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I've been hearing a sound from inside my MSI GE60 laptop for a while now, so I opened it up to find that these two tiny copper waffle squares came loose. They were originally stuck to the board with some black adhesive, so I stuck them on again, but a few days later, they came loose again.

Tiny copper waffle squares on motherboard

After removing them from the laptop entirely, I haven't noticed any differences in performance, temperature, etc. They look too small to be heat sinks, and they're only attached to corresponding black squares on the board. Needless to say, much searching for "copper waffles on motherboard" and the like turned up nothing at all.

What are they? And what should I do about them?

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53  
They are a heatsink for whatever chip is underneath. – Ramhound Mar 30 at 2:37
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They're not copper, they're aluminium painted orange. You can tell by weight, aluminium is very light while copper is quite heavy. Also, copper gets green patina over time, while aluminium stays shiny forever. – Agent_L Mar 30 at 8:26
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@eyqs The process is called "anodizing" to increase corrosion resistance. A dye can be added easily. Often, it's dyed to match product colors, eg Gigabyte blue, Asus black, etc. Generic parts I saw were either left in natural color of dyed orange. I guess it makes them blend better with other copper parts, like the heatpipes on your pic. – Agent_L Mar 31 at 8:57
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"copper waffle square" - Congratulations, you have just invented the cutest alternative name for "heatsink"! =) – Nayuki Apr 2 at 16:36
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@Nayuki Alternative name? No, that's actually the official name used in the computer repair business: i.stack.imgur.com/YSpY3.png – IQAndreas Apr 3 at 7:52
up vote 158 down vote accepted

They are heat sinks. You definitely should put them back on, as they are there for a reason. If the chips below it get too hot, they could be damaged.

I would purchase some thermal adhesive to reapply them. Do not buy thermal paste, as that will not bond them back together. Be sure to clean the heat sinks and the chips with some rubbing alcohol to remove old adhesive and dirt.

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51  
Don't clean with alcohol while the electronics are plugged in and working! Definitely turn off the laptop and then disconnect the battery. Don't use too much liquid alcohol, or it might leave wet spots which would then need to dry out completely before reconnecting the battery. Or else you could short-circuit and destroy everything. If you're not sure about anything, take it to the certified repair service. – user1306322 Mar 30 at 10:43
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@user1306322 One of the reasons we use isopropyl alcohol for this job instead of eg soapy water is exactly this - it doesn't conduct electricity. – peterG Mar 30 at 12:33
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@peterG though most folks usually only have 70-90% iso handy, and the rest of that is water. I'm not sure if they use deionized water in household iso mixtures, however. – shenles Mar 30 at 14:12
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Given the advice to this point. If you do have isopropyl alcohol then please don't use it to wash down the waffles or hard candy as it will kill you. – Guy Mar 30 at 19:49
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I have an answer which has a alleged example of a system running in isopropyl alcohol. Which I'd add is terribly flammable (possibly for the same reasons that its good for cleaning computers). Completely pure water isn't all that conductive - its the ions in it that are conductive since water is a polar solvent. However, your computer catching fire cause you happened to leave a puddle of isopropyl alcohol and it hit flashpoint... baaaaad – Journeyman Geek Mar 31 at 1:51

These are heat sinks and must be in place for reliable operation.

  • The shape of those copper devices is designed to dissipate heat effectively from the part on which they are placed. The "waffle" shape is intended to increase surface area, making it easier to remove heat from the device.

  • The heat sinks in question are responsible for cooling SMD inductors (coils) that form part of the CPU voltage regulator module. Without the heat sink, they could overheat when the CPU is under sustained load, which can reduce the service life of the system or cause it to fail altogether.

  • Use thermal adhesive to secure the heat sinks back onto the inductors. As Keltari mentioned, be sure they're clean before applying the adhesive; poor contact between the inductor and heat sink can reduce cooling effectiveness.

