An inquisitive GPU modder who was experiencing insane memory temperatures has come up with a unique solution to the problem: tiny squares of copper. YouTuber DJ from DandyWorks recently published a video documenting his novel approach to heat dissipation. In the video he ditched the card’s thermal pads and replaced them with copper shims. Though he wasn’t sure if it would work, the results were an incredible 46C drop in temps while mining. Though you might be tempted to duplicate his efforts, know that it was not a simple project. Also, dismantling your GPU can be dangerous, not to mention removing your GPU’s thermal pads will likely void your warranty. Proceed with caution, in other words.
The first step in DJ’s journey was to find the appropriate number and size of copper shims. He measured his GPU’s thermal pad and found it to be 1.5mm thick, so that’s the thickness of copper he acquired. For those who don’t know, a thermal pad is a soft, conductive padding that goes in between a heatsink and memory modules. It’s not the most effective form of heat dissipation but it’s cheap and effective enough, usually. On DJ’s card though, he was seeing temps of 110C while mining Ethereum, which stresses the GPU’s memory. He acquired eight copper shims that were roughly the same size as the memory dies, and proceeded to take the board apart. To do that you’ll need specialized screwdrivers for very small screws, but they are easy to purchase.
With the board taken apart and the guts exposed, the next step is to carefully remove the thermal pads. This is not as easy as it seems, as they have to be delicately scraped off. DJ used a thermal paste spreader to do this, but any soft, plastic blade will do. If you’re able to clean all that up, then the real gunk removal begins. You’ll need to apply 70 percent Isopropyl alcohol to all the memory dies, and the GPU die, to prepare for remounting the heatsinks. Next DJ carefully applied non-conductive Kapton tape to the areas around the dies, to ensure nothing gets shorted out. As if that wasn’t enough labor, he also had to sand down the rough edges on all the copper shims too. As Tom’s Hardware notes, he chose 400 grit sandpaper for the job. As we said before, this is not a simple project.
With his shims smoothed out and the dies cleaned up, he gently placed them on top of the memory modules. You can be a little loose with their placement, as you can still adjust them later. However, be as precise as you can. With the shims in place he applied thermal paste on them for better conductivity with the heatsink. Once the memory heatsink was back in-place, it was his final opportunity to nudge the shims to ensure they weren’t touching each other. And with that, the project is complete. Remounting the big heatsink is all that is left to do, and to cross your fingers.
Thankfully, DJ’s experiment was a rousing success. Using an app named T-Rex to mine for Ethereum, he saw his temps drop from 110C to just 64C; which is a 46C drop. That’s impressive. We’d be tempted to try it ourselves ff we had memory issues like DJ. Especially as copper shims are quite affordable, with a 20-pack going for $8 on Amazon. Not only could it reduce the amount of heat coming off your GPU, but it will prolong the life of your video card. Also, 110C is apparently common on Nvidia cards mining ethereum. Copper is a well known conductive material, but its expensive and heavy. Interestingly, that hasn’t stopped Apple, which is using a two-pound copper heatsink to keep its new M1 Ultra SoC in the Mac Studio chilly. Apparently the version with the M1 Max can get by with an aluminum heatsink, but the double-wide Ultra requires a copper solution due to its 140W (estimated) TDP rating.