[SOLVED] Can't remove heatsink screws

pmjm

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Feb 14, 2010
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Hi all,

I bought a "used" server with a cpu that I want to swap out with a higher end xeon. I say "used" in quotes because it sat in a warehouse unused since it was manufactured in 2014.

Problem is, in all those years, the heatsink screws have become brittle and they won't budge. If I apply force to the screwdriver it strips the screw. I don't know what kind of cooler this is, any ideas? Might have been stock with the Xeon E5-2640 V2.

Could there be a brace plate holding the screws in place underneath the motherboard that I don't know about? I'm trying to change it without unmounting the mobo from the case.

Here's what I'm looking at. Any tips would be greatly appreciated!


 

Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
I suspect your problem is that those are NOT actually phillips head screws, as seen here in this conversation in some detail.

https://forums.tomshardware.com/threads/quality-screws-and-standoffs.3536262/post-21366368

Short of having the proper driver, you may need to grab the heads of those screws with a pair of vise grips and twist to break them free, after which any phillips screwdriver should take care of the rest of the job. Applying light heat to the screw head might also help them to come free a little easier and can be done with a pocket torch.
 

Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
I suspect your problem is that those are NOT actually phillips head screws, as seen here in this conversation in some detail.

https://forums.tomshardware.com/threads/quality-screws-and-standoffs.3536262/post-21366368

Short of having the proper driver, you may need to grab the heads of those screws with a pair of vise grips and twist to break them free, after which any phillips screwdriver should take care of the rest of the job. Applying light heat to the screw head might also help them to come free a little easier and can be done with a pocket torch.
 

pmjm

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Thanks for this info. How have I gone my entire life without knowing this?

Will pick up a set of jis drivers from Amazon and try again. But in the meantime I've really messed one of the screws up. These springed screws require a considerable amount of pressure to remove even when the screws are working well so I'm not quite sure what to do. Just my attempts to remove them so far have damaged the heatsink, so I'll need to replace it with something else.

For the record, it is the SuperMicro SNK-P0048AP4.
 

Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
Like I said, you might have to get a pair of small vise grip pliers, and lock them down on the outside of the screw head with them situated as far in one direction as possible while still being able to get a firm bite on the screw head, and then give them a twist to break it free. It's possible you might even have to lock them down on it in an upright position and then use ANOTHER pair locked horizontally onto the first pair, to give yourself enough leverage to break it loose. Also, as I said before, a small five dollar butane pocket torch used to heat the head of the screw will considerably lessen the amount of force required to remove the screw.

That's a trick that has been commonly used by automotive and industrial mechanics for 100's of years. Well, obviously they didn't have butane torches hundreds of years ago, but they had heat to help loosen seized bolts. Just be sure to keep it low enough to only heat the screw. You don't want to torch the rest of the board or melt the protective coating off any traces.
 

pmjm

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Feb 14, 2010
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Like I said, you might have to get a pair of small vise grip pliers, and lock them down on the outside of the screw head with them situated as far in one direction as possible while still being able to get a firm bite on the screw head, and then give them a twist to break it free. It's possible you might even have to lock them down on it in an upright position and then use ANOTHER pair locked horizontally onto the first pair, to give yourself enough leverage to break it loose. Also, as I said before, a small five dollar butane pocket torch used to heat the head of the screw will considerably lessen the amount of force required to remove the screw.

That's a trick that has been commonly used by automotive and industrial mechanics for 100's of years. Well, obviously they didn't have butane torches hundreds of years ago, but they had heat to help loosen seized bolts. Just be sure to keep it low enough to only heat the screw. You don't want to torch the rest of the board or melt the protective coating off any traces.
Well, I tried all your suggestions and nothing got it out. Eventually I ended up having to take a dremel to the tip and cut a new groove, then I was able to use a flathead screwdriver to finally get it out of there.

Unfortunately I think in my attempts to remove it I permanently damaged the motherboard. Perhaps from the metal shavings from the screw in my various screwdriver and plier attempts, perhaps with the heat, perhaps with the sparks from the dremel.

With the new cooler installed it's dead, no LED's, nothing, like there's no power supply connected to it at all. Sad panda. To anyone finding this thread in the future, take extreme care when dealing with an issue like this, and know that it has potential to wreck your mobo. This was a $600 server board too, I'm currently cruising eBay looking for a deal on a replacement.
 

Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
I seriously, SERIOUSLY, doubt that you did that through your efforts. It is far more likely that this hardware was DOA, if you did not run it prior to attempting to remove the cooler, or there is something else going on. Perhaps during your endeavors something has been unplugged and not plugged back in, or the PSU switch got turned off, or something. I would TRIPLE check everything, including reseating memory and other connections, if you have not already. It's possible that the stress of trying to forcibly remove the cooler screws might have fractured one of the traces, but shavings are unlikely to have had any impact assuming you did blow any residual shavings off using compressed air. If you attempted to "vacuum" them off, then that could very well have zapped something because vaccuming a motherboard is a very bad idea since it generates a lot static electricity.
 

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