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Due to their location inside of a cramped laptop case nowhere near any of the fans, I think they're pretty much completely useless. No airflow means no appreciable cooling. Might as well take them out so they don't fall off again, rattle around inside, and cause shorts or other damage. – alex.forencich Mar 31 at 20:59
    
My laptop (HP Pavilion g7 2269wm) does not have those parts – Suici Doga Apr 1 at 1:43
    
@alex.forencich Perhaps true... But even so, they do add mass for the components to heat up - and that means it will take them longer to overheat. – Baard Kopperud Apr 1 at 19:07

These are indeed heatsinks, but in contrast to what everyone else has said, these are part of a bolt-on aftermarket up-sell modification "upgrade" offered by the laptop distributor, XoticPC, and are for all intents and purposes largely useless. (See : Copper Cooling Upgrade)

The cheap quality of adhesive they used to sticker these things on (wherever they originally put them) should be a testament to just how much nothing they were actually doing for you. Clearly, they've fallen off completely and you didn't even notice. Luckily they didn't manage to damage anything or short out your motherboard while they were rattling around loose inside your case.

You probably opted-in to this upgrade when you purchased the laptop. If anything, I'd get in contact with Xotic and try to get your $60 back. Throw those copper things away, or keep them on your desk as ornaments if you like. You don't need them in your laptop.

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Agreed. The location where these heatsinks are installed also doesn't get any airflow, so there is no benefit to having them installed. Get rid of them before they fall off again and knock some other part off the board or cause a short circuit. – alex.forencich Mar 31 at 21:01
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Not sure why this isn't the top/accepted answer. I guess fastest gun in the west strikes again. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Apr 2 at 4:20
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I have no idea whether it is the case here, but whilst a heatsink will be far more effective with airflow from the fan, it will be (slightly) effective without it. Some airflow will come from convection, and heat loss through radiation will also be increased by the additional area. – abligh Apr 4 at 9:01
    
@abligh In a confined space, it will add more thermal inertia than anything. Otherwise, it's just heating up a part of the laptop that isn't meant to be getting heat dumped in it. – J... Apr 4 at 10:07

As others have already responded, the blocks are heatsinks. But I don't believe the location in the image is where they are supposed to go. In fact, I don't think they're normally supposed to be in there at all! As you can see in other images of the GE60 motherboard, the waffles are nowhere to be found:

GE60

Did you happen to buy your laptop used? If so, you may have ended up with a retrofitted system, for example using the process outlined on this overclocking thread:

"...As of right now all I did was put two low-profile heatsinks on top of the GPU heatsink..."

Waffles

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I bought it directly from the manufacturer; definitely no retrofitting involved. On your picture, there are two silver squares that correspond to where the heatsinks on my laptop are; do you know what they are? – eyqs Mar 31 at 5:48
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@eyqs Was the laptop refurbished? If so it may have been retrofitted by an original buyer then returned to the manufacturer to be resold. Depending on the condition they may have not even listed it as refurbished, and given the modification is internal, they may not have noticed. As far as the square components from your original picture, they appear to be low-profile 33 micro-Farad capacitors, possibly for supplying clean power to the CPU. – MooseBoys Mar 31 at 5:57
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@eyqs Where did you buy it? XoticPC? Those look like aftermarket copper coolers that they offer as an "upgrade" option when you buy the laptop see...copper cooling upgrade – J... Mar 31 at 14:10
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@J... Yeah, it was from Xotic PC. I don't remember doing so, but I probably did select that. – eyqs Mar 31 at 16:44
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Agreed. The location where these heatsinks are installed also doesn't get any airflow, so there is no benefit to having them installed. Get rid of them before they fall off again and knock some other part off the board or cause a short circuit. – alex.forencich Mar 31 at 21:07

The heat sinks are attached to the chip so that they absorb the heat. The air between the waffles cools down the absorbed heat; as a result, a constant temperature is maintained.

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They can be considered to be 'Heat Sinks' whatever may be the shape. Yes, if they were initially present in your Laptop they're still required for now & future. I recommend you to put it back on the place/chip from where you took it after properly cleaning them & using thermal adhesive (As other users have explained). You're not seeing any performance changes but may be in future it can give you problems & may also decrease the service life of your that particular Laptop Motherboard component from where you removed that heat sink. So put it back on the chip. However you may have seen many small heat sinks, like you've mentioned in this question,on desktops motherboard. They supposed to be present there for giving better heat dissipation when that particular chip is over loaded or under heavy use. So put that heat sink back on same place.

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