Question How can I remove metal thermal paste from a CPU socket?

Barney-

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Aug 3, 2014
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Very foolishly, having applied some conductonaut to both CPU and heatsink, I attempted to screw the cooler in without first putting the CPU back in the socket. D'oh.

Unsurprisingly, my mobo didn't like it, so obviously some liquid metal has got into the CPU socket (AM4 board, if that matters). Any ideas on how I can remove it?

Thanks
 
Very foolishly, having applied some conductonaut to both CPU and heatsink, I attempted to screw the cooler in without first putting the CPU back in the socket. D'oh.

Unsurprisingly, my mobo didn't like it, so obviously some liquid metal has got into the CPU socket (AM4 board, if that matters). Any ideas on how I can remove it?

Thanks
Down in the pins within the sockets? Assuming you've already tried carefully removing any visible bits with an alcohol moistened cotton swab. In which case, I'd say try using a spray-type electrical contact cleaner:

https://www.amazon.com/CRC-05103-Electronic-Cleaner-11/dp/B000BXOGNI?psc=1&SubscriptionId=AKIAILSHYYTFIVPWUY6Q&tag=duckduckgo-ffnt-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=B000BXOGNI

Except i'm afraid it will just wash it all over the rest of the motherboard. But maybe that's what you have to risk at this point. Go with two or three cans of the stuff, spray the socket clean then spray the rest of the board to try and wash it off.

Be aggressive with the stuff, soak everything really good until it's literally dripping off. Maybe dump 4 cans, two at a time. If it doesn't drip off the board then where it pools and then dries up is where you'll be leaving conductive contamination.

Be sure to let it thoroughly dry. And in the end, it may just be a binner. Don't ever use conductive TIM's unless you don't mind the possibility of making a binner.
 
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Barney-

Honorable
Aug 3, 2014
39
1
10,545
1
Down in the pins within the sockets? Assuming you've already tried carefully removing any visible bits with an alcohol moistened cotton swab. In which case, I'd say try using a spray-type electrical contact cleaner:

https://www.amazon.com/CRC-05103-Electronic-Cleaner-11/dp/B000BXOGNI?psc=1&SubscriptionId=AKIAILSHYYTFIVPWUY6Q&tag=duckduckgo-ffnt-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=B000BXOGNI

Except i'm afraid it will just wash it all over the rest of the motherboard. But maybe that's what you have to risk at this point. Go with two or three cans of the stuff, spray the socket clean then spray the rest of the board to try and wash it off.

Be aggressive with the stuff, soak everything really good until it's literally dripping off. Maybe dump 4 cans, two at a time. If it doesn't drip off the board then where it pools and then dries up is where you'll be leaving conductive contamination.

Be sure to let it thoroughly dry. And in the end, it may just be a binner. Don't ever use conductive TIM's unless you don't mind the possibility of making a binner.
Thank you. I will look into the product you've mentioned. I've used metal TIMs so often that I became blasé about the risks! You're right ... one needs to be forensic about them, I clearly wasn't this time.
 

Barney-

Honorable
Aug 3, 2014
39
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Down in the pins within the sockets? Assuming you've already tried carefully removing any visible bits with an alcohol moistened cotton swab. In which case, I'd say try using a spray-type electrical contact cleaner:

https://www.amazon.com/CRC-05103-Electronic-Cleaner-11/dp/B000BXOGNI?psc=1&SubscriptionId=AKIAILSHYYTFIVPWUY6Q&tag=duckduckgo-ffnt-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=B000BXOGNI

Except i'm afraid it will just wash it all over the rest of the motherboard. But maybe that's what you have to risk at this point. Go with two or three cans of the stuff, spray the socket clean then spray the rest of the board to try and wash it off.

Be aggressive with the stuff, soak everything really good until it's literally dripping off. Maybe dump 4 cans, two at a time. If it doesn't drip off the board then where it pools and then dries up is where you'll be leaving conductive contamination.

Be sure to let it thoroughly dry. And in the end, it may just be a binner. Don't ever use conductive TIM's unless you don't mind the possibility of making a binner.
BTW, I've cleaned the pins on the CPU thoroughly ... I used a soft (artist's) brush soaked in IPA and I'm pretty sure there's no paste there. So, yes, it's got to be right down in the socket. Before letting metal paste anywhere near my mobo, I applied clear nail varnish on all the parts of the board near the CPU socket, so I guess I'm in with a chance.
 
