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Graphics 8800GTX - Can it be saved?

Discussion in 'Tech Support' started by FelixTech, 13 Apr 2011.

  1. FelixTech

    FelixTech Robot

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    My 8800GTX (which has been in regular gaming use for about 3.5 years now) seems to be dying. While playing starcraft 2 a few days ago I got a load of pink artifacts all over the screen for a few seconds, followed by a black screen, and then a system lock up. I rebooted the PC, got back into the game OK, but the same thing happened during that new game.

    Now I can barely use the PC. I can get into windows occasionally (when I can windows is usually using the Standard VGA driver), but almost instantly there are pink (or sometimes green) artifacts appearing on screen in no particular place. Opening or navigating in an explorer window while like this results in a long pause, followed by a black screen, then the picture reapperaing with the window open/ the new location.

    I have been trying to get my PC up and running again to no avail. It seems to memtest OK (although I haven't run it for a long time), but I have even seen the artifacts over the BIOS screen leading me to suspect a possible thermal problem. Putting the card in another PC with another screen gives the same problem.

    I have given it a clean with an air compressor, and a lot of caked thermal paste came out. As far as I can see it is the excess which was already on the card (stock thermal paste) which has been blown off leaving the useful paste intact. I was thinking of giving the card a fresh application of thermal paste, but I don't have any new thermal pads to hand and only have Arctic Cooling MX-5 paste. Is this a sensible step, or is it probably a more severe problem? Has anybody encountered a similar problem or has any better ideas? :confused:

    The card is an OEM job so no warranty... It looks like the first result here. I've never overclocked it.
    32-bit Windows Vista
    Intel E8400
    2x 1Gb Crucial Ballistix DDR2-800
    Asus P5K-Premium Wifi-AP(3.0GHz)
    Corsair HX620W
    Freezer 7 Pro
    Seagate 500Gb

    PS: I had planning to build a new rig when I hit the 4 year mark, but being revision season now is not really the right time for an emergency build. I had also planned on passing the current rig to my sisters (an allow them to play the Sims 2 at more than 10fps!:jawdrop:) so getting this working again would be nice... This laptop really stinks!!
     
    Last edited: 14 Apr 2011
  2. Ljs

    Ljs Well-Known Member

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    Have you tried the old oven trick?
     
  3. FelixTech

    FelixTech Robot

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    What is the oven trick? Sounds risky! :O
     
  4. Ljs

    Ljs Well-Known Member

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    Have a browse here.

    This method has been used extensively and has had very good results.

    No promises or anything, but what have you got to lose? ;)
     
    FelixTech likes this.
  5. FelixTech

    FelixTech Robot

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    A depreciated £300 worth of silicon :p Thanks for that, looks like something which should probably wait till morning when I'm a bit more focused and wont forget about it!
     
  6. Sentinel-R1

    Sentinel-R1 Chaircrew

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    Before the 'oven trick' which I'm not a fan of (better to use infra red reflow machine), I'd try and run gpu-z if you can. Get an idea of temps. This will tell you if a clean application of TIM will fix or not.

    Artefacts are normally associated with overheating cards. If the 'oven trick' or reflowing is required, its usually because your card fails to display anything at all due to dry joints etc.

    Always try the simple things first bud.
     
  7. lysaer

    lysaer Suck my unit! Kirk lazarus (2008)

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    Artifacts can also be a symptom of dying VRAM, it is worth trying the oven trick just in case it is simply a dry joint, but failing that and because of the age of the card I would say VRAM is on the way out
     
  8. FelixTech

    FelixTech Robot

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    I haven't been able to run gpu-z yet as the artifacts always appear very quickly, and then I end up turning it off as I worry about possible overheating (it is pretty slow getting around when you have to wait a long time every time the explorer window changes). I opened AIDA64 but it didn't seem to find any GPU temperature sensors, which could be something to do with the Standard VGA adapter drivers.
     
  9. dynamis_dk

    dynamis_dk Grr... Grumpy!!

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    I don't know what heatsink design your 8800 has, but can you get to it to touch the heatsink or the back of the card to try and get an idea if the temp is shooting up quickly??
     
  10. Margo Baggins

    Margo Baggins I'm good at Soldering Super Moderator

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  11. FelixTech

    FelixTech Robot

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    So is GPU facing down the way to go then?

    The heatsink feels like it gets hot quickly, but not burning hot, and I'm not sure if it was like that before. Apparently idling in the low 60s is pretty common on a 8800GTX!

    I mentioned earlier that I don't have any new thermal pads. I have seen some guides saying to chuck the old ones and use a blob of TIM instead, some saying reuse the old ones if possible. Any opinions?

    It is my first time opening up a GPU so the chances of me breaking a thermal pad are probably higher than usual :S

    Edit: It turns out I grabbed some Arctic Cooling MX-5 from my dad's loft rather than Arctic Silver 5. It should still do the job though :)
     
    Last edited: 14 Apr 2011
  12. FelixTech

    FelixTech Robot

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    Photos

    I just took off the heatsink. It seems most of the "thermal paste" which the air compressor got out was in fact chunks of thermal pad :eeek: Here are some piccys (apologies for my phone camera):

    Heatsink:
    [​IMG]

    PCB:
    [​IMG]

    Fraying:
    [​IMG]

    Is it normal for the thermal pads to be so obviously fibrous? On some of them the fibres that make them up are clearly visible. The surface on either side has a visible kind of cloth-like gridding too, the imprint of which can be seen on the memory chips.

