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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How to Fix NVIDIA "Code 43" Error

I wrote about this one on AnandTech, but it's a cool enough trick that I wanted to repeat the information here, and maybe mention a few other points of interest that I wouldn't want to include on AT. So first, here's the link to the full article and video, but I'll include the video below as well: Hardware Tricks: Can You Fix a Failing Mobile GPU with a Hair Dryer? As you can probably guess, the answer to the question is, "Yes, but with caveats."
The basics of what I did and why it helped get the GPU working again is that the solder balls that connect the GPU to the motherboard can sometimes get cracked, or if there's too much tin content in the solder then sometimes you get "whiskers" between the solder balls that causes a short, and the heat from a dryer melts these whiskers. It's a pretty cool trick (when it works), but hopefully if you ever try it you'll have a laptop that's easier to take apart than the Gateway FX series.

Now, here's a few fun facts: the laptop in question actually belongs to my ex-brother-in-law. In fact, he still owes me money for some computer stuff (I think $200, coming up on four years or so). On the bright side, I did manage to get $60 out of him for fixing the laptop on this occasion, but considering the amount of time required I probably earned a paltry $10-$15 per hour. Try that with the Geek Squad and see how much they charge! Really, the only reason I even tried to do this "hair dryer repair" was because I figured it would be an educational experience for myself and the readers if nothing else; he's just lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

If I were to do it all again, having read some of the comments on my article I think the one that strikes me as most useful is the reader that talks about using a thin copper shim between the heatsink and chip to help get a better connection. That would apply additional downward pressure once the heatsink is screwed back in place, which should improve cooling and help avoid future cracking of the solder. What's more, big OEMs like Gateway often go for lowest cost thermal grease and that just means things run hotter than desired, so replacing the thermal grease plus improving the interface with a shim doubles down on the fix.

I don't have the laptop with me anymore, and I hope to never see it again to be honest, but now I wish I had done a bit more testing to record temperatures after the repairs were completed. I figure if the GPU can be kept under 80C under load, the fix may very well last "forever", but if the GPU is still hitting 90C or more under load then we're likely going to end up with problems again. I guess we'll see how it goes....

BTC: 1JSrAuxPUhD2rS6yYLiPPT6X8fvz7c7k1W

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