DISCLAIMER: FOLLOWING THESE STEPS WILL VOID
ANY WARRANTY ON YOUR GRAPHICS CARD. IT MAY ALSO NEGATIVELY AFFECT ANY RESALE VALUE OF YOUR CARD. I CANNOT GUARANTEE THIS WILL WORK FOR YOUR GRAPHICS CARD. I AM NOT TO BE HELD LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGE TO YOU OR YOUR POSSESSIONS IF YOU DECIDE TO ATTEMPT THIS PROJECT. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.
***When referencing pictures, read pictures left to right, top to bottom. All pictures were taken using a personally-owned camera.***
A few months ago, I was given a pair of XFX Black Edition Radeon HD 7770 graphics cards (GPUs) for free. I had recently built a new desktop computer and decided that I wanted to try pairing them together (Crossfire) to get higher Frames-per-Second (FPS) while gaming. My desktop computer is of the microATX size, and therefore only had four total external card slots (see Picture 2). My motherboard has two full-size PCI-E x16 slots for GPUs, or other expansion cards, but the second 7770 (Pictures 1 and 4) would not fit into the slot without modification (see Picture 3). As you can see, there are two stacked DVI ports on the GPU, thus requiring two external slots on the case. This project fixes this issue by removing the DVI ports from the GPU, leaving only the single DisplayPort and HDMI connectors in one slot. Therefore, the second GPU only needs external access on the case in one slot, instead of two. Please read the entire Instructable before attempting this project! I would recommend you have soldering and small electronics experience prior to undertaking a project such as this one.
***THE CARD ITSELF STILL TAKES UP TWO SLOTS, DUE TO THE WIDE COOLER, BUT EXTERNAL ACCESS ONLY REQUIRES ONE SLOT***
Step 1: Gathering Your Materials
To complete this task, I needed the following materials (most pictured):
--Medium-sized Philips head screwdriver
--Small Philips head screwdriver
--3/16in socket bit
--Soldering iron - I used a 140W Weller soldering gun
--Thermal compound - I used Artic Silver 5
--Cleaning cloth - I used a paper towel
--Sheet of cardboard - used to protect soldering surface
Step 2: Disassembling the GPU - Part 1: Removing the Faceplate
To adequately access the graphics card's circuit board, you need to remove the faceplate (Picture 1) and the shroud (Picture 2).
Removing the Faceplate
First, use the small Philips head screwdriver to remove the small screw above the HDMI port (top left of Picture 1). Then, use the 3/16in socket bit to remove the bolts around the DVI ports. These are shown in Picture 1, at the top and bottom of each DVI port - the two on the left slot's DVI port have already been removed here. There is only one remaining screw holding the faceplate to the printed circuit board, but it is inaccessible until you remove the shroud.
Step 3: Disassembling the GPU - Part 2: Removing the Shroud
You have now removed the five screws/bolts holding the faceplate to the front of the graphics card.
Removing the Shroud
To remove the shroud - the silver, black and red piece containing the metal heatsink and the fan - flip the graphics card over so that the fan is pointed towards the work surface. On this side, you will see four large screws arranged in a square (see Picture 1). These screws hold the shroud, containing the heatsink and fan, to the rest of the graphics card. Remove all four of these screws and store them in a safe place, as the shroud is put back on in a later step. Lift the circuit board away from the shroud and remove the fan connector from the circuit board gently (visible from the side in Picture 2). Lay the circuit flat on the workspace next to the shroud, being careful not to damage the fan power wires (Picture 3). Do not lose the small, plastic square around the chip (seen in pictures 3 and 4). You can now place the shroud and plastic square off to the side until later.
Step 4: Disassembling the GPU - Part 1 Returned: Removing the Faceplate
Now that the shroud is off the circuit board, you will have access to the last screw needed to remove the faceplate completely from the board (top right screw in Picture 1). Use the small Philips head screwdriver to remove this screw. Now the faceplate is completely removed from the circuit board (Picture 2). You do not need to hold onto the faceplate or any of the mounting screws if you have no intention of mounting the GPU in an external dual-slot PCI-E slot ever again. If you wish to use the faceplate for mounting in a single-width external slot, you could cut the faceplate in half and use only the left half of the faceplate - I did not attempt this. Picture 3 shows the front of the GPU without the shroud and the faceplate.
