used to help dissolve the TIM and let you rub it away. If there is any around the die, use a Q-Tip to clean that up. Use a clean lint free cloth (I highly recommend the cleaning cloth for glasses) and rub down the die to get everything off it. The die must be kept clean now, so if you muck it up with your fingers, you’re going to have to wipe it again.

CPU

The CPU die with the stock TIM.

Cleaner

A lint free cloth is a must and carburetor cleaner is recommended.

Step 6: Remove the heatsink from the freezer and use your plastic scraper to scrape off the thermal pad. Then use your cloth and carburetor cleaner and get it all off. Try not to scratch or gouge the heatsink. You can use a razor blade for this, but I found the plastic ruler worked just as well and there is no chance of cutting yourself with a ruler.

Freeze

Take the heatsink out of the freezer (mitts are optional) and grab a freezee too.

Step 7: If you are using the stock heatsink, then I highly recommend you lap it; if you are using an aftermarket heatsink, consider lapping it. Just cleaning with a cloth and solvent is not enough to completely remove all of the TIM, as the TIM will sink into the microscopic crevices of the heatsink and the CPU die itself, as it is designed to do. This requires lapping to remove the remnants of the previous TIM. You need to get all the TIM off to get the best results from your new thermal compound. Here is an article on how to lap a heatsink or waterblock HERE.

Step 8: Apply your thermal paste now to the die and use the razor blade or credit card to get it flat and even – I prefer using the razor blade. You don’t need a lot of thermal paste, just a little drop the size of a grain of rice should do. Don’t try eating the thermal paste – it probably doesn’t taste very good and trips to the hospital suck. Just make sure that whatever you use to spread the paste is clean. Here is a link to how Arctic Silver recommends applying AS thermal paste HERE.

HS

Here are the heatsinks (Vantec Areoflow and AMD stock HS) and thermal compounds (AS3, Vantec Compound, AS5). You will notice that on the AMD heatsink, you can see where the TIM was. I cleaned it for about 5 minutes and that is the best I could get. That is why you need to lap the heatsink.

Grease

Here is the CPU with AS5 on the die.

Step 9: Mount the heatsink onto the CPU, as per the instructions.

Done

The heatsink is on and the fan is plugged it, and your all done.

Step 10: Put the fan back on and plug it in. If you are using a aftermarket fan, make sure you plug it into the power supply and not into the motherboard header, as some can burn out the motherboard’s fan header. Then power your system up and wait for your temps to drop. Some thermal compounds take time to cure, or sink in, so don’t be surprised if your CPU temperature drops a few degrees later on.

All this took was a bit of time, some effort and carefulness. It was very easy to do, safe, and will almost certainly give you better temps (assuming you do everything correctly). I did all this in about 45 minutes and had lunch during that time as well. I would like to thank Neil at BigFoot Computers for the AS5 and the heatsink.

If you have any comments or suggestions feel free to email me.

Patrick Walsh – aka 9mmCensor – Canada

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