Arctic Accelero Xtreme IV: Removing The Stock Cooler
Removing the Founders Edition cooler from your graphics card might seem a bit intimidating if you have never done it before, but fear not, it is a mostly painless process if you know what are you doing. That said, I had never taken one off a Pascal card before this review. Rather than dive in and hope for the best, I did what most people do, which is look online for any guides. I found one on YouTube by DazMode, who posted an excellent step-by-step tutorial for disassembling a GeForce GTX 1080. The process is exactly the same for a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, and I highly encourage watching his video as a primer.
The first thing you need to do is remove two of the torx screws surrounding the cooling fan, the ones that are closest to the front. This partially frees up the front section of the heatsink cover, which you will be able to yank off in just a moment. But first, there are more screws to remove.
Flip your graphics card so that it sits vertically and locate two more torx screws, one on top of the card and the other on the bottom. Both sit in the black section of the heatsink right next to the expansion ports, as shown above.
After removing the screws, the front section of the faceplate should glide right off with little effort, exposing the black aluminum heatsink underneath. If not, check to make sure you did not miss one of the four screws, or accidentally remove the wrong one. Assuming everything went well to this point, the next step is to free the heatsink and remove it from the card, which requires removing more screws.
Flip the card over and locate the four screws shown above. You will need to swap out your screwdriver or switch bits to a small Philips head. Those four screws hold the heatsink in place. Once you remove them, flip your graphics card over once more and wiggle the heatsink free. Mine was already falling off when I flipped the card over even though it had never been taken apart before. If yours does not, just carefully negotiate it free, as the thermal paste underneath could be making it stick in place.
Now is good time to clean off the GPU (and heatsink assembly). Arctic Silver makes a two-part product called ArctiClean that consists of a thermal material remover and thermal surface purifier. I've used this combination many times in the past with great success, but did not have any on hand. Rubbing alcohol works great as well. I prefer a higher concentration (91 percent), as it's got fewer additives and should, in theory, dry quicker too. Use this with cotton swabs for best results.
Next you need to remove a pair of Philips screws from the expansion plate. Make sure you only remove the two that are shown, as those are the ones that screw into a pair of clips inside the card, behind the expansion ports.
Are we having fun yet? Let's move on...
Now it is time to finish off the backplate assembly. You will need to switch screwdrivers or bits once again, to a precision sized Philips head. There are 14 tiny screws scattered around the border of the backplate and GPU area. Every single one of them needs to be removed. There are also two larger screws on the wings of the heatsink by the expansion ports. You will need to remove those as well.
The backplate is separated into two sections. Once you have removed all 16 screws (14 smalls ones, two larger ones), both sections should lift off. NVIDIA is not using any glue here, so they should lift off easily.
This is where things get a little tricky...
Each of those 14 tiny screws you just removed were held in place by hex shaped holders, and those need to be taken out of the PCB (printed circuit board). If you have a small hex head attachment, then congratulations, this should be a piece of cake. Alternativey, you can use a pair of pliers, as I did.
You have to be extra careful with this step. There are delicate traces and components all over the PCB, and you don't want to gouge the PCB with whatever tool you are using. One slip of the hand can be the difference between a working and non-functioning card, so take your time.
If this goes without a hitch, you are in the home stretch of disassembly with just one last step remaining.
This last step just happens to be the most nerve wracking part of the disassembly process, as you are about to crack open the card (hopefully without actually cracking it!). It can be a bit stubborn, adding to the tension of opening up a card that costs several hundred dollars. Give it a few light tugs, and keep doing so until the PCB separates from the heatsink cover. If it gives you too much trouble, double check that you removed all the hex screws in the previous step.
At this point, take a moment to admire your handiwork. Isn't she a beauty? Okay, enough of that, let's move on to installing the Accelero Xtreme IV...