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How To Replace A Dell Inspiron Laptop Heat Sink And Fan Assembly

Posted in Computers by Joe Colburn on the October 10th, 2007

Before I get started, I should thank Dan and Sherree for this article that saved me the headache of trying to go enter my wife’s Dell Inspirion 1100 from the bottom only to find that would be a waste of time. Now on to the destructions.. er.. I mean INstructions.

First, I like to label the screws I’m going to remove on a piece of paper to avoid confusion. If there’s a lot, I like to use scotch tape to keep them all apart. In this case, we only have five screws, so no tape.

Dell Inspirion Repair

Also, you’ll need a slotted screwdriver and a Phillips head as well. The Phillips head should have a small point on it. Needle-nosed pliers will also make unlocking the ZIF CPU socket easier.

Diving in, you want to pry up the top plate with a slotted screwdriver. Remember to open the laptop all the way (push the screen all the way back) to let the plate come up easily. There’s four or five plastic slots that will pop out as you pry the thing up. Go from right to left.

Dell Inspirion Repair

When you pull the top plate off, you’ll see four black screws. You’ll need to remove these to pull the keyboard up. I’ve pointed to them with my screwdrivers, but I’m sure you’ll see them.

Dell Inspirion Repair
Dell Inspirion Repair

Remember. The keyboard should remain attached, so use care when lifting it out of the way. On the right side, you’ll see a metal cover protecting the heat sink, CPU, and other vital stuff from, well, you. Just remove that. It has only one screw, so they want you in there, anyway.

Dell Inspirion RepairDell Inspirion Repair

With the metal protective plate removed, you should see the heat sink / fan assembly and probably some dust. The assembly has four screws. Hold on. First, unlock the ZIF CPU socket before trying to pull the heatsink out.

Dell Inspirion Repair

Now throw the new one in there and lock the ZIF CPU socket again.

Dell Inspirion Repair

About the author

Joe Colburn Joe Colburn is a software engineer specializing in PHP and a technology enthusiast. Always eager to dive into new and exciting things, Joe writes about anything technology related news and products that he thinks you will also be excited about. Find Joe Colburn on Google+ or by any of the links below.

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74 Responses to 'How To Replace A Dell Inspiron Laptop Heat Sink And Fan Assembly'

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  1. on October 14th, 2007 at 5:37 am

    […] JoeTech – How to replace a Dell Inspiron Laptop heat sink and fan assembly. I’m so not technical, I’ll think I’ll read this blog more often now. […]

  2. Laura said,

    on October 15th, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    I was wondering if this would be the same way to replace the charger connector. I have an Inspiron 5100 that can’t charge up so it’s been sitting for about 3 months collecting dust. Nothing else is wrong with it. Actually, I just need to take it somewhere to get fixed because I’m sure there will be more wrong with it if I try to fix it myself. I really miss the programs I have installed on it.

  3. joe said,

    on October 15th, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    In Dan and Sherree’s article (see link above), readers commented that it did, in fact, work the same to replace the heatsink/fan assembly on a 5100. I don’t know for sure about the piece you’re talking about, but I imagine it couldn’t be too much trouble to replace.

  4. Laura said,

    on October 16th, 2007 at 7:10 am

    It’s a little square hole where the AC adapter plugs in. It no longer works, so I’m thinking it’s a connection problem. Or a battery problem. I have no problem pulling apart a pc tower but going into a laptop is more intimidating. lol

  5. Andy said,

    on October 26th, 2007 at 3:51 am

    Hey, I tried this and got my fan cleaned. Bad thing is that now my computer doesn’t work. The unit powers up, the fan runs, but there is no signal to keyboard or monitor.

  6. joe said,

    on October 26th, 2007 at 9:34 am


    I know the feeling. The first thing to do is search google for any articles that discuss replacing the power connector on a Dell Inspiron 5100. If I hadn’t found the article I linked to at the top of this post, I would have been winging it, which would have definitely cost me more time and possibly a laptop, too. This will also help you determine the exact part (and sometimes the part number) for the part you need to replace. Of course, you should always take precautions such as grounding yourself and unplugging the hardware before working on electronics of any kind, but you should be extra careful with power supplies. Beyond that, I wouldn’t be much help since I’ve never done it before. Good luck.

