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Strix GTX980 Heatsink/Fan/Backplate removal guide and EK block install.

SpoonerUK
Level 7
I've written this guide to help anyone else who might want to install a waterblock onto their Strix DCUII 980 OC VGA card(s.)

This is the 5th set of VGA cards that I have watercooled over the last 5 years, starting with my GTX480's in 2010. This time I thought that I'd document the process to benefit others.

DISCLAIMER

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE BELOW PROCEDURE WILL VOID YOUR WARRANTY WITH ASUS (PROBABLY) AND SHOULD NOT BE CARRIED OUT BY THE INEXPERIENCED JOE USER.

You should only attach waterblocks to a VGA card or cards, once a sufficient burn-in period has elapsed on the factory installed cooling solution, and on the system that you are going to use the liquid cooled solution. Don't just unbox a card and fit a waterblock. That's a recipe for disaster and expense.


I TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANYONE'S INCOMPETENCE, AND WILL NOT BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR ANY DAMAGE THAT MAY OCCUR TO YOUR COMPUTER, VGA CARD, HOUSE, DOG, CAT, PARROT, GOLDFISH, GIRLFRIEND, WIFE, PARENTS OR CHILDREN. THIS IS A GUIDE ONLY, FOR INFORMATION.

I AM NOT AFFILIATED WITH ASUS/ROG OR EK WATERBLOCKS.



/DISCLAIMER

With that out of the way, lets get on to the guide.

1) Recommended tools.


  • A decent sized flat sturdy work surface. (Kitchen table in our house.)
  • Anti-Static or ESD Field Service Kit. (Not essential, but I'm a Server and Desktop engineer during the day, so always have one to hand.)
  • Kitchen Roll or Paper Towels. (Used for getting rid of unwanted factory installed TIM.)
  • Surgical gloves. (I find these to be invaluable when working with components. They significantly lower the risk of ESD, and also prevent possibly harmful chemicals from coming into contact with your skin. I always use the stretchy ones that are a size lower. They fit super tight, and become a second skin.)
  • Philips Screwdrivers of varying size. (I use a set of decent precision screwdrivers.)
  • De-Natured Alcohol or Unscented Nail Polish Remover. (For getting rid of Factory TIM. Thanks to Mrs Spooner.)
  • Cotton buds. (Thanks again to Mrs Spooner.)




2) Before and After.

The pic below shows what we're hoping to achieve. Before on the right, and after on the left. (I guess I
should've taken that photo a bit better.) 😄
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3) Removing the Heatsink and Fan Assembly (HS+F).

Flip the VGA card over, so that the backplate is facing up. The entire HS+F assembly is attached to the PCB
with just 4 spring loaded screws. There is also a cooling fan power header to disconnect. Work in a criss
cross pattern, loosening the screws first. DON'T just unscrew one screw and fully remove it, this might put
un-necessary strain on the remaining fixings and possibly crack your GPU. When all the screws are loose,
fully remove them, following the ordering in the below pic.
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With the HS+F assembly loose, and the screws removed, carefully flip the VGA PCB upwards and away from you,
revealing the fan header on the back right edge. Gently pull the header away from the PCB, disconnecting it.
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If all went well, you'll be left with 2 pieces of a VGA card, notice the factory TIM on the GPU, and contact
block on the HS.
44274

This is the stage where your De-Natured Alcohol, or Nail Polish Remover (referred to as cleaning solution from
now on) comes into play, along with the Paper Towels and Cotton buds. I always clean off not just the GPU,
but also the HS. This is because I like to put all the factory screws and fittings back into the original box
that the VGA card comes in, ready for if I have to refit the factory cooling solution.
Using your cleaning solution soaked onto a paper towel, clean off all of the factory TIM from the HS+F contact
block, so that you're left with a shiny clean copper contact area.
44275

At this stage, I'd just like to commend Asus on a pretty nice cooling solution. I like the way that the 5
cooling pipes all merge into the one area. Not bad for a factory fitted air cooler. But that's not our goal
here, I'm after lower temps and better cooling with liquid.