    Since the thermal pads are not more than 1mm thick, do you think it is safe to just bridge the gap with thermal paste?
     
  13. KidMod-Southpaw

    KidMod-Southpaw Super Spamming Saiyan

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    It's common for the fibres of pads to that after such long use, thermal paste is always better than pads so clean them off and put paste on. Truthfully, I've seen an 8800 exactly the same in CEX and all of them are caked in thermal pad, there's too much on.
     
  14. Unicorn

    Unicorn Uniform November India

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    Yes, it is normal for them to appear to be made out of woven fibres (because, they are). It's also normal for them to fray quite easily, they're quite delicate. And finally, no, it's not safe or a good idea to try and bridge the gap with thermal paste. You need to get some new, better thermal pads for it. I would try an Arctic Cooling Accelero 8800 GTX HSF which comes with all the thermal pads and fittings you need to upgrade the HSF on an 8xxx GTX card.

    Sentinel has already mentioned it, and I'm in agreement with him. I'm also not a fan of the "oven" reflow trick. I have all my reflows done professionally at an electronics firm that I used to work for, in an industrial Infra-red convection reflow oven. They can change and control the temperature in the oven almost immediately and it has something like 10 zones, some for warming, some for reflowing and some for cooling. When compared to the likes of that equipment, reflowing in your average family oven just doesn't seem right. That's because it isn't. I don't care how many times it's been "successfully" done, it's still the "DFR" method, and I don't work on DFR.

    [edit]

    And because KidMod has suggested it may be OK to do, I have to explain why bridging the gap with thermal paste isn't a good idea. You are talking about a gap between the heatsink contact plate and the memory chips of between 1 and 3mm. No ordinary thermal paste is meant to bridge a gap of that size, it's a contact material, meaning that if you lay a heatsink down on a die covered in thermal paste, the heatsink should still be trying to make contact with the die, squeezing the thermal paste out to be as thin as possible. You have to realize that as good as some thermal compounds are, they're still rubbish thermal conductors compared to most metals. They only exist between CPU/GPU dies and heatsink contact plates to fill in imperfections between the two flat (or sometimes concave, sometimes convex) surfaces. They're not the same as thermal pads. Thermal pads are designed to bridge a gap of several millimetres between a heatsink and a chip which does not reach such high temperatures as the GPU die. They still conduct heat - not as well as TIM - but have the added characteristic of being quite thick and so can be used for this bridging.

    In short:

    Thermal paste/compound/material = CPU & GPU dies, direct contact only for primary components.
    Thermal pads = memory chips/VRMs, thermal conduction and bridging only for secondary components.
     
    Last edited: 15 Apr 2011
    FelixTech and thehippoz like this.
  15. FelixTech

    FelixTech Robot

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    All of the thermal pads are (easily) under 1mm thick where they have been pressed. I am going to try putting TIM on it all, if only for a quick test so I can see if it needs a reflow or not. If it doesn't need a reflow then I can ebay some new thermal pads, or investigate aftermarket coolers.

    Maybe I should investigate whether my university has a reflow machine that I can use... :eeek:
     
  16. Sentinel-R1

    Sentinel-R1 Chaircrew

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    Even so, 1mm of TIM will act as an insulator, not a conductor and you run the risk of fragging the VRAM. I'd advise strongly against what you're suggesting. For the cost of thermal pads, I'd buy some Felix.

    Also bear in mind that GPU PCBs change shape over time with heating and cooling, and the weight of the cooler on the card. That's why modern cards now come with metal full cover backplates to alleviate this problem as coolers get heavier and cards get hotter.

    It may be the case that your PCB has warped slightly and the VRAM is no longer making contact with the cooler. Another reason to buy plump, fresh thermal pads :thumb:
     
  17. FelixTech

    FelixTech Robot

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    Is there anywhere in London where I can get them quickly? The reason I am suggesting TIM is because I want it up and running again sharpish. My whole revision timetable and final year project is getting delayed at the moment :S

    Edit: Just cleaned everything off... Why is there a '2' written on the copper contact plate in permanent marker?!?!

    Edit2: And there is a '1' on the GPU die. Is it common practice for retail chips to have pen on them??
     
    Last edited: 14 Apr 2011
  18. Unicorn

    Unicorn Uniform November India

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    That my friend, is a refurbished, or at the very least second hand card.

    The "1" amd "2" are probably labels from a tech who was swapping HSF's around on multiple cards. I've seen cards and contact plates being marked like that before, but I never do it myself.
     
  19. FelixTech

    FelixTech Robot

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    I've seen pre-release cpu's with the model number written on later, but this card was purchased brand new from ebuyer :O Can I get my money back? :p

    Right, I think I'm going to try the heatgun-behind-the-memory technique. I'm not having much luck finding thermal pads where I can go and collect them, and it looks like it will cost at least £6 for enough. Are there any good aftermarket coolers for not too much more that will fit and are still available today?

    Edit: Looks like I have definitely missed the boat on getting a new cooler that fits my card! The Accelero Xtreme 8800 is well and truly out-of-stock :(

    Edit 2: I have ordered up some of these thermal pads. All I can do now is wait... Argh this laptop can't even play minecraft!! :wallbash:
     
    Last edited: 14 Apr 2011
  20. Sentinel-R1

    Sentinel-R1 Chaircrew

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    Wise choice. If there's any hope of resurrecting that card, it's worth the wait Felix.

    In the meantime, get a straight edge and put the side edge of the PCB against it and check if it's warped. It may have drooped over time. If it has, you might be able to to work out a fix for the time the thermal pads arrive.
     
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