Heat gun GPU reflow fixes laptop

Solder connections on processors seem to be a very common failure point in modern electronics. Consider the Red Ring of Death (RRoD) on Xbox 360 or the Yellow Light of Death (YLoD) on PlayStation 3. This time around the problem is a malfunctioning Nvidia GPU on an HP Pavilion TX2000 laptop. The video is sometimes a jumbled mess and other times there’s no video at all. If the hardware is older, and the alternative to fixing it is to throw it away, you should try to reflow the solder connections on the chip.

This method uses a heat gun, which we’ve seen repair PCBs in the past. The goal here is to be much less destructive and that’s why the first step is to test out how well your heat gun will melt the solder. Place a chunk of solder on a penny, hold the heat gun one inch above it and record how long it takes the solder to flow. Once you have the timing right, mask off the motherboard (already removed from the case) so that just the chip in question is accessible. Reflow with the same spacing and timing as you did during the penny test. Hopefully once things cool down you’ll have a working laptop or gaming console again.

81 thoughts on “Heat gun GPU reflow fixes laptop

  1. I used the same method to repair a HP dv9000 laptop with a wonky Nvidia chip. Instead of a heat gun I used a cigar lighter, and it worked like a charm. After adding a little diamond thermal paste it works like a charm.

  2. I used this to fix a PS3 Yellow light for a friedn. First try didn’t work, second try we went a little longer, about 20 seconds per area. Turned it on and it worked. I wanted to eat my hat.

  3. I’ve been doing this for like 3 years now. Nobody knew? The penny trick is a good idea. I’ve been going by 360Deg X 10 or 15 minutes for most gpu/cpus. Fixed laptops, ps3s, even DDR2 memory.

  4. Heat masking is always important in finished-production boards, but so is selecting the right gun and method; larger BGAs can often be a hassle as well, since they cover more surface area.

    One suggestion I would always consider is to suspend the board in a holder over a hot-air bath to both reduce the time it takes to reflow/remove a part, as well as reducing overall stress on the board.

    A neat trick I would recommend for shielding is coke cans: you can cut them into configurable shapes easily so you only cover the parts you want to; its also very light-weight, so you don’t have to worry about it crushing solder-balls when components start to reflow. I’ve also found great use in covering the hot-air side and edges of said pieces with Kapton tape, since it prevents trailing solder from being wicked to the edges and helps dissipate heat.

    Choosing the right hot-air gun can also be important. Airflow and temperature-controller units are amazing, but can be expensive. Cheap, non-regulated ones can bombard the board with as much IR radiation as it does heat; this can cause failure in sensitive chips as well as increase the chances of the surrounding board delaminating and blistering, permanently destroying substrate-layer traces.

    One final tip: Having trouble removing a little QFN package from a board? Check the datasheet for its pinout! Many times they will have a center-pin ground, making most of its surface-area of contact soldered to the ground-plane of the board. You can make tough removal much easier by both applying a low-aggression flux and flowing a moderate amount of heat to the bottom of the board to prevent heat-dissipation!

  5. I’ve done this dozens of times, for hp’s it actually has a quite high success rate (about 90% in my experience) also using some thin no-clean flux helps out quite a bit.

  6. This trick also work for the following HP/Compaq laptops:
    HP Pavilion dv2000
    HP Pavilion dv6000
    HP Pavilion dv9000
    HP Pavilion tx1000
    Compaq Presario V3000
    Compaq Presario V6000
    and some other models.

    You should check The NVIDIA GPU Litigation site (just google it) before repair.
    It’s possible your laptop qualifies for a free replacement.

  7. Oh god, the HP Pavilion laptop. Are there any that *don’t* have this problem? I managed to keep one limping along for a month or two, pulling it apart every couple of weeks to give it a new blast of hot air. After about the 5th time it finally gave up the ghost.

  8. I have been using my trusty heat gun for years. I brought it from a 2nd hand dealer for $10 and it has paid for itself many times over. I also use a cheap electric skillet underneath and a cheap IR thermometer to get the correct reflow profile.

    http://www.dealextreme.com/p/digital-infrared-thermometer-with-laser-sight-32-c-380-c-26-f-716-f-29079

    In the last couple of months I have also been lifting chips and reballing with my hot air gun, I have yet to lift a pad so I still can’t justify the cost for a rework station.

