Saturday, August 23, 2008

Dell Inspiron 9100 thurough cleanup

In this text I will explain the process of opening up the computer so that the CPU cooler and radiator can be cleaned up.
This machine heats up like crazy. It is an impressive piece of equipment in all aspects. Its owner, Marcel, got it a five years ago, and he had quite an experience with it.
Two years after the purchase, its hard drive died. Then, a year after, the replacement disk also died. And finally, Marcel came to me with his laptop and asked for help. Of course, he still had to buy a new hard drive, third in a row.
The reason for the hard drive failures was the clogged up cooling system, which is impressive, as everything else on this machine. It has two big ventilators accessible from the bottom of the laptop. They are located on the corners beneath the LCD. Both can be removed by removing a total of 4 screws. There is another, internal ventilator which is the primary one.
The cooling system of this Dell is made in a cascade style. The internal ventilator cools the CPU, while the other two deal with the rest of the CPU heat (on the upper right side) and the Graphics card (on the upper left side). This is why all three ventilators/radiators must be cleaned up in order to insure good ventilation and to prevent hardware failures.
The picture below is from the central ventilator/radiator assembly (note that the metal shielding of the radiator is removed)

The biggest challenge is to get to the central radiator simply because you have to open up the laptop from the top side. Once you remove all the plastics and get full access to the motherboard, you will see a metal plate that is wrapped over the primary CPU radiator. To remove this cover, get a sharp screwdriver or a small knife to access the locks on its sides. It is a simple removal, but you need the tools for it.

Here is a close-up of the locking mechanism for the cover of the CPU radiator. There are four of these locks, on each corner.

Once this cover is removed, you have clear access to the ribs of the radiator, and all you need to do is to simply remove the dirt with hand or with a small brush.
Below is a photo of the motherboard with labeled airflows (thick arrows 1 and 2) and in the red elypses are the key details for each ventilator/radiator assembly (note that the ventilators are removed).

There are plenty of connectors in this machine, so you must make sure you plug in all of them firmly into their slots. The detail on the photo below is the cable from the LCD. If you do not firmly place it in its slot you may get problems with the LCD.

After cleaning up the laptop thoroughly it worked fine. It still is hot due to its processor, but the hard drive has been working for about two years now without any physical deterioration (according to the SMART parameters).
The lesson to take home from this post is that laptops need to be cleaned up at least once a year, depending on the environment you work on. It is even worth paying a PC technician to do the job for you. It will be cheaper and less stressful for you to pay a fee for cleaning up the laptop instead of losing time and money, as Marcel did by buying 2 extra hard drives.
Hope this helps. Let me know if it did and in what way.

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Jonas said...

what cpu tempeture do you have on your inspiron 9100 ?

what was it before and what was it after the cleaning ?

I am thinking about cleaning a inspiron 9100 but im not sure it will help, presscot cpu == overheating, constant 70 C to 76 C just by surfing.

btw: was it alot if dust on the cpu cooler ?

Igor Mateski said...

Jonas, the 9100 was very very dirty. It constantly overheated to such an extent that the laptop destroyed three hard drives in two years. I strongly recomend that you clean it up.

Jonas said...

Some more questions if i a may:
Was it easy to follow dells service manual ?
Was there anything you had to do that the manual didn't mention ?
The cover of the cpu radiator,
does it bend easily ?
is it springy (retains it's shape) ?
Was it easy to put it all together again ?

side note:
I'm thinking on reapplying new thermal grease while i'm at it.
The good stuff, i'm guessing dell uses some cheap stuff.

I use this tool to check the cpu and gpu tempeture:

In what tempeture range does your laptop operate in right now ?

We can continue this discussion via e-mail if you like.
But i can't seem to find you e-mail address.

Thanks for answering the previous and the new questions.
I want to get as much information as possible before i open up the laptop, as you can understand,
i'm a bit nervous about this.

Igor Mateski said...

Hi Jonas
OK, I'll try to answer each question so hopefully that will be helpful
I dont use service manuals in general. I've serviced so many laptops sofar that I know how the brands build their housing.
The CPU heatsink cover is springy, but it's not super springy. The good thing is that even if you bend it too much while removing it, you can always bend it back to its original position, so you dont need to fear at all.
For me, putting it back together was very easy, but again, I've done this many times.

For managing/monitoring the hardware on your laptop, I suggest Notebook Hardware Control as it gives options to set up the way the laptop works when it has the power cord, and you can tweak it to run as long as possible when on battery.
The Dell 9100 I cleaned came in for repair, so I didnt own it. The CPU in that one was the Pentium D 3.06GHz, so I suppose it would run at about 45 degrees Centigrade. Of course, the heat depends on the applications you use, but I'd suspect that the ventilation system is clogged if it runs over 60 degrees. My email is
Hope this helps.