  7. joe said,

    on October 26th, 2007 at 9:42 am


    I would guess that the best you could do on your own (second to taking the laptop to a professional for help) would be to turn it off and open it back up. If it worked (turned on and booted) before you started and it doesn’t now, more than likely, something happened in the process when you had the laptop open. My first guess would be that something got bumped and possibly disconnected in the process. There’s a lot of delicate stuff in there, and hopefully that’s all it is. If, for example, you accidentally disconnected the video cable, you should be able to reconnect it and be up and running. Before doing anything, diagnose the current problem. Plug in an external monitor and see if you get video. Plug in an external keyboard and mouse and see if those work. Note any details about what happens that isn’t supposed to or what doesn’t happen that should. Then search Google for articles that might shed more light. Let me know any symptoms and I’d be glad to do a couple quick searches.

  8. frankiebgood said,

    on November 16th, 2007 at 7:53 am

    i blew out the dust on my inspiron 5150 with compressed air to clean the fan, the fan stopped running. i turned the computer on and off a few times, and thankfully the fan stared again, i ran an f-12 analysis and the fan is working properly. the information in your blog i checked, just for future reference, really good stuff, with photos. would have save me from going through the bottom too, lol!!! thank you.

  9. Pam said,

    on December 1st, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    Thank you so much for your post and comments! Your post was so detailed and it had pictures! It helped so much. I almost started going in from the bottom too! Thank you for your help!

  10. joe said,

    on December 4th, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    frankie and Pam: Glad I could help. When I decided to record and post the process, I thought a couple people might benefit from it. I had no idea it would end up getting so much love. =)

  11. on January 12th, 2008 at 5:14 am

    […] as I’ve done here. When giving a tutorial, use screenshots, or photos like I used in my laptop repair article over on […]

  12. Apurv said,

    on February 5th, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    I got a 5150, with heating issues. Before I discard my machine finally, I decided to try putting in a heat sink and fan I found on ebay (for the same line). Let’s see how it goes, it isn’t such a bad machine. I’ll try it in the next couple of days and post how it goes.


  13. joe said,

    on February 6th, 2008 at 9:23 am

    Apurv: I’m interested in the results, so let me know. Great photos on your site, by the way.

  14. Dennis said,

    on April 25th, 2008 at 7:28 am

    I have a Dell Inspiron 5100 and would like to upgrade the CPU. I think the best match is a P4 3.06 with 533 FSB (.13 micron) for the same Intel 845P chipset. I have built many desktops, but never ventured into a laptop. The Dell manual does not provide any guidance on replacing the CPU. Your instructions above give me confidience that I can do this. Anything else I should know? Is there any other detailed instructions you are aware of?
    Many thanks, Dennis

  15. joe said,

    on April 25th, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Dennis: The first thing I would do is consult the hardware specs for that model and find out what motherboard you have. Then search google for specs on the motherboard. This should tell you what processors will work with your laptop. From there, you can pretty much follow most of the steps above to replace it. As always, take it slow and make sure you cover all your bases. Good luck!

  16. WattAJ said,

    on June 20th, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    This article has probably saved my lappy from melt down…
    CPU was running at 75oC before taking the thing apart as per the instructions above.
    I didn’t have to replace the heatsink/fan assembly, just blew all the dust out.
    CPU temp now 40oC and no whining fan noise.
    Great article.

  17. Joe said,

    on June 21st, 2008 at 8:54 am

    WattAJ: Thanks. As long as it helps at least one person, I’m happy. Stay tuned. My new Sony is such a piece of junk I’m constantly finding something to fix on it.

  18. ummm said,

    on August 15th, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    What if the ZIF CPU socket? How do I do that part?

  19. T said,

    on November 14th, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    Ugh I have to get into my wife’s laptop from time to time to clean it.

    I pulled a sizable wedge of felt like lint from the darn thing. I don’t know where the heck she picks up that caliber of lint, but I think it may come from her habit of blogging in her lounge pants.

  20. Joe said,

    on November 16th, 2008 at 10:48 am

    ummm: it’s the socket the CPU plugs into. Usually, there’s a lever you need to move horizontally away from the CPU and then lift up to unlock the CPU so it can be removed.