Step 5: Identifying the DVI Port Pins
The DVI ports are soldered on to the printed circuit board using 64 through-hole leads. You can see these leads on the backside of the printed circuit board in Picture 1. The specific leads are identified in Picture 2. The four outside leads are the largest, used to hold the DVI ports' enclosure to the board. The upper-middle circled leads (24+6) are the signal pins used for the bottom-most (furthest from the circuit board) DVI port in Pictures 1 and 2. The lower-middle circled leads pass the signals for the top-most (closest to the circuit board) DVI port in Pictures 1 and 2. These leads all need to be removed.
Step 6: Desoldering and Removing the DVI Ports
All 64 through-hole leads need to be removed from the printed circuit board to remove the two DVI ports. I coated the leads that needed to be soldered with flux to help the solder flow better (see white paste on left through-hole leads of Picture 1). Once my soldering gun had heated up sufficiently, I started with the leads closest to the edge of the board (lower leads circled in the previous step's Picture 2). As I desoldered each lead individually, I would pull the lead away from the board until the solder hardened again. Then, I would move on to the next lead.
Unfortunately, my soldering gun did not have a very fine point on it, so I was only able to slide the leads most of the way out of their holes before the solder would harden (Picture 1 - see the front half of the leads pushed most of the way through their holes). Because of this, I cut the leads as I mostly-extracted them from their through-holes on the board (Picture 2). As I cut the front pins out of the bottom of the DVI ports, I pulled the DVI ports away from the board, giving me better access to the back DVI through-hole leads (Picture 2). Since I had had to cut off the front DVI through-hole leads, I did not bother to desolder the rear through-hoe leads and just cut the rest of them off. Picture 3 shows the remnants of the DVI ports after I had desoldered/cut the leads off. The heat had cracked the bottom of the DVI ports, warped the board slightly, and caused bubbling on the side of the printed circuit board where I had applied the soldering gun (see bubbling in Picture 1).
Step 7: Cleaning the Board Up
Cutting the leads off made the board much messier than if I had been able to cleanly desolder all the through-hole leads. Pictures 1 and 2 show the remnants of the leads left on the board. Once the DVI ports were fully away from the printed circuit board, I could break off most of the remaining leads (Picture 3). I did this to ensure that no shorts between through-holes would occur. Unfortunately, there was not a lot I could do to the other side of the circuit board to clean it up.
Step 8: Before Replacing the Shroud
Now the hard part has been accomplished! Before I put the shroud back on the circuit board, I cleaned the old thermal compound off the GPU chip (Picture 1) and the heatsink (Picture 2). The cleaned components can be seen in Pictures 3 and 4. I applied a dollop of thermal compound to the top of the GPU chip (Picture 5). Although you do not need to replace the thermal compound, cleaning the old compound off and putting on new thermal compound will help keep your GPU cooler. This is especially important if you are doing as I am, and fitting multiple GPUs in a tight space.
Step 9: Replacing the Shroud
Do not forget to put the plastic square back around the GPU chip! Place the heatsink back onto the GPU in the same orientation that you had taken it off in. Make sure you plug the fan back into its connector on the board (Picture 1)! Replace the four screws holding the shroud to the printed circuit board (Picture 2). Pictures 3 and 4 show the completed GPU. As you can see in Picture 4, the video outputs now only take up one slot of the graphics card.
Step 10: Testing
To avoid frying my primary computer, I slotted the modified GPU into an older PC I had lying around and fired it up. Pictures 1 and 2 show the slotted GPU - here you can see that the GPU only needs access to one external port. Mission accomplished! After the GPU and computer had been wired up, I turned it on, and the GPU fan started spinning as normal (Picture 3). Once Windows had loaded, I could see the GPU in the Windows Device manager (Picture 4).
Step 11: Completion!
Now that I had confirmed that the GPU was not going to short out my PCI-E slot, or the rest of my computer, I placed it in my primary rig (Pictures 1, 2, and 3). In Picture 3, you can see the second graphics card fitted into the second PCI-E slot, but only taking up one external slot. After booting, everything ran as expected. In Picture 4, you can see AMD's Crimson ReLive software recognizing that both GPUs are installed, and that Crossfire is working correctly. A testing of Star Wars: Battlefront showed that they were behaving as expected.
Step 12: Addendum
If I were to recommend a different approach to the solution of this problem, I would recommend two things. Firstly, if you have any interest in Crossfire or SLI, get an appropriately-sized case! Secondly, if you follow through my process, you will see the cutting the DVI ports off was a messy, time-consuming endeavor. I would highly recommend using a heat gun to remove the DVI ports. This would allow you to heat all the through-hole leads at once and easily slide the DVI ports off the printed circuit board.
To those of you who may attempt this, good luck!