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Nvidia GPU - Problems and "Solutions"

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poshgeordie
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Nvidia GPU - Problems and "Solutions"

#1 Post by poshgeordie » Sun Aug 01, 2010 12:06 pm

Introduction

Starting with the T61 series, Lenovo began using Nvidia GPU’s in some of their laptops. Whilst it was a step up in graphics performance, it was soon found that these chips had serious defects resulting in blank and freezing screens, BSOD’s, pixilation etc.
Many other laptop manufacturers were also experiencing the similar problems.

This article summarizes the Nvidia GPU issue, Lenovo’s response, and suggests some fixes.

The Problem

In 2008 a number of articles appeared highlighting the issue, typically by this one from Charlie Demerjian in the Inquirer, entitled “All Nvidia G84 and G86’s are Bad”: http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/new ... 84-g86-bad.

A series of follow-up articles by the same author give more detail, and describe how the chips are manufactured, why the problems occurred, and what Nvidia’s doing about it: http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/new ... -defective.

In short, there were found to be issues with the Bump properties (the connection points within the chip), and the type of Underfill used (material used to fill the spaces between the chip layers).

A phrase in the third article sums it up:

"The flaw is a downright idiotic choice of multiple materials coupled with poor chip design and inadequate testing. It is a case of errors compounding errors. They are all defective."

Nvidia’s Response

In July 2008 Nvidia released this Press Statement: http://www.nvidia.com/object/io_1215037160521.html. In it they state that they’ve set aside a proportion of their profits to:

“...cover anticipated warranty, repair, return, replacement and other costs and expenses, arising from a weak die/packaging material set in certain versions of its previous generation GPU and MCP products used in notebook systems.

Lenovo’s Response

Lenovo is somewhat coy about the problem, and it’s difficult to find anything definitive from them; however this topic in their forums gives a good overview as well as a point of contact for affected owners: http://forums.lenovo.com/t5/T61-and-pri ... td-p/46469.

In his post on 2nd April 2010 Mark from Lenovo responds:

You can get help on these - please call service, even if out of warranty on this - an exception may be made. Service may initially indicate you are out of warranty, but point out your symptom and request that they search their internal tips database.

UPDATE FEB 2011: Lenovo are now offering a worldwide extended warranty for T61_p's with this problem - See here for more details.

See also this Thread in the forums which for the latestwarranthy information, suggestions etc http://forum.thinkpads.com....93357.

The “Solution”

At present there is no permanent solution, since Nvidia appear not to offer redesigned chips to replace existing defective ones.

However it has been found that if the chips are heated, they sometimes work again.

There are also some software-based solutions which could help lower the chip operating temperature.

The following information and programs are supplied as information only, and may cause permanent damage or invalidate warranties. Use at your own risk!

1. Rebonding the Chip by Heating

After the chip fails, it has been found that heating it causes the GPU materials to rebond, and for it to sometimes work again.

Various heating methods have been employed such as hot air guns etc, however the safest method is to find a Reflowing company who use proper Infrared Reflowing Stations, where board and chip temperatures are closely monitored.

There’s no doubt that heating the chip does provide some sort of "cure", however anecdotal evidence on how successful it is, is mixed.

Bottom line is that the chip can never be permanently repaired like this, since reheating an already fundamentally flawed chip isn’t going to somehow solve the original manufacturing and design issues.

*2. Chip Reballing* NEW

Referring to laptops other than T6x's (but it may also be relevant to them as well), we've found that many chips are also affected by damaged lead-free solder balls and also need reballing.
It does call into question as to how many chips fail due simply to faulty solder balls, but we've done a lot of work on this and our conclusions are that most chips have already failed due to the design issues and this is an additional issue.

*3. Hardware Fixes* NEW

This refers more to other makes of laptops other than T6x's. We are developing a modification to the Fan Control Circuitry so that the fan is on a permanent low speed, but will also run at faster speeds as dictated by the Fan Control chip.
We have proved its effectiveness on Dell XPS M1330's and various HP DV series laptops. The Dells especially run at very high temperatures before the fan turns on, and with the mod applied it significantly improves the overall cooling. (I would be very grateful if there's anyone who could assist with developing the finer points of this since my electronics is a bit rusty.)
Running an extended stress test in Linux Ubuntu caused the GPU core temperature to momentarily hit 64C and the heatsink 45C. This compared with the heatsink actually burning my finger without the mod (didn't check the core temp).
We haven't applied the modification on T6x's because it will invalidate Lenovo's extended repair warranty offer.

4. Software Fixes

Always check for any relevant BIOS or driver updates from the manufacturer relating to the Nvidia GPU.

If the GPU still works OK or has been successfully fixed by heating, underclocking the GPU may help reduce the internal chip temperature and prolong its operating life.

The following programs can be used to modify the settings on Powermizer http://www.nvidia.com/object/feature_powermizer.html, a battery power optimising program which should be automatically installed at the same time as the Nvidia laptop GPU drivers.

Powermizer Manager: http://somemorebytes.com/wp/index.php/nvpmmanager/, allows the GPU clock speeds to be manually changed.

Powermizer Switch: http://forum.notebookreview.com/gaming- ... -card.html, allows the user to turn Powermizer on or off.

TechPowerUp GPU (shown in use in the Powermizer Switch link) http://www.techpowerup.com/downloads/18 ... 0.4.4.html shows the changes Powermizer Switch make to the GPU clock speeds.


