Be Gentle, or it Will Cost You

Ever had those gut wrenching moments when something happens that should when working on hardware. Such is the case for me last weekend.

I had recently built a new computer since my old one couldn't play my new games (it was a 5 year old computer). The goal for this one was to go crazy with the parts I purchased so it could last me another 5 years or so. So 6 cores, 16GB ram, 2 video cards later my computer was complete. The problem is that it seems like all that serious hardware wasn't getting properly cooled. So after playing games for a few hours my computer would shutdown.

I got an aftermarket fan and proceeded to install it. I had replaced CPU fans before so I knew I had to be gentle. After undoing the latch I worked it by rotating the heat sink back and forth to loosen the thermal paste bond between the heat sink and the CPU. It was really stuck on there. I was starting to get impatient since it usually doesn't take the amount of effort I was spending to remove the heat sink.

So I tried to pull on the heat sink to pull it off. It came off with a little more force than usual. I thought to myself: "Wow, I guess all that overheating made sure the thermal paste was well spread between the CPU and heat sink? ... Where is my CPU?" I was looking at the empty socket on my motherboard, temporarily confused. I flipped the heat sink in my had over and to my horror, the CPU was still stuck to the heat sink. There were also 3 bent pins on the CPU.

After I calmed down from realizing I probably just killed both my CPU and motherboard, I gently bent the 3 pins back, put it back in my motherboard, installed the aftermarket cooler and try and boot my system. It didn't POST/get to the BIOS.

It seemed like I was indeed going to have to buy a new CPU/motherboard only a few months after I bought them originally. Since this was essentially "installation error" I probably wasn't going to be covered under warranty. I tried calling AMD anyway to confirm this. After explaining what happened they were nice enough to create an RMA even though technically it wasn't really under warranty, that way they could test the CPU and at least let me know if it was the problem or not.

After sending in my CPU a few days ago it became a waiting game. I got an email saying it "passed inspection" to qualify for RMA. I got a second email about 30 minutes later saying my replacement or verified functioning CPU had just been shipped. Awesome! I have a confirmed working CPU for a fraction of the price it would have costed me to replace it (I just payed for shipping).

This leaves me with the motherboard which is probably the defective part. Time to call Asus and hope I get the same kind of experience.

So the lessons from the story are:

  1. be gentle and patient when removing CPU heat sink fans
  2. buy/install your aftermarket fan when initially installing the CPU so you never have to remove it and run the risk of this happening