    T: As I sit here in my lounge pants, I fear the dust bunnies that must be forming in my own laptop.

  21. AC Doctor said,

    on November 18th, 2008 at 9:07 am

    I usually try and leave fixing my computer to the professionals but this is a really good breakdown.

  22. Sherry said,

    on November 19th, 2008 at 5:52 am

    this is good post as teach you how to do it yourself. if here if send to people to do it will cost $$

    Sherry’s last blog post..I love R and R is RED

  23. Sherry said,

    on November 23rd, 2008 at 4:28 am

    today I saw a sony pink laptop cost $3900 here

    Sherry’s last blog post..I love R and R is RED

  24. Hector said,

    on December 10th, 2008 at 7:55 am

    I have an old Dell Inspiron 1150 and followed the instructions perfectly and I did nothing more than clean the fan. I pulled it out of the unit and sprayed compress air on it plus all over the unit. This is my old laptop now my wife’s and she’s shown me how in 5 minutes the laptop would overheat and turn off. Thanks to this original post I braved into this and in less than 15 minutes had it all put together and so far its been running for over and hour playing videos and music.

    Guess my wife now has a new laptop. Thank you all and God Bless

  25. Joe said,

    on December 10th, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Hector: I’m glad it worked well for you. I hope it runs like new for a long time. Happy Holidays!

  26. Gift said,

    on March 19th, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Do you guys have a recommendation section, i’d like to suggest some stuff

  27. Joe said,

    on March 20th, 2009 at 1:40 am

    Gift: Feel free to just email suggestions to

  28. Mary said,

    on April 21st, 2009 at 2:31 am

    Thanks for the great tutorial! My Inspiron 5100 was overheating and shutting down, and the compressed air just wasn’t getting it. It was pretty dirty inside, but running just fine now.

  29. Joe said,

    on April 22nd, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Mary: I’m glad it’s all running properly now. Hopefully you’ll get more time out if it before having to upgrade, too.

  30. Wyle said,

    on April 26th, 2009 at 12:13 am

    I was terrified to do this myself. Thanks for the excellant guide. Made it alot easier and saved me some cash.

    laptop carrying cases

  31. Joe said,

    on April 26th, 2009 at 2:34 am

    Wyle: Glad I could help. Stay tuned for a laptop monitor repair post this week.

  32. Vanessa said,

    on May 9th, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Thank you so MUCH for your help. I’ve ordered a new heatsink/fan assembly but wanted to do a test run on how to replace it and maybe blow the dust out. I have never been inside a computer before and I was scared to death I’d ruin something. (I broke the “Escape key off :( because I was going by someone else’s instructions before I had yours. Yours add a great deal more). Anyway, I got in there but how do I unlock the ZIF CPU socket? Is it the 4 cam-looking screws? Are those what you unlock? Do I unlock all 4?
    Once again, you are a life saver!

  33. Marley said,

    on May 30th, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    I tried cleaning out my heatsink and fan before reading this article, so I was unaware of the existence of the ZIF socket, and just kind of pried the heatsink out of there. Also, my CPU was kind of fused to the heatsink by way of the thermal paste. Now I’m having the same problems as Andy near the top of the comments. Did I just basically kill my laptop? Was I doomed from the beginning?

  34. Jenny said,

    on June 1st, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Hey, same as marley and adam. I did the same thing, fan works great now and computer boots, but I have a blank screen and no signal input from an external monitor… can anyone shed some light? Lost…

  35. Joe said,

    on June 1st, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Vanessa: Take a look at this photo: That’s the locking piece. If I remember correctly, there’s four and they require about a half turn or quarter turn to lock and unlock. Unlock all four, and re-lock all four when done.

    Marley and Jenny: In your cases, I would open the laptop back up and check that no cables are pinched or became unplugged and that there is no unwanted metal-on-metal contact. With a recent laptop, I had put it all back together and everything worked except the screen because of a cable that got pinched. Just watch carefully for that stuff when you put it back together.

  36. Jenny said,

    on June 1st, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Okay, actually. addition to my last note, silly me. I had forgotten to lock the cpu socket back in when putting everything back together. Make sure you do this. That was def my problem, pins wern’t back in place. Hope this helps everyone! :)

  37. Joe said,

    on June 1st, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Jenny: Good to hear it.

