Panic and the New Socket 478 Fan

A few days ago, I decided to replace my motherboard’s dirty, noisy, five-year old Socket 478 cpu fan with a brand new and significantly larger Ultra fan and heat sink. As I opened the case, it crossed my mind to just unscrew the old fan and screw in the new fan. I suppose some part of me anticipated major headaches ahead, but I didn’t listen to that part. Instead, I listened to the part of me that said, “The right way is to use the new, larger and therefore better heat sink.”

I lifted the levers of the heat sink brackets, breaking the first one and in the process charging past another clear warning sign. After carefully easing the brackets off the mount with a flat-head screwdriver, I gently pulled on the heat sink, rocking it slightly but not twisting it. With a quiet sound similar to velcro being pulled apart, the heat sink was free and I was looking into the empty socket on the motherboard—the cpu was stuck to the heat sink.

With only minimal exertion, I had managed to pull out the cpu along with the heat sink; the two still very firmly attached to one another with some sort of adhesive that Gateway used instead of grease. Figuring wrongly that because it came out so easily, it should go back in without much trouble, I lined up the pins and tried to press the chip back into the socket. The still-attached heat sink, of course, preventing me from lifting the socket’s locking bar. Luckily, I quickly realized that this plan held the very real potential for disaster, and that if the chip wasn’t already broken, bent pins would certainly ruin any chance of salvaging it. So, I backed off and consulted Google, where I found some excellent advice.

Placing the chip/heat sink combo on the table with the pins up, I wet a partially denuded Q-Tip with Goo Gone and worked it along the seam, being careful to avoid getting any Goo Gone on the PCB or in the gap between the PCB and the chip’s metal cap. Then I paced around anxiously for ten minutes and applied a few more drops. The instructions suggested placing a credit card against the seam of the chip and the heat sink and tapping the card with a hammer, so I tried that, but was afraid that a tap powerful enough to free the cpu might also break it. So I instead placed the point of a pocket knife in the seam, angled toward the heat sink, and gave that a few timid taps. And lo, the chip dropped right off. With more Goo Gone and some cotton balls, I removed the remaining adhesive from the chip, wiped it down with rubbing alcohol for good measure, greased it and replaced it in the socket.

Then I tried to set the new Ultra heat sink into place, but it was ever so slightly too wide for the mount. This put me over the edge. After about 2 hours of panic and visions of coughing up for a new motherboard and chip, I was stuck using the old heat sink. So I cleaned it off, screwed the new fan into it, and clipped it into place. I hit the power button, and amazingly, it POSTed and booted normally, after a warning that Windows wasn’t shut down properly.

Strike another one for doing a project the easy way instead of the right way.