So remember how my laptop needed a replacement motherboard? Well on Friday I received the motherboard, and went through the process of replacing the son of a gun.
During this process I found out what had caused my old motherboard to die. Before I get to that though, a little information on how laptop cooling works:
You generally have 2 or 3 major sources of heat in your laptop; the CPU (Central Processing Unit) is the biggest source of heat, since it is doing all of the major processing for the computer.
On many computers (including my laptop) you also get a decent amount of heat from your GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). This is the guy that makes video games look good, and considerably helps take some load off of the processor when running graphics intensive applications.
To cool these items you have a heat sink that sits on top of them. This heat sink conducts heat very well, and is constructed so that the heat gets funneled into a set of thin fins, which have a fan blowing on them, pushing the hot air out of the computer.
To further assist in getting the heat from the processing units to the heat sink, you have a thin layer of thermal grease, which makes sure that there is as much contact as possible between the chip and the heat sink.
It looks something like this (that square at the top would sit on top of one of the processing units, and the fan blows on the fins to the left):
So, what was the cause of all my woes, that caused my $500 motherboard to go on the fritz?
Whoever assembled my laptop at Dell, failed to remove the plastic that covers the thermal grease on the GPU. So instead of conducting its heat through grease and heatsink, it was just melting a bit of plastic and overheating.
SERIOUSLY DELL? Again I ask; Where is the quality control? The stupid things they do never cease to amaze me. The best part was that on the replacement motherboard they sent me the GPU had a bunch of hardened junk on it when it arrived. So I had to spend 20 minutes cleaning that off before I could even re-construct the stupid thing.
This is the exact reason why buying the warranty on laptops is a great idea. If it weren't for the warranty, the average user would have to take this to a private shop to diagnose the problem, and pay for that labor (generally $70-100/hr) before Dell would consider sending a replacement board. And you know they would take their sweet time doing it too.