Updated Laptop and motherboard maker ASUS has earned the scorn of the right-to-repair crowd after telling a customer the dimensions of a thermal pad are proprietary information and that replacing it might void his warranty.
ASUS customer Branden Fisher posted a Facebook Messenger exchange with the company, where a representative said the dimensions of the thermal pad for his RTX3070-8G-EK graphics card was "confidential and no longer provided to customers."
"We don't recommend that our customers disassemble the module by themselves and replace the thermal pad, which would cause a quality issue and a warranty issue," it added.
Thermal pads are a more straightforward, mess-free alternative to thermal paste. Typically affixed to CPUs and GPUs to help dissipate heat and constructed out of silicone or paraffin wax, they transfer the vast quantities of thermal energy produced by the CPU or GPU die to the heatsink. That heat is then pushed out by a fan or a similar static mechanism, like that seen on the M1 MacBook Air.
Over time, thermal pads – like their paste equivalents – become less effective. To avoid your machine overheating and to limit thermal throttling, it becomes necessary to replace them.
This isn't a complicated process. It's simply a matter of unscrewing the component, removing the heatsink, and replacing the dried-out thermal pad with a new one of the equivalent size. Savvy users often clean the surface with some high-strength isopropyl alcohol to remove debris and ensure peak effectiveness.
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They are, effectively, the PC equivalent of an oil change. And they're about as equally hard to screw up. You don't have to worry about using too much as you can quickly eyeball the right length of pad to use.
By contrast, paste replacements are marginally riskier (but still very straightforward). You have to be careful with the amount you apply, particularly when using metal-based pastes, which are electrically conductive. For it to work correctly, you have to ensure all the old dried-up paste is removed beforehand from both the die and the heatsink.
Louis Rossmann, right-to-repair activist, described ASUS's position as "ridiculous." In a three-minute video, Rossmann expressed incredulity that a company could describe the thickness of an "inanimate object" as proprietary, particularly given the user could simply measure it with a ruler or calipers.
El Reg has asked ASUS whether it regards the dimensions of its thermal pads to be top-secret information. We also asked the company to clarify its stance on user-performed replacements and how punters should approach these going forward.
Updated at 0855 BST on 21 May 2021 to add
Jeff Kampman, Asus's "content marketing and PR guy" has jumped onto the Twitter thread to say:
Thanks for your patience. The factory thermal pads on the RTX3070-8G-EK are made from 1mm thick material. We've made note of your experience to improve responses to similar future inquires from enthusiasts. Thanks for choosing ASUS.— Jeff Kampman (@jkampman) May 20, 2021