So, as part of my ongoing project to preserve my PS3, I decided to replace the stock thermal compound.
In case you missed part 1, I asked myself a simple question: what if, 30 years from now, I wish to play a Suikoden game on my PS3? will it still function? As such, this series is dedicated to doing everything I can in order to ensure that my PS3 Slim will still work into the future. Part one covered replacing the Mechanical Hard Drive with a Solid-State Drive, and this part will cover the tear-down of the PS3, replacing the thermal compound, which cures with age, and also cleaning out dust and checking the PS3's mainboard for damage and signs of wear.
Q: "Hey, Rooks, what's up? Why on earth would I ever want to take the risk of tearing my PS3 apart if it is operating fine in the first place?"
A: "Well, I am glad that you asked that, Voice-In-My-Head-That-Haunts-My-Dreams. You see, inside every PS3, there is a CPU, and a GPU, those are masses of silicone that get pretty hot. So, like a computer, Sony employed a heatsink and a fan to cool them. But, where that heatsink meets the actual GPU and CPU, there are tiny, microscopic imperfections all over the place. And so, they use what is called Thermal Interface Material, or Thermal Paste, to fill in all those gaps. Over time, over thousands of cycles of heating and cooling, that Thermal Paste is going to cure, or dry out, crack, and lose efficiency. So, it is a good idea to change it out after, say, ten years or so."
Keep in mind, it is totally up to you to decide whether or not to change your thermal paste. If you PS3 works great, hey, maybe you got lucky in the curing of the compound, and it didn't leave any major cracks on gaps. Or, maybe you don't use your PS3 as much as I do. Whatever the reason, mine was heating a bit, and while the PS3 does have internal temperature censors that will shut everything down if it gets too hot, it is a good general rule that the cooler your components run, the longer and happier lives they will have. Also, this allows you to inspect the board for signs of damage. The Board should be an emerald green color. Any signs of yellowing or browning of the board are signs something is overheating and needs to be fixed pronto.
That being said, there certainly are also risks to tearing down the PS3, also, so the decision is yours.
Q: "OK, so if I decide to do this, what will I need?"
A: " iFixit has you covered here: https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/PlaySta ... rdown/1121
Or, here if you have an older, fat PS3: https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/PlaySta ... rdown/1260
They have a detailed guide, and all the tools you will need listed. But, keep in mind that you need a Torx T8 SECURITY driver, not a standard T8 Torx (non-security) driver lol. I made that mistake myself.
I won't take you through step-by-step, because ifixit does a fantastic job of that, but, I can give you a few important heads up.
Q: "So, what kind of thermal paste should I get?"
A: "Great question! I recommend a high-quality compound that is both non-conductive and non-capacitive, meaning that it will not conduct electricity, nor store any electricity. So, just in case you over-apply the paste, there is no danger of a bit extra getting onto the board itself and shorting anything out."
I used Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut, which is a very high-quality, non-curing thermal paste. If you want a cheaper option, then I can also recommend Arctic Silver Ceramique 2, which is about 1/4 of the price, and is again, non-conductive and non-capacitive. Some people suggest using other compounds like MX-4, which is a great compound for standard CPUs in PCs, but, that is capacitive, it will not conduct electricity, but, it can store a small portion of it, then release that energy as heat, which is not good. Also, you will want to get at least 2 grams of the compound. I only bought the 1 gram size of Thermal Grizzly, and it was barely enough, and I am very experienced with thermal paste, and even I had a rough time getting only 1 gram to work, as the area you will be applying to is much, much larger than a standard CPU in a PC nowadays.
So, now that you have some paste, some rubbing alcohol, a Torx T8 SECURITY (lol) and a Phillips #1 and #0, you are more or less ready to go. . . .
Q: "Hey, wait up, but won't this void my warranty?"
A: "Well, if the warranty on your PS3 is still valid, I want to know where you bought it, because that is some dedicated long-term service, right there."
Q: "We are the same person and own the same PS3."
A: "Shut it, Voice, you are ruining the mystique. Also, if you live in America, then not necessarily. The US Federal Trade Commission has stated recently, yet again, that those 'Warranty Void If Removed' stickers are totally invalid, and no one can void a warranty if they are damaged. So, it really depends on the EXACT language of the warranty agreement, honestly. It will vary from nation to nation, too."
https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-r ... y-coverage
I also recommend some compressed air, too, as blowing dust out of the system will go a long way to reducing heat, and keeping your components alive.
When you are ready, start following the steps that iFixit has laid out. Keep in mind to be extra gentle with the ribbon cables that connect the Blu-Ray drive to the mainboard.