  38. WebMax said,

    on June 2nd, 2009 at 4:43 am

    Jenny, that’s exatcly what I did for a client. I left the CPU socket unplugged and they called me agian saying the laptop doesn’t come on. I had to travel back 15 miles again to find out that I had left the socket out!

    Hard lesson learnt I guess!

  39. on June 18th, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    wow.. this has helped me a lot!

  40. Amy said,

    on July 18th, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    Hi! I just replaced the fan on my new used inspiron and my screen is now black. I went searching around and someone said that I need to reset the video card? I’m new at this opening up computer thing and can’t seem to figure out how to do this. Any suggestions?

  41. Bart said,

    on August 12th, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Has anyone tried adding a second fan in the place at the rear of the case to see if that helps keep it cooler?

  42. Edward said,

    on October 20th, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Hi Guys , Thanks for the info. Easy swop I had another dell to salvage fan from. One issue I did have was with the heat sink was it pulled processor cap off and I could not reattach it properly until I discovered the screw to the left hand side for re seating it. Then it started up with no problems.

  43. on November 8th, 2009 at 9:25 am

    This is great info. I had a Dell Laptop a few years ago that continually overheated and eventually got fried. If I had this info I would have been able to keep it for a lot longer amount of time.

  44. justawonderer said,

    on January 22nd, 2010 at 2:59 am

    I will add for those confused about the zif socket if you look on the left side of the cpu looking from top and front of the laptop you will see a screw. it locks unlocks the zif socket. Counter clockwise is unlocked clockwise it is locked. And I also suggest once you take out the heatsink assembly you take the cpu off of it clean it and lock it back in put on a tad of new artic silver and then reseat the fan and cooler assembly. It is very easy to bend the pins putting the thing back as a unit. It is tight in there and all it takes if 1 wrong wiggle and you have a bent pin. And when you go to relock the zif put ever so slight pressure with your finger on the cpu DO NOT push real hard on it.

    Besides why go to all this trouble and not put new grease on the cpu/heatsink? If you are going to do it do it right and spend 4 bucks for the grease then it will run even cooler. When they put the 1150’s together they used old technology grease use new good stuff. Your cpu will thank you lol. That arctic silver 5 is so much better at heat transfer than that old white crap they used to use it is unreal. And it only takes just a tad of it so a tube will last a long time.

    This is a very good article I just thought I would add things I have discovered in last many years working on laptops/desktops.

  45. on March 2nd, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Wow this article is awesome it will help me save my money coz it taught me how to do this thing and just for this simple task the techy would take lot of money from me if i would have wanted to do the same menial job.
    kids internet games

  46. on March 5th, 2010 at 7:08 am

    This will help me a ton!

  47. warthogg said,

    on March 6th, 2010 at 8:14 am

    I replaced the fan and found your step by step instructions to be right on, thanks. However, when i rebooted the laptop, it starts to boot up and I can here the fan running. The fan runs for 20 seconds, then stops running and nothing happens, the computer never finishes booting. The hard drive light flashes once during the initial booting and then never relights. The power light stays on even after the fan quits.

    Can you give me any insights?

  48. mens big said,

    on March 25th, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    An article according to the modified method of laptop, I have successfully converted my laptop, great.

  49. on April 1st, 2010 at 3:57 am

    This is very old story however for me it’s still that much valuable as I’ve purchased Dell Inspiron last week, Cheers!

  50. on April 14th, 2010 at 7:38 am

    Nice article mate. It’s quite hard to find these sort of manuals online with pics.

  51. gNat said,

    on April 22nd, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Did you (everyone?) remove the battery before disconnecting the ZIF CPU?

    I did not and now my laptop powers on but the screen is blank and I hear no operating system sounds. It could be powering on and going right into sleep mode, I wish. But probably I fried something. Any thoughts? Cheers!

  52. Joe said,

    on April 22nd, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    gNat: You should always remove any source of power, including the battery, before opening up hardware to work on it. If you don’t, you run the risk of frying it. Do any lights come on at all? If you plug in an external device that has any light on it (like a mouse), does it light up when you turn the computer on?

