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Thermal Grease Use Voids AMD Warranty
Page 1 - Clearing Up The Rumor
Author: Dan Podhola (WebMasterP)
Date: April 25, 2003
Category: Information
Options: Printable Version 12 pt Times New Roman 10 pt Times New Roman 12 pt Tahoma 10 pt Tahoma


Thermal Grease Use Voids AMD Warranty


There has been a rumor floating around the internet that using Arctic Silver on an AMD processor voids the warranty on that chip. Well, one of our writers, DCFlux, set out to find out if that was, in fact, the truth. To do this, he went straight to the source and asked AMD.

AMD has directly confirmed that your warranty is void if you use any type of thermal grease other than Shin Estu G 749 (and even that is only for evaluation purposes). AMD also provides their reasoning for this rule.

Here is the exact email DCFlux received in from Steve Knauber of AMD in reply to his inquiry:
For permanent installation AMD only recommends using phase change material with the heatsink/fan. No thermal grease is recommended for anything other than temporary evaluation purposes. And the only thermal grease recommended for that is Shin Etsu G 749. Artic Silver is made up of a matrix with conductive particles. There is the possibility of creating electrical shorts on the package. Any failed processor used w/ Artic Silver or any other thermal grease other than Shin Estu G 749 would be subject to warranty voiding. The concerns with other thermal greases are due to thermal pumpout causing overheating with on off cycling of the PC over time. The above information assumes you are referring to use with Athlon. For Opteron Shin Etsu G 749 also is the only thermal grease recommended for permanent installation. Again the concern is due to pumpout with thermal cycling.
Obviously, the fact that you cannot use ANY thermal grease (other than Shin Etsu G 749) on AMD chips will make a lot of people unhappy and I can definitely identify personally. However, if you put on your thermal paste neatly, it should be easy to clean up if you have to send it back (not that I am promoting trickery).

However, while I have not confirmed this, it is quite possible that Arctic Silver's new Ceramique compound might fit the bill despite it not being exactly the same as conventional phase change pads.

More Info/Clarifications:
First off, Shin Etsu G 749 is not the answer. This is because it can only be used for evaluation purposes. However, one of our readers, Frank, has pointed out that you might be able to pick up a tube here at microsi.com. Also, using any heatsink other than the one that comes with the CPU and the thermal pad that is attached to it will void you warranty.

Secondly, this voided warranty really only applies to retail boxed chips, not OEM packaged processors. In fact, according to AMD there is no warranty at all on OEM chips. However, I have personally returned a fried OEM chip to the reseller and had it replaced (it was within a week of receiving; this is because the OEM chip is usually covered by a 1 year reseller/retailer warranty).

My thoughts:
I have used Arctic Silver on AMD chips for years and not had any problems. This policy should not have a huge impact on a lot of you. Most likely if your chip dies it will be for reasons that would void your warranty anyway. The only major problem I can see with this is receiving a dead chip and installing it with Arctic Silver. Personal experience has taught me that retailers do not usually check for this and I have not had a problem returning chips in which I used Arctic Silver as a thermal compound (which is every chip).

As far as the reasonableness of not being able to use any paste other than Shin Etsu G 749 (and even then, that's only for evaluation): I find this part of the rule extremely limiting. Personally, I do not even know where to begin looking for Shin Etsu G 749 and I really do not like to use phase change pads. This does not leave a lot of options for consumers. As I said before, I do not feel this will severely impact the customer's decision to use Arctic Silver because many people have used the product without a hitch in the past.

Take from this what you will, but this is the policy of AMD. I do not like the rule but there is not much I can do about it.

UPDATE:
Arctic Silver has provided me with their standard response to questions of this type. I like the analogy at the end of the message, in particular.
AMD recommends that only pre-attached thermal pads (Phase Change Material) be used with their CPUs. This helps cushion the CPU during heatsink mounting and also helps prevent overclocking. (The pads often make the chip run too hot to overclock.)

So neither Arctic Silver nor any other thermal compound is recommended by AMD for long term use and technically voids the CPU's warranty. Overclocking the chip or using a heatsink other than the stock heatsink on a retail chip also voids the warranty.

The only grease approved by AMD is G749 which is approved for short-term testing to verify that a CPU works. AMD recommends the G749 grease for short-term use because it is made by an ISO 9001 certified company and is non-metal based.

AMD also says that thermal grease is subject to "pump-out".

Since AMD would have no control over a user's selection of cooling components, AMD needed to assume the worst for their tests; a hot chip, a poor heatsink, adverse ambient conditions and mediocre thermal grease. Under these conditions, grease pump-out could definitely be a problem.

However...

In a recent Intel test, they only experienced grease pump-out when the junction temperature was cycled from 0C to 100C. (A 100C range) When the junction temperature was cycled from 0C to 80C, (An 80C range) there was no pump-out observed. Since the junction temperatures on computer systems using quality heatsinks and thermal greases will only cycle from 20C to 60C at the most (A 40C range), there is little expectation of pump-out occurring.

But AMD needs to make one general recommendation for a thermal interface material that will provide adequate performance in all standard situations. (Non overclocked, stock heatsink, etc.) PCM is pre-attached to the heatsink. It cannot be forgotten by the first time user or the assembly line worker and as I said, it provides a cushion as the heatsink is mounted.

Look at it this way, if you applied the same criteria to selecting a car, everyone would be driving a low power, fuel efficient station wagon with rain tires and foot-thick rubber bumpers all the way around.
This is very interesting, to say the least.

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