My Late 2012 Mac Book Pro Retina laptop is all but dead, it has many dead pixels and because of the poor cooling and is NOT a joy to use anymore. It does not “JUST WORK” and personally, I do not think “thinner” laptops can handle Australian summers as its hardware cooling it inadequate above 40c air temperatures.
My laptop processor would spend more time thermal throttling (at 104c) in Web Browsers and text editors that at normal speeds. Opening up productivity apps like Photoshop or Premiere Pro would send the laptop into meltdown.
Frequent high temps were common.
Warning Disclaimer: My laptop is out of warranty and I know my way around the inside of computer hardware without zapping it. Do not attempt to open your laptop unless you know what you are doing, have backed up your data and are prepared to brick your computer.
- I removed dust from inside the laptop.
- I tried to only use the laptop refrigerative air conditioning
- I replaced the thermal paste on the CPU and GPU (3 times)
- I reinstalled OSX Mojave and reset the SMC and PRAM multiple times.
- I ran the fans at 100% (see post here), The fans were operating at full capacity and were not broken.
The stock thermal paste was crusty after 5 years. The plastic CPU/GPU cover was visibly cooked.
I ordered some new Thermal grizzly thermal paste, I had some older silicone paste on hand just in case.
After many reapplications of the Thermal Grizzly, the older silicone paste seemed to work the better???
After a few months, all of the fixes above did not seem to work. OSX Mojave would spin up the CPU and GPU into a frenzy overloading the single heat pipe within minutes.
Time to try some more drastic cooling modifications?
I tried improving the efficiency of the single (copper) heat pipe that is shared between an Intel i7 2.6 GHz and an Nvidia Video Card by removing the black paint by stripping the paint with acetone.
I manually removed paint from in between the heat sink fins with a LED to reveal the metal.
I reinstalled the heat pipe with high hopes? That looks nice 🙂
I removed the old thermal paste and added new paste. First I tried Thermal Grizzly Cryonaut. I re-applied the paste three separate times as each application was not that much better than the old crusty stock paste from Apple. Did I have a bad batch of Thermal Grizzly?, It seemed thick and not very viscous. I ended up using an old tube of silicone paste (the white stuff) as my Arctic Silver was too old to try and I did not want to order more.
With the silicone paste applied and the paint removed temperatures were about 15c lower at max, I still had frequent thermal throttling but at least I had a reserve buffer.
This was all before the Aussie Heatwaves and high temperatures soon returned.
Is there still room for improvement?
How heat pipes work
Heat pipes have an evaporating (hot part) and condensing zone (cool part) on the heat pipe. I noticed Apple’s “stock” condensing fins were small, would improving this zone help?. Time to improve the condensers zones by adding larger copper heat sinks to the bare side of the heat pipe.
I purchased a few copper Xeon/Sun server sized heat sinks and thermal epoxied them to the condensing end of the heat pipe. Yes, they would protrude out the bottom of the case but #Meh. I can fix that by extending the base of the laptop down and making it thicker (old school style).
The server heat sinks arrived
I cut the heat sinks in half.
I packed the fins with paper before cutting to ensure the cut did not damage the fins.
After cutting, I wiped the copper heat sinks with vinegar to restore the surface to a nice copper shine.
I tested the heat sink idea with silicone paste first
Temps were 25c lower, Now it’s time to use Arctic Silver Thermal Epoxy
I applied the Thermal Epoxy to the heat pipe (I temporary had foil strips above the fans so I did not block them while the epoxy dried.
I then stuck the heat sink’s to the heat pipe (with Arctic Silver Thermal Epoxy).
I toyed with a clear case but decided against it for static electricity and stability reasons.
I purchased a second Mac Book base for so I could cut holes for the heat sinks to protrude and use the original base to hide the modification.
I made a 30 mm base wall so I could use it as a wall between the laptop base and the new 30mm lower base.
I added some 5-volt and 12 -volt fans inside the new extended 30mm base.
A normal looking Mac Book except for the 30mm lower base and internal 5V or 12V fans.
External power plugs on the left side, I will add lights at a later stage.
Are the temps lower?
Video: Mac Book Pro cooling mod, I can now watch 1080p videos without maxing the CPU
Video: Mac Book Pro cooling mod with external powered 5v or 12v fans
50c lower temps are nicer at idle but in Premiere Pro (exporting video) the laptop was still thermal throttling like mad and temps were terrible (100+). Lets not get started when I start some development VM’s
Conclusion 2 weeks later
This is still not a joy to use. I don’t think I have the right to expect a 5-year-old laptop to keep up running a CPU/GPU intensive OS and applications.
Time to buy a new computer, Apple still makes thin and overheating laptops by the looks of it?
Maybe I need to buy a fridge to stick a computer in a fridge to use these days?
YouTube users indicate Apple has a problem with heat.
What computer do I get next?
Not an Apple made one. I will be moving back to Windows for local development and Linux on servers
Dell Alienware has many heat pipes.
Acer Predator 500
I read a few reviews (e.g this one from Ultra book reviews) and Acer have good cooling.
MSI GT Series laptops look the best if cooling is important.
Or should I build a custom desktop with way more cores
CPU: Threadripper 2950X 16C 32T
SSD: M.2 SSD: Samsung 970 PRO 512GB
MOBO: Asus Zenith Extreme
Power: Corsair RM1000x 1000W
MEM: Quad 3600 Mhz
GPU: AMD Radeon VII Navi 3980
Thanks for reading.
v1.3 Added videos
v1.2 Updated alt tag descriptions
v1.1 Added “I will be moving back to Windows for local development and Linux on servers”
1.0 Initial Draft