Next up, we need to carry out the same process of TIM removal from the GPU as we did from the HS+F assembly.
Again, using your cleaning solution, paper towels, and cotton buds. Clean up the surface of the GPU, as well
as all the TIM that has spread its way onto the surrounding area. You should end up with a GPU that looks
something like the below.
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We're almost ready to fit a waterblock. But wait. Theres more!


4) Removing the Backplate, Passive VRM cooler, and Stabilising Bar assembly.

The original HS+F assembly is so weighty, that Asus have fitted a nifty stabiliser to the card, to prevent
warping of the PCB. We need to get rid of this, the backplate, and VRM cooler before we can fit our EK
waterblock (I'm not sure on other waterblock manufacturers, but I'm pretty sure that they would need you to
remove these as well.)

Lets start with the VRM cooler first. Loosen off and remove the 2 screws holding the thing in place.
(Remember to keep the screws for reassembly) And then simply lift the VRM cooler up and off the PCB:
44277

You'll be left with:
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Let's get the Stabiliser bar off next. On the connector end of the VGA card, remove the 2 screws indicated:
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Then remove the 2 wide-headed screws on the main PCB:
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The Stabiliser bar should just fall off, if not remove it by hand.

Moving on to the rest of the backplate screws, just remove them. There are 9 of them remaining to be removed,
and they're indicated below:
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You should have a pile of screws off to one side, 2 countersunk style for the connector port end of the card,
2 wide head screws for connecting the Stabiliser Bar to the PCB, 2 for the VRM passive heatsink, and 9 for the
rest of the backplate. I've marked them in the pic below:
44282

Once you've removed all the screws, you'll have 2 pieces of alloy like the below, the plate and the bar.
Remember that we want to reassemble the factory HS+F for storage, in case we need to put it back on at a later
date.
44283

Flip the now naked VGA card onto its top, so that the GPU is facing down. On the back of the PCB, you'll
notice that there are a load of black plastic washers glued to where all the mounting screws once were. For
the EK block installation, we're going to have to take them off. There are 17 of them, marked out below:
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The best way I found to remove them is to very gently prize them off with a fingernail (still wearing surgical
gloves.) Hold the card in a vertical position with one hand as shown below, and gently pull the washers off.
If you don't have any fingernails long enough, then perhaps use a plastic knife. DON'T use anything metal
like a screwdriver!
44285



Continued in the next post......
Rampage V Extreme || i7 5960x (127.5x28) || EKWB Cooling for CPU & GPUs || 8x4GB Corsair Dominator DDR4 2800 || 3x 3gb Asus GTX780 || 4x Samsung 840 250GB || Pioneer BDRW || ROG Xonar Phoebus || Corsair AX1500i PSU || Aquaero 5 XT || Lamptron 6 Channel Fan Controller || Razer Blackwidow Ultimate || Logitech G500s || Mountainmods.com - Ascension MASSIVE Chassis || 21x Coolermaster 120mm Fans
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2 REPLIES 2

SpoonerUK
Level 7
You'll end up with another pile. This time 17 black washers. Again, don't throw them away, we'll put them back onto the HS+F assembly when putting it all together for storage.
44287

With the washers removed, there will be some residual glue left over, hanging around where the screw holes were:
44288

You don't have to do the next bit, but for completion or OCD's sake, use some cleaning solution on the end of a cotton bud, soaking the glue and the screw hole. Leave the solution for a few minutes to allow it to loosen the glue:
44289

Most of the glue should just wipe off. Use a fingernail, plastic knife or another cotton bud to help. You should, at the end, have some clean looking screw holes, such as the below:
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5) Re-assembly of Factory Heatsink, Fans, Stabiliser Bar, and backplate.

If you don't care about keeping the factory HS+F etc, then you can skip this bit. I do, however recommend that you put it all back together and stow it away in it's original box.

Start with the Backplate and Stabiliser Bar. I've marked off below the locations of the 6 unique screws. Remember to put a black washer on each of the screws before refitting, that way the washers and screws are all in the locations where they were originally. The 2 countersunk head screws for the port end don't have washers.
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When you've completed the Backplate, Bar and VRM re-assembly, reattach the HS+F assembly to the backplate. With the copper side of the assembly facing up, reattach the backplate with the 4 spring loaded screws. Remember to put the last 4 black washers under the sprung screws.
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That's it. We've successfully removed the factory cooling solution, stripped down the VGA card to its naked self, ready for a waterblock to be fitted.