    However, this will never provide a long term fix for laptops with the defective Nvidia chips. The issue is actually with the bumps that connect the die to the substrate, not the solder balls that connect the substrate to the motherboard.

    I have tried this on many HP laptops that come through our workshop only to have repeat failures.

  9. @ pelrun
    you should have epoxied the chip down after a successful re-flow. its mostly just the board or chip warping and pulling a micro-fracture in that ball. high heat epoxy should keep the chip stationary. Might run into problems later with heat dissipation though. But then again after the 5th try I’d be willing to do anything.

    1. JB weld ahs been known to transfer heat surprisingly well, not sure if it qualifies as a High Heat epoxy. some people swear by JB for their small transistor heatsinks.

  10. I’ve done this with my PS3 as well. Worked for about a month then YLoD…again… I’ll give it another go. Only cost me $35 to fix it instead of the $150 to send it in to Sony.

  11. @pelrun

    My HP Pavilion ze4560us doesn’t have this issue. Only issue it has is old battery syndrome. It’s 8 years old now, so the battery is kinda past it’s prime.

  12. @m42d
    Coincidentally, this works great for scavenging surface mount parts. Just pop the board in upside down with a weight attached to the desired part, turn the oven on, and wait for a clang. Perfect for RAM chips or high pin count connectors.

    Also,
    Lol @ laptop repair _101_. This is hardly what I’d teach someone just beginning laptop repair :)

  13. My heat gun has a variable heat setting. Would it be better to use higher heat for a shorter time, or lower heat for a longer time? In other words, which is less likely to delaminate the board or damage the chip?

    Thanks!

  14. @ Jeff
    This depends. You don’t want to heat up or cool down things too fast and neither do you want to be in the actual soldering temperature area for too long. So you want something in between and commercial reflow ovens afaik take roughly “some minutes” for processing a charge of PCBs. So one minute is way too short and 30 minutes are damn long. Experience says “some minutes” work most of the time.

    I btw did this kind of thing without proper equipment and even that worked :D And it did before for other people:

    http://nerd.hackhut.com/2011/02/11/resoldering-bga-chips-at-home-on-a-tight-budget/

  15. I’ve worked on HP/Compaq laptops for about 5 years now professionally. This fix will work for laptops listed at the website I’ll provide below. Nvidia went through a lawsuit a while back related to this issue, the GPU would overheat and would not kick the laptop off, causing the GPU/CPU to become damaged and often caused the solder connection to melt on the GPU.

    http://nvidiasettlement.com/affectedmodels.html

  16. That is risky and dangerous. Good thing that heat gun had air speed control.

    I use 250W reflector infrared lightbulb beneath motherboard distanced some 20 centimeters to preheat it. Preheating must last at least 10 minutes. Good flux will help the tin to reflow.
    I prefer 20 micron aluminum foli as protection (it is very light will not pus components).
    After I am done with heatgun (tricky part) I leave reflector on for some 10 mnutes to prevent warping of motherboard.

    It is better to practice first. Dead motherboard and graphic cards are good for it. If the heatgun is able to melt the tin under the chip in less than 5 minutes it is probably too strong.

  17. Oh also once you make the fix, update your BIOS to the latest version or it will happen again (fan fix) and make sure your heat sink is free of dust bunnies. I suggest watching a tutorial before ripping apart an HP/Compaq, one wrong screw or yank of the plastics can rip off traces and put holes through your main components.

  18. @Jeff High air speed will stress the chip too much. My experience says low air and low temperature are far safer. Also it is better not to heat up other components.
    Bigger chips need more time. I monitor small SMD parts around GPU usually capacitors. Once tin under them melts I don’t keep heat gun on for more than 60 to 90 seconds.

  19. I am going to try this method as I have a heatgun. I didn’t think it would have enough heat to do the job. I HAVE baked my cards in the oven before and it has worked well each time.
    In those cases, I pre-heated the oven to 385 degrees and placed the card on tin foil with small tin foil balls holding the card up off of the supporting surface. I left it in the oven for 8 minutes and then let it cool to room temperature and re-installed. Success each and everytime.

