THIS NEW COMPUTER WILL NEVER BE FINISHED

Several weeks ago, I thought the process of building myself a new computer was going to be a one week task at most. I’d get a new power supply, take out my old motherboard, and swap in the new one I got from work for free. A straightforward set of tasks even for someone like me.

For a while, it did seem like it would be that easy. The new power supply was easy to buy. Taking out my old motherboard was also very easy. Then the complications started. When I went to install the new motherboard into the case I realized I needed a new metal plate for the back. I wrote about that in a recent post. Ok, so no big deal, I paid $16 on eBay for some Dutch guy to mail me one. I waited a week for it to arrive and in the end, I just needed some patience. The plate arrived on Friday which meant I could finish the build. I snapped the plate in the back and it fit perfectly. Five minutes later, I finally was able to install the new motherboard.

It was done! Everything was in place and I just had to turn it on and I’d have a new, faster computer. Turn it on I did and because I’m a pessimist I expected it to not boot up. It did, however, boot up fine into Windows. My new computer was working!

Then I realized something wasn’t quite right. There was a fan in the case that was going full-blast and it sounded like I had a jet engine in there trying to take off. I looked inside and it was the CPU fan. For those who don’t know, nearly all CPUs in everyday computers need some sort of cooling. If we didn’t cool them and ran them like we do, they would overheat within a minute and break. To counter this, people attach a huge chunk of metal (usually copper) onto the CPU chip itself to draw the heat away, where a fan blows cooler air over the metal to dissipate the heat.

Normally, when you’re just sitting in Windows doing nothing, a CPU fan shouldn’t be trying to get your whole computer airborne. I downloaded a program to tell me how hot my CPU was. Turns out the chip was near 70 degrees Celsius when I didn’t even have any programs running. Damage occurs at 100 degrees Celsius and normally it should be around 30 when you have nothing going on. Upon closer inspection, I realized the heat sink and fan was a budget piece of crap. The heat sink was too small and the fan was way too loud. It would have to be replaced.

Unfortunately, the heat sink and fan on my old motherboard didn’t fit the new one. I’d have to buy a brand new heat sink and fan combo. I’d put all this effort into the computer thus far, I was determined to finish this. On Saturday, I went to a computer store and bought a new CPU cooler for $35, which isn’t bad since some coolers can cost more than $100.

Upon bringing the cooler home, I read the instructions and it seemed like it would take only about ten minutes to install the thing. Awesome, just a few more minutes until it was all done. I began to install the mounting hardware for the cooler onto the motherboard. It was then I noticed a stupid metal plate on the back. This plate was blocking the holes I needed for the new cooler. Said plate was from the old, crappy cooler and not compatible with the new one. Unlike most quality coolers, this backplate was stuck on with an adhesive instead of being fastened with screws. I needed to get this plate off because I had no way to secure the new cooler on with it still there. It was at this point that I was just frustrated. Another thing in my way. How could this have happened?

I tried gently prying off the plate with my fingers but I could tell it wasn’t about to budge. The adhesive was stuck on very tightly. Using a screwdriver or some other metal tool to pry off the plate is also not an option. Doing so can easily damage the motherboard itself or the components on it.

I used the rest of the evening to research my options on the Internet. I discovered one option is to remove the plate using a heat gun or a blow dryer. The strategy is to use heat to melt the adhesive enough so that you can pry it away from the board. People have done it before apparently but it makes me nervous. Heating one part of the board and just on one side makes me wonder if the board will warp due to differential expansion.

The second option involves getting some hardware, like four of these spacers to bridge the gap between the stupid plate and the screws to the new cooler. In this way, the new cooler will screw into one end of the spacer and then I attach the other end to the sticky plate.

My inclination is to go with option two initially because it’s less risky. There’s no melting and prying with this option, even though it kinda sucks I have to go visit an electronics supply shop.

I was so naive to think I was getting a faster and “free” upgrade to my computer so many weeks ago. What more could go wrong with this?

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