Friday, October 21, 2011
NVIDIA Laptop Graphics Chip Repair
Sometimes you'll encounter a continuing problem over and over again. One of the ones that has come to light for me has been related to discrete NVIDIA graphics chip on laptops (across multiple brands believe it or not including HP, Compaq, Dell, and Apple) which have revolved around excess heat not being dispersed adequately which means that over time the graphics chip can come away from the logic board. A lot of the time this results in an unbootable laptop with the following symptons, power and LED indicator lights turn on accompanied by a black screen. Even though there has been a partial recall of affected laptops there are many 'out in the wild' which still have the same problem.
While conventional solder and mechanical pressure can be used as a means of providing a medium to long term fix on traditionally packaged and attached chips this is not the case with Ball Grid Array (BGA) graphics chips which seems to be a more popular methodology moving forward.
However, the probem is when you have mounting issues they aren't so easy to fix if you don't have the required, proper equipment required in order to complete the job. Moreover, often taking it to a 'professional' may cost the same amount as a new laptop/logic board. Numerous accounts online of this particular problem and some creative and unusual solutions have been proposed that are more 'cost effective' (but are also shorter term fixes). Some of these include:
- stripping down the machine down to the logic board and then 're-flowing' it by putting it in a convection oven or even using direct heat such as using a butane torch
- wrapping it in insulating material, turning it on and using the laptop's own heat in order to 're-flow' the connections
- using direct heat and a BGA kit in order to remove the damaged chip from the logic board, the 'balls', and then using the included solder balls (often of higher quality than the original) to fix problem areas
However, one thing I have been considering is whether or not it is feasible to attempt another solution. Namely, creating the solder balls themselves (too difficult on a large scale), or else using solder wick in order to clean up damaged BGA balls and then using flux gel in order to crudely create 'balls' between the graphics chip and the logic board. While I have been able to partially resurrect one board with this method I'll need more time to determine whether or not whether it is a complete long term fix...
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