As for me, I only had a small amount of dust to spray out.
Now that you have it totally disassembled, Let me tell you what you are looking at. With the CPU and GPU oriented closer to you, the silver patch on the left is the GPU, and the right is the CPU. You have the board, made of fiberglass, then what is called a Ball-Grid Array, solder, then the actual silicone of the chips, then some more solder, then the Integrated Heat Spreaders, or IHS. What you are looking at is the old thermal paste over the IHSs for both the GPU and CPU. The IHS is made from Nickel-Plated Copper, and serves to spread heat and to protect the silicone itself. You will also notice that the heatsink you just lifted off will have some old Thermal Paste on it as well.
Take the Rubbing Alcohol and use a cotton ball or a bit of paper towel and clean it off, both on the IHSs and the heatsink. The stronger the concentration, the better, but anything above 70% is usually fine, it is just that the more water there is, the longer it will take to clean and to dry. I personally used some alcohol wipes designed for first aid, at 75% alcohol, and those worked like a charm.
Make certain to check the board for several things while you are here:
1) Look at the capacitors. Are any bulging out? or are any looking deformed? They should appear to be silver-grey cylinders with blue or black stripes, like this:
2) Look at the Printed Circuit Board, or PCB. It should be a familiar emerald-green color, with no yellowing or browning. If you see any colors intruding onto it, then that is a sign that something is in the process of going wrong, likely due to over heating. Check the iFixit guide for what the PCB should look like.
As long as there are no bulging capacitors or discoloration of the PCB, you are read to rock. The alcohol should have dried up by now, and you are ready to apply your brand-spanking new thermal paste!
So, as I said, 1 gram is barely enough. I strongly recommend you buy two grams and only use half lol. Now, remember, that applying too little is far, far worse than applying too much. Remember? this is why we got the non-conductive and non-capacitive paste.
Q: "So, I was looking online, and it seems that PC enthusiasts have flame-wars over how much and how little thermal paste to apply. What should I do? and what is the best way to apply it?"
A: "Those people are insane."
Q: "Do I need to point out that you are the one talking to a voice in your head?"
A: "No, please don't, do you remember what I said about the mystique?
Q: "Gremio's death was your fault."
A: *Bangs his head against a brick wall until he passes out.*
While PC builders often argue, the best method of applying the thermal paste here is to use a spreading spatula. Now, if your thermal paste did not come with one, fear not, putting your index finger in a plastic sandwich bag will allow you to spread the paste just fine, without getting your fingers dirty. What you want, is just a nice, thin, even layer that covers the entire IHS, both GPU and CPU. I am slightly skilled at this, and even I had to leave two corners of one of the IHS uncovered, as 1 gram simply could not quite cover both the GPU and CPU IHSs. All we need to do really, is just fill up small, microscopic cracks, so, just go easy, take your time, and you will be perfectly fine.
The reason I suggest the spreading method has to do with the way in which the heatsink on the PS3 mounts to the IHSs. With this type of mounting system, my experience recommends that you spread the paste yourself, rather than allowing the mounting tension to spread the paste for you, like you will often hear online. That other method is valid when mounting a heatsink to a modern PC, but for this scenario, please use the spreading method.
Please remember that you do not need to apply thermal paste to the heatsink itself. The mounting pressure will take case of that for you.
Now, it is time to reassemble the PS3! Just follow all the iFixit steps in reverse order this time. Again, the biggest problems are the delicate ribbon cables for the Blu-Ray drive, but you got this, I know that you do!
Reassemble everything. As for me, my PS3 did not work right away lol. But, after I looked up instructions online for booting the PS3 into Safe Mode, I was able to get it up and running just fine again. And now, the PS3 is noticeably cooler after I have played it for a couple of hours. Here is how to access Safe Mode, courtesy of Sony themselves:
https://www.playstation.com/en-gb/get-h ... station-3/
The PS3 knew that it had just had surgery, and it was a bit cranky at first, but, after rebooting from safe mode, it was feeling right as rain. There was no discoloration or obvious problems with my PCB, and honestly, the PS3 Slims and Super-Slims are designed to last. The Yellow Light of Death is a problem on the PS3 Fats, but that comes from poor, low-quality solder that they originally used on the Ball Grid Array in those old units getting hot, and self de-soldering. For the Slims and Super-slims, they made certain that they fixed that problem lol.
That's really all I have for now. Since the internals of my PS3 were pretty clean, I am more-or-less finished with my preservation project. I could do a tutorial on how to clean out dust regularly inside your PS3. If anyone wants a third part to this series lol.