[GUIDE] Dell XPS L502X Tear Down, Optical HDD Caddy Installation, and CPU/GPU Repasting [56k warning]

Discussion in 'Dell XPS and Studio XPS' started by Villosa, Aug 3, 2011.

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  1. Villosa

    Villosa Notebook Deity

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    A detailed guide to the complete tear down of the Dell XPS L501X and L502X. Additional details such as HDD caddy installation and DVD/BD ROM 'Hot Swap' will be included at a later date as will additional pictures/hints I find will be helpful. In this guide you will find helpful hints that will allow you to be able to completely tear down the system in under 20 minutes. Do not worry if that goal is not reached, it's not a race, a slow but good job is better than a quick and messy one.

    One more thing, names, logos, trademarks, etc etc (XPS, L502X, L501X, Dell) all belong to Dell, so please don't sue me...

    Note: Tear down takes patience, organization, and skills with small hand held tools. Please have a nice set of quality Philips screw drivers (of various sizes) etc when working with your laptop, the last thing you'll want is to not have the proper tool to complete the job.

    Hint: Please take your time and make use of a large dining table or a clean work space that will have minimal foot traffic.

    Hint: I find that using small jars, egg crates, or dishes for organizing removed screws lead to the best work, SO keep ORGANIZED. Also have another laptop/PC handy in case you need to use this guide or Dell's Service Manual.

    Let's get started

    Tools/Tech/Paste:
    -Small Phillips screwdrivers, buy a set, they're cheap (will update with sizes).
    -Optical Drive HDD Caddy. There are multiple options available, will update with options/links soon.
    -Any HDD up to 12.5mm height and does not exceed 5v power draw.
    -Thermal Paste, I personally prefer MX-4.
    -Rubbing alcohol 91%+ recommended.
    -Cotton ball or Q-tips.

    1. Place laptop, service panel up, on a soft surface and remove the battery. You will see 3 screws securing the service panel, completely loosen the outer two screws first and the center screw last. Gently lift the service panel off the chassis.

    Hint: These screws only loosen and cannot be 'removed' since they are secured permanently on the service panel. The service panel is secured by the 3 screws but is also held using small retaining tabs, use a little force and the panel will pop right off.

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    2. Once the service panel is off, remove the screw securing the optical drive. RAM, WiFi, TV Tuner can remain on the motherboard but please so remove the antenna cables from the cards.

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    Remove optical drive by gently sliding it out the of the chassis.

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    3. Remove the screw securing the palm-rest assembly from the battery bay.

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    Open your laptop's screen as far as it will go and press and release the two palm-rest assembly tabs, you should hear several tabs pop off the chassis while doing so. Don't be alarmed, it's just releasing the palm-rest.

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    4. Using a plastic scribe or in my case, my fingers, start popping out the tabs counterclockwise from the power button. I find it easier that way.

    Hint: This is about the hardest part of the entire tear down for newbies. It was by far the most stressful because it does require a bit of force to dislodge some of those tabs. Be forceful but use some discretion when prying, use wiggles etc to loosen the tabs if they just won't budge.

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    When you round to the side with the optical drive, you can release the two tabs that were hidden by the optical drive. Good thing you removed it first!

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    5. When the palm-rest is off, gently disconnect the two ribbon cables from the motherboard.

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    6. Remove the four screws holding the HDD, slide HDD to the left to disconnect and lift out.

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    7. Using a plastic scribe or your fingers, release the two tabs holding the keyboard.

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    Disconnect the keyboard ribbon cables from the motherboard.

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    Hint: This is a good time to move the antenna wires out from under the service panel and to the top of the chassis.

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    8. Locate the LCD connector cable and disconnect using the pull tab.

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    Locate grounding cable and remove it from the chassis.

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    Remove the two display holding screws from the bottom of the chassis.

    Hint: They're right next to the rubber feet.

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    Remove the four screws (two at each hinge) to remove the display assembly.

    Hint: Double check that you've moved the Wifi wires out from under the laptop to the surface and removed all cables/grounding etc.