  20. @jh It is thermal cycles that stress the solder connections. You laptop must have one of low power GPUs or it might predate the RoHS religion.

  21. I used the same method to repair my roomies’ HP 9700 series laptop. Same problem, the GPU had gotten too hot. The cooling on those things really sucks. There is a gap between the top of the gpu and the heat pipe (which is also for cooling the CPU).

    Been 6 months now and no problems.

  22. The coin is not at all a reliable indicator that you are either melting the solder and/or not damaging the components.

    Many people here should already know that there are many different metallurgies of solder. Leaded solder will melt at a lower temperature than lead free, solder paste will melt at a different temperature again. That board you are doing this trick on is likely wave soldered and the melting point of the solder is far below that of the normal 60/40. Mind you since you’re heating solder pads by blasting hot air through an insulator… who knows. In any case a coin with solder on it is not a good indicator of success.

  23. I do BGA rework for a living, and people doing this stuff at home astonishes me, we use 80k$ machines, and very complicated profiles to ensure the board is properly preheated, and that the part heats up evenly. You’d be amazed at what can happen due to thermal stress, and differential rates of thermal expansion and propagation. Best way to do this is preheat the board to 125-150C. It reduces stress on the board and the part. If you’re worried about the substrate, you can bake the board at a low temperature to remove any moisture. I usually bake at 100C for 8 hours (be sure there isn’t anything that will melt!) you can do a lower temp at longer times though.

  24. oven

    475 F

    7 min

    everything I can’t figure out gets this treatment around here now before it goes in the copper bin

    surprising success rate

  25. Did this with my dv9000, the reflow was only part of the problem. The cause of the problem was the crappy heat sink design and the HUGE pad of thermal paste (about 2mm thick). I chopped up a copper water pipe, hammered it flat and soldered it to the heat sink. Problem solved, but only for 6 months or so when it went wonky again. Fix this time round? Remove the hard drives and chuck the rest in the bin.

  26. ugh, seriously hackaday?
    Most dangerous garbage post i’ve read so far on HAD.
    You should be ashamed of yourselves.
    Worst repair procedure ever, a rework station is necessary, if you think it isn’t, you haven’t a clue.

  27. That model is involved in a lawsuit. HP will replace the whole computer. Same for the dv9000 someone mentioned. google nvidia lawsuit.

  28. @jojo and @Gust When using the oven method, don’t the components fall off the bottom of the board?

    Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this conversation!!

  29. I did this to my old Mitac laptop,

    I used an infra red thermometer to check the chips temp,

    I wasn’t careful enough sealing my foil heat shield around the chip and cooked some nearby components ruining the mobo.

    worth doing as a last ditch though if you are more careful than me!

  30. Did this to fix my PS3. It later developed a problem with either the fan or the Bluray drive and no longer reads discs once it warms up but I was able to recover my data and transfer it to a new PS3, as well as retrieve the game from the drive.

    (sending it off for repair results in a replacement model from Sony’s repaired stock and the loss of all data and any games in the drive)

  31. No, I didn’t have any problem with anything falling off, the fix on this card is still working after almost three years without a hitch. I am using the same card in the same computer which I am using right now.

  32. Those of you who have tried this type of fix.. Did it last for a long time or did the laptop fail again?

    Especially the xbox 360 fix, since I was told it was impossible fixing it this way and a complete reflow/reballing was needed every time

  33. my bets attempts at re-flowing are done in my oven, xbox rrod taut me this!! xbox’s are easy as they have a nice metal case to sit the board in while cooking, but laptops and graphics cards require you to make a wire frame to hold the board away from the oven tray, so as to not disturb any component’s while the solder is molten. the method i use is put board in the oven cold, attach my digital thermal probe on my multimeter in the oven close to the board, turn my oven all the way to max and heat until the temp reaches 222c. one very important tip is to de-solder plastic switches and things befor you start, an example is the two push buttons on an xbox 360 (dvd and sync buttons) my first attempt i had to replace them after. most of the stuff i have fixed in this manner is still going strong today

  34. @Johannes the method i use is quite reliable, 5 of 7 xboxs are still going well, tho 1 of the 5 did need to have a second cooking as it lasted about a month befor rroding again. you must also use a high quality heat paste after on the cpu an gpu, then keep an eye on the vents for dust regularly, as dust is the biggest cause of rrod in my experiance.

