Repurposing an Acer Aspire Revo AR3610-U9022 Net-Top with a SSD and Windows 8
Recently I set out to upgrade a three year old Acer Aspire Revo AR3610-U9022 Net-Top (“Acer 3610”) with 4GB RAM, Hitachi 2.5” HDD, and Windows 7 Professional 64-bit to a SSD and Windows 8 Professional.
Hard Drive Replacement with SSD
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Hard Drive Replacement with SSD
The Intel Atom 330 and the NVIDIA ION graphics performed well enough for Windows 7 and Windows 8, in my opinion, but I believed the Hitachi hard drive’s performance was holding the Acer 3610 back from its true potential as the following charts show.
There are a number of guides on the internet that explain how disassemble and replace the Hard Drive in the Acer Aspire Revo AR3610-U9022 Net-top Intel Atom 330 (1.60GHz) – the complete removal of the system board is necessary to get at the screws that hold the Hard Drive to the system board.
Caution: This isn’t a project for the inexperienced or faint of heart because you are most definitely voiding any warranty you may have as well as easily destroying or bricking your entire system. Proceed with the steps in the following reference links and pictures at your own risk.
Internet Links for Upgrading the Acer 3610:
After replacing the system board into the Acer 3610 case the final thing to do was replace the CPU and GPU heat sink and fan. The reference guides that I used (above) did not address what they had done regarding the heat sink re-attachment. The first thing I did was clean the old thermal paste and thermal pad from the heat sink and used Artic Silver 5 per the directions I found Here. As stated in my post in the Forums I was not happy with the temperature performance and the very high fan speeds I was seeing and began speculating that the heights of the Atom 330 CPU and the NIVIDIA ION GPU were offset too much for the heat sink to lay flat across both. In addition to asking in the Forums I sent an e-mail to Artic Silver’s Technical Support. I received a call from Artic Silver later that day – the person I talked to was very helpful and provided a good suggestion on how to determine if the tops of the CPU and GPU didn’t align with the heat sink. If that proved to be the case it was recommended to go with a thermal pad to level the heat sink face with the GPU and CPU – a copper shim was not recommended because to do that correctly a micrometer should be used to determine the proper thickness of the shim. The tech person noted that even experienced applicators of thermal paste will fail 20% of the time and it could simply be that I needed to try the application of thermal paste again – which I did with no change in the results.
One way suggested to check my suspicion that the tops of the CPU (Intel Atom 330) and GPU (NIVIDIA ION) were not aligned was to lay very thin strips of paper on the tops of each – then re-attach the heat sink (without thermal material) and try to carefully pull the strips of paper out. This is what I tried and from it I learned that the NVIDIA ION did have a slight gap between it and the heat sink and would need either a thermal pad or a shim. (See the text on the following two pictures.)
The first thing I tried were thermal Pads that I cut and placed on the heat sink to fit over the NIVIDIA ION while using Artic Silver 5 on the Atom 330. I had a great deal of difficulty aligning the pads correctly and getting the plastic cover off of the pads without damaging the pad itself.
My thermal performance did not seem to improve with the thermal Pad on the NVIDIA ION. After going through 3 of the 5 thermal pads in the package I gave up on doing this with thermal pads. (This represented 3 failures in thermal performance and high fan speeds after applying a pad, paste, attaching the heat sink and fan then running the 3610 for a period of time – before each attempt in all cases I would clean all items per Artic Silver instructions for preparation of the Heat Sink, CPU/GPU, and tinting in the Heat Sink.)
At Hobby Lobby I found a 0.016” thick (1/64”) of copper (“CU”) in a 5”X7” sheet. The 0.016” appeared, as best as I could tell, to be about, or slightly less than, the thickness of the thermal Pad that I had originally taken off of the portion of the heat sink over the NVIDIA ION when I first took the Acer 3610 apart. I saw this as my final option even though it wasn’t my best option.
Using a dermal (OK, this was fun), I cut a copper square (shim) out of the sheet that was the size of the head of the NVIDIA ION and a second piece that was slightly larger than the head of the NVIDIA ION. I carefully filed the edges of the shims to remove any burrs or stubs that could harm the GPU. I cleaned and conditioned/tinted the CPU, GPU, heat sink, and both sides of the copper shims. I first applied the smaller of the two copper shims, assembled the system and tested the systems performance. It tested well over several hours – actually better than anything else I had previously tried. I tore the Acer 3610 apart replacing the smaller copper shim with the slightly larger shim – cleaned and conditioned/tinted the CPU, GPU, and heat sink – then assembled the system and tested the systems performance. The system again tested well if not slightly better. With the shim I also applied the Thermal Paste onto the NVIDIA ION and the CU shim in an X pattern instead of attempting a smooth spread across the GPU. See: Puget Systems Thermal Paste Application Techniques.
The improved hard drive performance substantially improved the responsiveness and usability of the Acer 3610 as a light duty Windows 8 workstation in the kitchen as well as an excellent internet media gateway.
After running Prime95 for 1 hour the temperatures never exceeded 52C on the CPU or 69C on the NVIDIA ION.
Temperatures over a 12 hour period.
The clean install of Windows 8 upgrade of the Acer 3610 went smoothly. It cleared out 3 years of accumulated garbage on the Acer which I’m sure contributed to the apparent performance improvement with Windows 8 over Windows 7 (along with the addition of the SSD). The Acer 3610 combined with an inexpensive Samsung 23” Monitor with speakers has proven over the last couple of months to be an excellent light duty Windows 8 workstation in the kitchen as well as an excellent internet media gateway using Windows Media Center and Internet Explorer 10.
I was very impressed with the help and genuine interest I received from Artic Silver.
When I started the replacement of the original hard drive with an SSD Murphy’s Law came into play and I found myself spending a great deal of time finding a solution to properly mounting the heat sink back onto the CPU and GPU. In my research on how to take apart the Acer 3610 I didn’t catch the lack of detail on re-assembly of the Acer 3610 thermal management system which could have had disastrous consequences. Using the copper shims I made from a sheet of copper I got from Hobby Lobby was very risky — I could have easily damaged the surface of the NVIDIA and ruined my machine but in this instance the risk played out well – I wouldn’t expect to be this lucky often and certainly couldn’t recommend it except as a “last ditch” alternative.