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    9. Flip the computer over so the bottom faces up. Remove the two silver screws, four screws in the battery bay, and three screws at the optical drive bay.

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    Hint: you can remove the speaker and fan wires now.

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    10. Flip the computer over again to the top and remove the 15 screws as marked in red.

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    Hint: I find it easier to remove the top cover while the bottom chassis is on top. The motherboard is attached to the black top cover so having it on the bottom helps the silver bottom cover lift off. The halves should separate from each other rather easily and any resistance is often at the exhaust grille. You will see a small tab at the grille, pop it out with a scribe.

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    The two halves.

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    11. Remove the two screws securing the fan. It'll lift right out.

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    12. Remove the four screws securing the subwoofer.

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    13. Remove the TV Tuner (if applicable) by removing the two securing screws.

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    14. Remove the single screw securing the AC adapter connector

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    15. Remove the three screws securing the USB board. Remove the ribbon cable from the USB board. A little wiggle and the board should lift right out of the slots.

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    16. Using a scribe, NOT a screwdriver (like the picture), gently pry out the USB/AC/Tuner slots.

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    17. The Motherboard

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    18. The heatsink has 7 screws in all and are numbered accordingly. Please start from #7 when removing and #1 when installing. Tighten or loosen a little at a time until all screws are loose and the heatsink freely lifts off.

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    19. You will now see the CPU and GPU dies exposed and covered with stock thermal material. Use a cotton ball or Q-tip (recommended) dipped in a highly concentrated rubbing alcohol, 91%+, and gently clean off the dies and heatsinks.

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    You will be greeted with a nice mirrored finish.

    20. You can remove the CPU (though not needed) by unlocking it from the motherboard. The socket will provide the direction in which to turn for unlocking/locking.

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    Lift straight up, don't wiggle or lift at an angle, the pins might bend or snap.

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    21. Use a high quality paste such as MX-4. Avoid AS5 since it is conductive and should not be used on exposed dies. Use a small rice grain sized dab of paste on the GPU and two rive grains on the CPU (if it's a Quad, pictured). Do a little experimentation and you'll eventually find the sweet spot between fully covered but not slathered and too little.

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    Replace heatsink and you're done.

    After you finish, reassemble!

    WORK IN PROGRESS, more to be added later. Spelling errors etc will be corrected, it's very late here, or should I say early?? LOL.
     
  2. southdrexel

    southdrexel Notebook Enthusiast

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    This is awesome! Thanks!!
     
  3. zjacobss

    zjacobss Notebook Evangelist

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    Dell does a bad job on putting thermal paste on laptops.
     
  4. choccclate

    choccclate Notebook Enthusiast

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    Nice guide. will be useful to many of us. :D

    Also a warning: make sure you use the correct screwdriver for the screw holding the dvd drive. its a really stiff screw.
    if your not careful the head will become stripped like this :(

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  5. mazyarjr

    mazyarjr Notebook Consultant

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    I agree. I've had this issue here as well as while removing the palm rest screw in the battery bay. The solution is to use a large philips screwdriver (the utility type, not the small ones you normally use for electronics), and push it down really hard while turning it very slowly... Removing these screws can easily turn into a nightmare if completely stripped.
     
  6. tvdang7

    tvdang7 Notebook Evangelist

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    thanks much needed
     
  7. hello1357

    hello1357 Notebook Guru

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    Amazingly detailed guide!
    You weren't kidding when you said there would be lots of pictures!
    Very good, step-by-step instructions!
    Rep this guide up people!
     
  8. Tsunade_Hime

    Tsunade_Hime such bacon. wow

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    Nice guide but I highly recommend at least 99% anhydrous alcohol to clean off thermal paste. 91% rubbing alcohol contains water and will not remove the micro traces of TIM.
     
  9. Villosa

    Villosa Notebook Deity

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    I've thought about this as well. Where does one get that type of alcohol? And does the micro trace leave an impact? I'm all for awesome stuff no matter the result so even if it lowers temps by .000001C I'm down for that lol.
     
  10. synce

    synce Notebook Consultant

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    Neat guide but I think the most important part is missing.. Before-and-after temp comparison!
     
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