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How to reflow and repair GPU chip on Logic Board of a Macbook Pro

We all love Apple products, and appreciate their unibody designs and compact architecture. What we don’t love is spending half the cost of original device once its logic board is dead or Video card has become faulty !. As it happened with me recently, that my Late 2010 Unibody Macbook Pro , started hanging and crashing when ever I did graphics intense applications. Spme specific applications were, photoshop CS6, LIMBO mac game, DOTA , and sometimes even Angry Birds. My laptop would just freeze and after an restart, everything was fine. this continued for a while, when this became more and more prominent and frequent. First I thought is was a Virus attack or some over heating issue, but soon I realized it was my dying graphics processor chip (GPU as we call it). In my case its a AMD Raedon HD 6490 M with 256 MB of GDDR3 memory. I have been using this chip real hard playing games, and never had a problem, as I always made sure cooling is enough.

THE PROBLEM:

One fine day as anticipated , my Macbook pro would not get past the Spinning Logo screen, and was heavily pixelated

Pixelated Screen Mac
Pixelated screen of my Macbook Pro Late 2010, with Fauly AMD GPU
  • Corrupt video (from boot until white-screen after boot-screen)… in the pattern of a checkerboard, with 0.5cmx1.0cm tiles of either GOOD SCREEN or DISTORTED PIXELS
  • Would not boot past Boot-screen (became white-screen… same thing on TV when connected to the computer)
  • Safe-mode worked, but still had the “Checkerboard” Corrupt screen (again, same pattern reflected on the TV when connected)
  • After repetitive restarting say once in a 50 times, it become OK, but whenever its GPU was used, same story

DIAGNOSIS :

  • Step 1– First I searched online about the problem, and very soon realised that this was a viral issue, and almost all Apple Laptops suffered this issue. During manufacture, the MacBook logic board is soldered to the graphics board. The is exactly where the logic/graphics board issue happens. Evidence is always changing, but one explanation is that the MacBook Pro uses lead-free solder with tin. This increases the chance of developing “tin whiskers.” These short tendrils can eventually cause unintended electrical connections – especially if there’s a lot of heat involved. If you want to read about it in detail check my Post   Why Logic Board fails in MacBook Pro

 

  • Step 2- I took it to an Apple Service center in New Zeland and they told me that the Logic Board needed replacement and that it would cost 1200NZ$ ( abt 1100 US$) and that it is not worth it. What the Hell, new laptop costs only US$ 1600.

 

  • Step 3 – After extensive searching (finding it hard to find similar cases out there anywhere) I finally came across this video which I thought was a joke, but then I read up on it and it pushed me towards my new direction.

MY PROJECT:

As I had already decided to replace my 2010 MacBook Pro with a new MacBook Pro, I advanced under the notion that I had nothing to lose and began a more “professional” approach to the above linked video (meaning the use of a heat-gun rather than a tea candle).

18vp4u40mckpsjpg
Basics of a Macbook Pro that you should know

Reflowing the AMD 6490 M GPU on Logic Board of a Macbook Pro

1.Disassembly and removal of Logic Board

  • First step was taking apart the laptop, removing the logic board, and cleaning off the thermal paste. Luckily I have lots of experience with this from my last laptop adventure. Once the logic board was out and cleaned I made a heat shield out of about 6 layers of aluminum foil

2.Cleaning and Preparation of GPU Chip

Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 9.07.36 PM



Remember to scrape off all the brittle Heat Compound with Acetone or After Shave Lotion

  • I cleaned all the old thermal paste from all the 3 Chips, AMD GPU, Intel Processor and Intel HD graphics chip which is inbuilt. Its important, as after the heating procedure all the chips must be re fixed with new thermal paste.The thermal foam that was on the chip originally had become quite brittle and cracked when I tried to remove it altogether, so the remainder was quite a bit of residue. I took my time with a fresh exacto blade and scraped all the glue from the back of the AMD chip.
  • With the chip clean (effing 20 minutes later), I whipped out the trusty iPod Touch to do some leveling. Having a level surface is important, because if that chip slides or moves *AT ALL* while you are in the process of heating, you’ll screw the whole logic board royally. With the table level and the components prepared, it was on to the heat shield!I got it as horizontal as I could and then placed a couple pieces of solder next to the chip on the foil. This was my temp gauge. I also placed a thermocouple sensor connected to my FLIKE 177 multimeter, which would give me an indication of true temperature at all times.