6) EK-FC980 GTX Strix Waterblock installation.

These are fresh from the factory in Slovenia, delivered this week. I have a preference for EK stuff as I think that their styling is nice, the build quality is good, and I've stuck with them since my first GTX480 blocks. My PC has EK reservoirs, EK branded Laing D5 pumps, radiators, and a CSQ CPU block.
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Unpacking the box contents reveals the instruction sheet, a bag of screws and washers, TIM, allen key, and the blanking plates, as well as the thermal pads, and the block itself.
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It's the first EK block that I've noticed there to be a OEM logo etched into the acetal.
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There's also EK's OEM info on the underside.
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Let's start with the pre-cut thermal pads for the memory chips. EK state these are precut:
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I always cut them with scissors anyway. The pre-cut pads just mean that I don't have to get the ruler out and calculate the pad sizes. Snip:
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There's another thermal pad in the packaging that is for the VRM IC's. It's a little bit too long out of the box, so snip about 9mm off of the end:
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Rampage V Extreme || i7 5960x (127.5x28) || EKWB Cooling for CPU & GPUs || 8x4GB Corsair Dominator DDR4 2800 || 3x 3gb Asus GTX780 || 4x Samsung 840 250GB || Pioneer BDRW || ROG Xonar Phoebus || Corsair AX1500i PSU || Aquaero 5 XT || Lamptron 6 Channel Fan Controller || Razer Blackwidow Ultimate || Logitech G500s || Mountainmods.com - Ascension MASSIVE Chassis || 21x Coolermaster 120mm Fans

SpoonerUK
Level 7
So your thermal pads are ready for mounting. Start with the RAM chips. They can be a bit fiddly to align on to the chips, but just take your time:
44301
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When your RAM chip pads are in place, move on to the VRM IC's:
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Next up is applying the TIM to the GPU. Included in the EK package is a tube of EK's own Ectotherm. You don't have to use it, you can use whatever your favourite TIM compund is. I've opted for the EK stuff this time, but I've used Arctic Silver 5 in the past:
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The instructions give a guide as to how to apply it, in a cross pattern. I can never get it on quite how they show you. 😄
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Once your TIM is in place, as well as the thermal pads, let's move on to mounting the actual block. There's no easy way to explain it, but I mounted the VRM end first, as the caps fit inside the specific area within the cooling block:
44308

This next bit is a bit tricky, but using both hands, with one hand securing the loose water block, and the other gently getting a grip of the actual VGA card, flip the card over, and place it down the other way. Place the card so that the block is taking the weight, with the VGA mounting bracket hanging over the side of your work surface:
44309

As you can see below, the mounting holes for the screws have aligned perfectly, ready for securing:
44310

Now we're going to be securing the EK block to the PCB. Use the black screws and the clear plastic washers supplied. BE AWARE - There is a single screw in the bag that is slightly longer than the rest. DON'T use this one. It will damage your block if you screw it in, rendering this whole operation useless. Fix the screws as per the numbered order below, but DON'T screw them in tight until all of the other screws are in their respective holes. Just do one screw, a couple of turns at a time, until all of the screws are just finger tight, but not loose enough to unscrew themselves over time. These blocks aren't part of a car engine, you don't need to use excessive torque.
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That's it. Your waterblock is now attached, and the card is ready to be used in your PC, connected to whatever watercooling solution that you choose.

This walk-through was written whilst doing my 2nd card. I still had the 3rd to do:
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And that's about it. I hope you enjoyed your read, and found this guide useful.
Rampage V Extreme || i7 5960x (127.5x28) || EKWB Cooling for CPU & GPUs || 8x4GB Corsair Dominator DDR4 2800 || 3x 3gb Asus GTX780 || 4x Samsung 840 250GB || Pioneer BDRW || ROG Xonar Phoebus || Corsair AX1500i PSU || Aquaero 5 XT || Lamptron 6 Channel Fan Controller || Razer Blackwidow Ultimate || Logitech G500s || Mountainmods.com - Ascension MASSIVE Chassis || 21x Coolermaster 120mm Fans