  35. Funny, I just reflowed a PS3 GPU today.

    I have a very nice temperature controlled gun I recieved broken and repaired. A Steinel LCD model.

    I remove the battery from the PS3 board, then heat the backside of the board at 300-350° F until the heatspreader is almost hot enough to burn my finger.

    I then lay it down flat, with the power prongs hanging off my desk, add some Kester no-clean flux until it fills under the processor.

    Then I turn the gun up to 750° F and heat the GPU only for 2 minutes. Then I turn the gun down to 300° for another 2 minutes to let it cool down slowly. After the two minutes I lay a t-shirt folded 2 times over it for a half-hour.

    The only 2 that haven’t worked after this so far are one that had the epoxy melted clean out of the board (I assume by someone with a non-adjustable heat gun for a long period of time), and one that had been run overheating for extended periods of time with the fan on full-blast, it had very little contact between the HS and Heat Spreader.

  36. @Johannes The quality of repair may vary as the source of problem is slightly different usually.

    xBox 360 has serious engineering flaw. The x clamp is screwed in to the metal case causing expanding and contracting motherboard to to push and pull rigid and cold metal case. This causes PCB to bend and joints to break. Proper fix requires modification or complete removal of x clamp.
    If properly done modification will allow heatsink to move around a bit while achieving just enough pressure for good heat transfer.

  37. @fuggy Interesting, so it does indeed work when you use the oven aswell.. Did it last for years or just months?

    I have tried to fix quite a few xboxes already but htye always got RROD again after some time, and this time it was almost impossible making them work again.

    @space
    thanks for your reply, I do know the xbox will need modifications, or else you will get RROD again BUT the thing is I have never been able to “reflow” the GPU successfully. (if you can call it that, when using the heat gun that is)

    It would be very interesting, if this method actually worked and worked for a LONG time, so that is why i asked :) (more than 6 months). But what is the difference with this method and the >1000 heat gun repairs on youtube?? :)

    Right now i have some x360′s around somewhere, just waiting for a cheap & easy RROD fix, and it would be great if this actually worked.. :)

  38. @Johannes Preheating PCB to 120-150C is a must. It is a part of proper reflow process. If done slowly enough it will not stress the solder pads on PCB and GPU and will reduce stress from the heatgun.

    Most heatguns have too much airflow, are too hot and will damage the GPU. You cant see that on yuotube clips because they are edited. Usually the GPU dies or isn’t sufficiently heated to reflow, it is just motherboard warping causing xBox to wake up and work for next hours to weeks.

    Youtube clips are pranks 95% of the time. I saw a guy applying the pressure in GPU with a rug “to repair the solder joints” he said.
    If he actually had melted the solder joints beneath the GPU he would squish them in to short circuit solder blob. It’s a bad idea to move or touch anything preheated or while heating with a gun. That is asking for unwanted short circuits.

    Cheap reflow equipment is $1000+ US (station, flux, stencils, solder paste, etc) and will require months of training before successful repair. Heatgun and preheating (reflector) is just a risky hack. I do not recommend any action with stock heatgun. It might work, but there is a big chance for GPU damage.

    1. 1. You have fallen into the trap of, “Only a highly experienced
      technician, with years of experience will be able to reflow,
      and in some cases reball a gpu.

      2. This is the Internet dude. People have learned to
      fix poorly designed electronic devices witout 80 k
      ovens. Many tools you use are nice to have, but
      not always essential.

      3. Give me a guy who can improvise, and knows their
      Physics(you must one about thermorestivity, grounding,
      meters, capacitors, and computer hardware; over a
      “Trained” tech anyday.

      1. HP doesn;t give you a new laptop or mainboard, so there’s nothing to loose. If it doesn’t work, you still have to buy something new…

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