3.Heating the GPU Chip with Dryer Gun:

How-to-Reflow-a-Macbook-Pro-GPU
Reflowing a GPU on Logic Board
  • You should probably do your own research for this part as it’s quite involved, but here’s my basic summary… I made my heat shield from 4 layers of foil, and pressed it lightly over the board to get the basic outline of the gpu. I then cut the layers with my exacto and folded them inwards, sealing off the space between them. This ensured that the shield wouldn’t fly up during the heating process. (The wagner emits heat like a blow dryer, only hotter) With the heat gun on the low setting, I timed myself and slowly lowered the end of the nozzle from a distance of around a foot from the board to about 3 inches away over a period of 10 minutes. This was done to prevent temperature shock on the board, which could adversely effect the rest of the system. Also, when completing the process I followed a similar vein…
  •  I started out with the heat gun about a foot above the chip with the fan on low and the temp set to about ~300C (although the controls on the gun are pretty crude). I think the solder in the chip needs to hit about 210C. Over about 60 seconds I slowly moved the gun down until it was about 2 inches above the chip.
  • I held it there for about 5 minutes then I put the fan on high. After about 5 more minutes the solder pieces on the foil melted. I was using 60/40 solder, which melts at 188C, so I knew I was close.
  • I continued to heat the chip for two more minutes. That seemed like a reasonable amount of time for the heat to soak through the chip and melt the solder below.
  • Finally I turned the fan down to low and slowly raised the gun up to about a foot over 60 seconds to slow the cooling a bit.

4.Cooling the GPU chip naturally:

  • Never try to forcefully cool down the chip, it can lead to thermal stresses, which may cause crack or permanent damage to board.
  • Allow the Board to cool at room temperature for abour 30 minutes
  • I allowed the board to cool down for 2 hours while I went out for dinner, then upon coming home I closed it up and attempted to boot…

5.Re assembling the Logic Board and Laptop

  • Once the board has cooled down, apply fresh thermal paste to all the chips and tighten the Heat sink assembly
  • assemble all the parts as per the above video ( just do exactly opposite )
  • Once all done try to boot your Laptop

Remember when you start for the first time, it won’t give a DInG sound and only black screen will appear, strat it again and it shall restart automatically once,

next go I got my boot screen, with crystal clear resolution , no pix elation.

  • I successfully Re flowed the graphics chip to the Logic Board
  • I am writing this from my MacBook Pro 2.4 Ghz Intel Core i7 (late 2010)
  • I will still get a new MacBook Pro (as I can’t be certain how long this treatment will work)
Screen Pixelation problem fixed after I reflowed my GPU
Screen Pixelation problem fixed after I reflowed my GPU
Thats me while the actual reflow process
Thats me while the actual reflow process

SIDE-NOTES:

– My extent of Computer/Mac-savvy extends only so far as to say that I’m better than most people’s parents, but I’m not so advanced…  The Internet got me to where I am right now.

LINKS (in chronological order over the last week):

– The first result that was similar to mine…
http://blog.jtimothyking.com/2010/01/11/ever-had-a-computer-that-wanted-to-make-your-life-difficult

– The troubleshoots I used before going to the Mac Service…
http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1573
http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1455

– What I found after seeing the above linked video…
http://geektechnique.org/projectlab/726/diy-obsolete-ibook-logic-%20board-repair

Why Logic Board fails in MacBook Pro

Piper Alpha – Worst oil Industry disaster

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