Paste should be non-conductive, so when it's on a pin the connection between the 2 contacts won't work. Not sure what the nail varnish thing is you did, never heard of that one. But if/when paste oozes between the HS and CPU it doesn't cause damage, just looks messy and unsightly.

Now that you have it on the socket pins, its going to be difficult to remove. The Contact Cleaner may work or may not, the problem is, it has to break down the compund and that needs to be removed as it may just sit there. You should be using something like a magnifying glass as well to check the pins and how much compound is actually on the tiny pins. You have to use a soft brush and remove it delicately.
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQolAHf6a2M
- is just showing how to clean the pins, so that may help you. It has nothing to do with paste though, just good cleaning methodolgy.
 

Barney-

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Aug 3, 2014
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Paste should be non-conductive, so when it's on a pin the connection between the 2 contacts won't work. Not sure what the nail varnish thing is you did, never heard of that one. But if/when paste oozes between the HS and CPU it doesn't cause damage, just looks messy and unsightly.

Now that you have it on the socket pins, its going to be difficult to remove. The Contact Cleaner may work or may not, the problem is, it has to break down the compund and that needs to be removed as it may just sit there. You should be using something like a magnifying glass as well to check the pins and how much compound is actually on the tiny pins. You have to use a soft brush and remove it delicately.
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQolAHf6a2M
- is just showing how to clean the pins, so that may help you. It has nothing to do with paste though, just good cleaning methodolgy.
Thank you. AM4 boards don't look like that, however - no pins are visible on the socket, it's all hidden behind some black plastic. Funnily enough, the video shows exactly what I did with the CPU pins, IPA applied via the IPA bottle cap, soft artist's brush soaked in IPA.

Nail varnish is usually applied when using metal paste on a delidded CPU. I haven't delidded but I thought that to be extra careful I would do same to Mobo - I know it's not the problem in this case, did it several months ago with no harm.

I think I'll try absolutely flooding the socket with IPA and/or ethyl acetate then using vacuum cleaner hose to suck it up as my next effort, then contact cleaner spray if that doesn't do it.
 
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I think I'll try absolutely flooding the socket with IPA and/or ethyl acetate then using vacuum cleaner hose to suck it up as my next effort, then contact cleaner spray if that doesn't do it.
I'm not sure about ethyl acetate...it might be safe but if it's the stuff I'm thinking it is it can soften some plastics. But as a last resort cleaner what's being risked? If you can find some MEK that's a really good solvent and will wash even polymerized flux contaminant from trapped areas.

I've used soft bristle tooth brushes on my AM3 socket motherboard with no problem. That'll get down into the sockets a bit better than the artist brush bristles.

But I'm not sure it will do much good: the problem contamination area is down at the board level, between the solder ball pads. That's where even a tiny glop of conductive TIM can provide an electrical pathway. You need a forceful spraying action directed into that area to wash it out. But the metallic particles also readily embed in the board material and never wash out without abrasion. Good luck.
 

Barney-

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Aug 3, 2014
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I'm not sure about ethyl acetate...it might be safe but if it's the stuff I'm thinking it is it can soften some plastics. But as a last resort cleaner what's being risked? If you can find some MEK that's a really good solvent and will wash even polymerized flux contaminant from trapped areas.

I've used soft bristle tooth brushes on my AM3 socket motherboard with no problem. That'll get down into the sockets a bit better than the artist brush bristles.

But I'm not sure it will do much good: the problem contamination area is down at the board level, between the solder ball pads. That's where even a tiny glop of conductive TIM can provide an electrical pathway. You need a forceful spraying action directed into that area to wash it out. But the metallic particles also readily embed in the board material and never wash out without abrasion. Good luck.
Ethyl Acetate is sold as acetone-free nail varnish remover, and also as electronics cleaner. Acetone can attack plastics in PCBs but I'm pretty sure Ethyl Acetate is okay.

But in the end I used IPA (not exactly flooded ... a whole capful) plus vacuum cleaner on full power - mine's a pretty powerful one (Henry). First time the debug lights changed code but still no post ... so perhaps something had been removed, but not all. So repeated and ... so far ... things are working:)

Not sure I would recommend this as "safe" to anyone, but as you said, as a last resort, nothing to lose!
 
Yeah, I would probably try lots of isopropyl alcohol. Maybe try putting it in a spray bottle and spraying it into the socket's holes from point-blank range? Just make sure it's dried thoroughly before putting the CPU back in.
 

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