Other T6x Thinkpad Related Issues

UPDATED Feb 2011
Regardless of Lenovo offering the repair warranty, we are unable to repair the chips anyway. This is due to Lenovo applying a type of clear epoxy (the only manufacturer we've seen who uses this) between the chip and the motherboard, and before removing the chip it's necessary to remove the epoxy. Unfortunately we've found no way of removing it and have tried heating it and dissolving it with powerful solvents.
The only other solution, which we've used on similar T43 boards, is to grind the chip off the board and to fit a new one, but we cannot find any decent replacement stocks.

Conclusion

Nvidia are unlikely to ever manufacture updated GPU chips to replace the existing faulty ones. This fact alone calls into question the long term viability of owning any laptop fitted with these chip families.
Short term fixes such as heating to rebond chips, possibly underclocking, and hardware modifications are available, but they remain that – short term fixes.

Your comments, corrections and additions etc are very welcome!

UPDATED FEB 2011 Includes information on the latest Lenovo warranty situation
Last edited by poshgeordie on Sun Mar 06, 2011 6:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

poshgeordie
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Re: Nvidia GPU - Problems and "Solutions"

#2 Post by poshgeordie » Sun Mar 06, 2011 6:04 am

Updated the article in to include Lenovo's latest extended warranty offer.

Since I wrote it we've done a lot of work on repairing laptops with faulty GPU's. This includes modifications to the Fan Control Chip circuitry (on other makes other than T6x's) so that the fan is on at permanent low speed but will also be controlled by the Control Chip when the laptop becomes warmer.

My knowledge of electronics is a bit rusty and I could do with some assistance on this. At the moment we've got the fan to run a permanent low speeds but not been able to make the Control Chip take over when the laptop becomes warm.

PM if you can help!

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Re: Nvidia GPU - Problems and "Solutions"

#3 Post by GomJabbar » Sun Mar 06, 2011 7:04 am

Not sure if this is any help, but back in my youth when I flew U-Control model airplanes I discovered that the fuel used by the engines dissolved cured epoxy. The fuel is a mixture of Methanol (methyl-alcohol), Nitromethane, and castor oil. Alcohol is a solvent for epoxy, but I believe isopropyl alcohol is too weak to dissolve cured epoxy.

While we used different fuel mixtures, Missile Mist was our preferred fuel.
Fox "Missile Mist" fuel (16 percent nitromethane, 8 percent nitroethane, 17 percent castor oil)
IIRC, Missle Mist contains methanol as well as the above.
DKB

poshgeordie
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Re: Nvidia GPU - Problems and "Solutions"

#4 Post by poshgeordie » Sun Mar 06, 2011 7:20 am

I did try a very powerful solvent who's name escapes me and it did dissolve the epoxy but a layer at a time and generally wasn't feasible.

I'll try some missile mist if I can find it. if you see a Thinkpad cruising at 6000 ft you'll know it's working!

EDIT - the equivalent is RotorRage :twisted:


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Re: Nvidia GPU - Problems and "Solutions"

#6 Post by poshgeordie » Sun Mar 06, 2011 7:33 am

Thanks! However I'm not sure if I'd be able to import it in UK but it has the highest %age Nitro I've yet seen.

EDIT again - just found some in UK with 30% so looks like I'm sorted - many thanks again.

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Re: Nvidia GPU - Problems and "Solutions"

#7 Post by jronald » Tue Mar 08, 2011 8:26 pm

What about MEK? it is the wickedest stuff I have ever attempted to work with.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butanone

Ron
I see in my son's eyes, each day, the wonders I have squandered fortunes to possess and have sought my entire lifetime to attain. jrr 09/2011


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Re: Nvidia GPU - Problems and "Solutions"

#8 Post by GomJabbar » Tue Mar 08, 2011 9:29 pm

DKB

poshgeordie
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Re: Nvidia GPU - Problems and "Solutions"

#9 Post by poshgeordie » Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:44 am

Many thanks for those suggestions. Bottom line though is that they look quite dangerous / are difficult to use.

I have received the glowplug motor fuel (30% nitro methane mix) and tried it yesterday and the seal between the epoxy and motherboard broke quite easily and I've removed a couple of chips quite successfully however despite having an extraction fan right next to the chip I felt quite nauseous.

The glue still had to be cleaned off the chip (the fuel didn't in itself dissolve it quickly) by "chiselling" off with a soldering iron tip. It turns to powder and has a nasty smell as it's being removed.

I'll reball the chip today and see if it still works and report back.

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Re: Nvidia GPU - Problems and "Solutions"

#10 Post by jronald » Thu Mar 10, 2011 2:23 pm

MEK will get the entire building high as a bug!

Ron
I see in my son's eyes, each day, the wonders I have squandered fortunes to possess and have sought my entire lifetime to attain. jrr 09/2011


T400's and T500's

poshgeordie
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Re: Nvidia GPU - Problems and "Solutions"

#11 Post by poshgeordie » Thu Mar 10, 2011 2:50 pm

poshgeordie wrote:I'll reball the chip today and see if it still works and report back.
Needless to say it doesn't work, and I suspect the chip has blown out. I'll remove the heatsink top and check the state of the onboard VRAM modules. It's possible they will need reballing as well.
MEK will get the entire building high as a bug!
Bottom line's that this is getting out of hand with these dangerous chemicals. There again, maybe Friday afternoons will become a lot more interesting than our usual end of week trip to the pub :beer:

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