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9800SE HSF pin broken ...

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emboss

Member
Joined
Nov 10, 2003
Location
Canberra, Down Under
This is the first time a piece of hardware has ever failed on me :(

I got my (PowerColor) 256-bit 9800SE back in March this year. It's been working great since then. It's been at stock for about 90% of it's working life. It was briefly softmodded (successfully) at the start, but then never got around to re-soft-modding it after I reinstalled XP. Also, it's only been overclocked for about 10 mins, during which I found out the core tops out at 390, so decided the marginal gain wasn't worth the risk.

Tonight, I fired up HalfLife 1 (trying to finish it before 2 comes out), and once I'd loaded the game I was greeted by a lovely view full of rendering artefacts. The usual sort of thing that you see when the card is overheating. I immediately shut down and inspected the card. It appears that the end of one of the retaining pins has vanished, or possibly was never there in the first place. There's no sign of it inside my case. The heatsink appears to still be very firmly attached to the card, so I presume it's glued or something (or the one remaining pin is really, really strong).

As I see it, I've got three options. First is to return it under warrenty. My main concern is that the retailer or PowerColor will refuse it on the grounds that it's physically damaged, though I'm fairly certain I didn't do anything that would have damaged the pin (such as dropping the card, etc). I've never tried to remove the HSF either, due to the hard-to-get nature of VGA coolers here in NZ. What would you guys say the chance of them rejecting it be, in case there's any costs involved in getting a replacement?

The second option is to try and "fix" it myself by removing the HSF and putting on an aftermarket one. I don't *think* the GPU itself has been damaged, but I really don't know. A quick test with ATITool showed that it's fine at a core clock of about 70MHz, though I didn't try higher. My other main concern with this approach is that the HSF appears to be glued on. Has anyone removed one of PowerColor's glued-on HSFs? If so, how easy is it to nuke your card doing so? There's obviously no hope of a warrenty replacement if I take this path :)

The third option is to sell it on an auction site as a softmoddable but potentially damaged 9800SE. I don't think I'd get very much for it though :|

I can't really decide between #1 and #2 though. #1 (if it gets accepted) gets me a perfectly working card again, but I may lose the ability to softmod it. #2 has a chance of me ending up back using my GF2MX, something I'd really prefer not to do.

Sigh. I hate choices like these :(
 

meionm

Member
Joined
Mar 8, 2004
I don't believe that changing heatsink will void your warranty, I don't have powercolor card, the card might not be glued to heatsink, it some kind of theremal stuff, same stuff that is used on the northbridge of the motherboard, it apprears to be glue but will come of
 

Mustanley

Member
Joined
May 23, 2003
I would attempt to remove the HSF and inspect the core, I doubt it's glued on, probably just stuck on the thermal grease. You can replace both the plastic pins with some small bolts, nuts and nylon washers from the hardware store. If remuonting the heatsink doesn't cure the artifacts, then I would try to contact powercolor about a replacement.
 
OP
E

emboss

Member
Joined
Nov 10, 2003
Location
Canberra, Down Under
OK, the heatsink actually came off pretty easily. I used a constant force removal tool along with a thermally controlled room to remove it. In other words, I taped two chocolate bars to the heatsink and left it hanging heatsink-down overnight in a closet with a heater set to 30 deg C (after pushing the other pin through). When I got up this morning the heatsink (and two rather destroyed chocolate bars) were on the floor, so I'm not sure how long it took.

Anyhow, there is no visible thermal damage on the die or substrate, such as heat bumps or burn marks. The only thing that looks out of place is two rust-coloured vertical (with respect to the text) lines, each about 1-2mm long. However, given these are closer to the side that the pin was still holding, I don't think they're too important. I'm gonna put it under a microscope later to take a closer look. However, I'm off skiing for the weekend, so I'm not going to have any time until next week. I've ordered a VGA Silencer which should do the trick as far as cooling.

On reflection, I'm fairly confident that the card has not significant damage, given that the card passed ATITool tests at 70MHz (and possibly higher, the HSF was cable-tied on so I didn't want to mess around for too long). It hasn't desoldered or anything dramatic like that.
 
OP
E

emboss

Member
Joined
Nov 10, 2003
Location
Canberra, Down Under
And the VGA silencer is now installed. I think it's safe to say the core was undamaged ... currently running ATITool and it seems to think all 8 pipes going at 411.75 MHz is the max of the core (peaked around 417 before it warmed up). This is on "high" as I have enough other fans that it's inaudiable on either setting. The shim was present and not removed, for those who are interested.