Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How To Paint Your RAM Heat Spreaders In 7 Easy Steps

What are RAM Heat Spreaders?
Exactly what they sound like. They literally help to SPREAD the heat away from the RAM modules to ensure not only that your computer parts don't melt or fry but to also keep things running and functioning smoothly.  

Does painting the Heat Spreaders affect heat conduction?
Probably, but heat dissipation on RAM modules is not as important as you would think. 

Why do it?
Why not? Okay well maybe a little bit more than that. Matt decided to paint his red because, well, everything else in his build is red. Mainly aesthetics really. Okay, only aesthetics. 

What is needed?
Your RAM (duh), isopropyl alcohol at least 92%, spray paint, double sided tape, cotton balls, containers, cardboard box or plastic sheets, flat head screwdriver, scissors, patience. 

How is it done?
Carefully and with time. All in all it took a total of maybe 2 hours. Most of that was time spent to make sure all the parts were dry before moving on to the next step or soaking to make sure no gunk was left on. The written steps are below and below them there is a video tutorial on how it is done, if you are more of a visual learner.
Step 1.
Removing the spreaders from the RAM. This will need to be done firmly but gently (..what..). Holding the screwdriver in one had and your RAM in your other hand, place your thumb on the PCB (printed circuit board) and gently working the flat head screw driver into the small opening between the PCB and the heat spreader. Using your thumb for leverage gently pry off the heat spreaders. Be careful not to put any weight or force on the RAM itself (use your thumb). Also be careful not to scratch the PCB or bend the heat spreader. Repeat on however much RAM you are painting.

Step 2.
After the heat spreaders and the PCBs are separated make sure to put your PCBs in a safe and out of the way place. If you mess those up, well, you'll have to buy new ones. Time to remove the gunk. Try to pull off as much of the adhesive as possible from the heat spreaders. DO NOT USE THE SCREW DRIVER TO SCRATCH ANY OF IT OFF. Okay. Once you have had gotten as much as possible place them into your plastic container. Cover with the isopropyl alcohol and let sit for an hour, possibly more.

Step 3.
Getting the adhesive off of the PCB. DO NOT USE THE SCREW DRIVER. Use your fingernail or just rub it off with your finger. Depending on how many PCBs you have to do, this can take quite some time. Probably took Matt about 30 minutes just for 2. You want to get ALL of the adhesive off or it can mess up your new adhesive, a.k.a. mess with the stickiness. Once you've gotten all the adhesive remnants off put the PCBs back into the safety spot.

Step 4.
Check the heat spreaders. If the adhesive has soften, grab a cotton or q-tip. NOT A CLOTH, unless it is microfiber. Using your preferred cleaning tool wipe off the adhesive. Matt chose to wipe in one direction so you can see the adhesives being removed and it is easier to spot spots. Feel free to scrub (gently) if some spots are little bit more difficult to wipe off. Once completely clean let dry.

Step 5.
Do this outside because spray painting inside is bad. Place the now clean heat spreaders on either a plastic sheet or box. Don't hold the can very close and don't focus on any spot. Simply make light pass overs. Concentrating on one spreader at a time or being too close can cause the paint job to look bumpy or drippy and painting over spray paint it never any fun. This will take a few coats so you will need to let each coat dry completely before the next coat. Making light coats can make the painting and drying process go a little bit faster. A good test to make sure they are dry is when you touch them if they are no longer tacky, you are good.

Step 6.
Time for new adhesive. Take your double sided tape and cut about a strip that is half an inch long. Remove the backing and then cut into squares that will fit on the memory chips ( the black bits on the PCBs). You will want to be a little bit smaller as to not get any of the adhesive on the PCBs themselves. 

Step 7.
Putting it all back together. Take your now dry heat spreaders and position them back over the PCB. Once they are lined up place onto the adhesive and squeeze together. Once again firmly but gently. Repeat until all the parts are together again.
VOILA! An extremely cost effective and easy aesthetic improvement to any build. Next time you can't find RAM in a specific color, no worries! Now you can color it yourself!

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