  53. gNat said,

    on April 22nd, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    (cont’d) Joe: Thanks for the reply.
    When I power it on, first the fan kicks on in the normal way for a few seconds (then on/off normally.) The 3 lights on the front edge, center of the laptop illuminate (above speakers, below touchpad; “power” illuminates, “cylinder” blinks once at power-on, “battery” illuminates as appropriate.)

    The Power Button at center top below the monitor does not light up, nor the “i” button beside it. Also, the caps lock / num lock LEDs do not respond when I hit the corresponding keys on the keyboard. (I have firmly attached the keyboard cable and the ZIF CPU.)

    As for your suggestion, I plugged in a USB device with the computer on (fan chugging away) and the device’s LEDs illuminated normally. So power is confirmed to the fan, the front-edge LEDs, and the USBs. The keyboard, monitor, HDD and CPU appear non-responsive.

    I have turned everything off, unplugged, removed battery, and disconnected and reconnected HDD and RAM, and powered it back on with no change to above stats. I don’t really know what “frying” the computer means, so I’m not sure if I should continue to hope. And after “frying,” can I do a DIY replacement to fix the problem? Some new parts?

    Sage wisdom requested. :) Thanks!

  54. gNat said,

    on April 22nd, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    . . . Also, not removing the batter in the first place was totally my bungle. Just a noob mistake. A lesson learned very well, I assure you. :)

  55. gNat said,

    on April 22nd, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    USB update. Power questionable. In the earlier post my USB “test device” illuminated. But I just plugged in an iPod and it does not go into charging mode as it should. Tested iPod in another machine to verify it works properly. When plugged into the Dell the iPod simply shows no indication that it’s aware of the connection. I don’t know what this means.

  56. gNat said,

    on April 22nd, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Stop the presses! :)
    First, thank you for your time and consideration!
    Second, after reading the article you have at the top of your page here:
    I found a solution in the comments!!!

    AK posted on June 20, 2005 12:02 PM (5 years ago!)
    “There is a really easy solution if you loose video after reseating the CPU. […] there is a small turn screw on the left hand side of where the CPU sits. If you look closely, there are small LOCK and UNLOCK icons on either side of the space where you would turn. After seating the CPU, simply turn the little notch to UNLOCK then back to LOCK, screw your heat sink and fan back in, replace all screws and parts.”

    I immediately opened it up, “unlocked” that screw, undid the screws-with-springs, removed / reseated the CPU (it’s attached the bottom side of the screws-with-springs big ol’ case) and “locked” that little screw. I reassembled everything and fired it up. BAM! It worked!!!

    Thank You!!!

  57. Joe said,

    on April 23rd, 2010 at 1:10 am

    gNat: First of all, thanks for coming back and sharing the fix here. I hope it, in turn, helps another person fix their computer. As for “frying”, I was referring to the motherboard, but all the activity the computer presented was a sign that it wasn’t fried. I wasn’t sure 100%, but the CPU would have been my next guess. I was about to suggest that you make sure it’s seated properly (which is what you ended up doing with the unlock/lock trick) and give it another go. Glad you brought it back to life!

  58. Geno said,

    on September 7th, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    That’s so helpful. I got in there to look at what I wanted to in a minute or two. Great advice on the screws and the snappy plate thing. Saved me at least sixty bucks. Thank you so much!

  59. Joe Tech said,

    on September 7th, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Geno: Glad it helped!

  60. Summer Camps said,

    on October 30th, 2010 at 2:17 am

    You you should edit the post name title How To Replace A Dell Inspiron Laptop Heat Sink And Fan Assembly | Joe Tech to something more better for your subject you write. I enjoyed the blog post yet.

  61. on March 4th, 2011 at 7:44 am

    This is a good, common sense article. Very helpful to one who is just finding the resources about this part. It will certainly help educate me.

  62. on October 24th, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Well elaborated about the replace definitely this will be very useful.

  63. p90x said,

    on January 10th, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    I would be scared to death taking this thing apart with the fear that I wouldn’t be able to put it back together again correctly. Very detailed guide Joe. I was planning to get a used Inspiron so I may have to use this guide down the road.

    – Robert

  64. Stress Care said,

    on April 30th, 2012 at 12:15 am

    Very safe full explain, good to share

  65. LutherM said,

    on May 14th, 2012 at 8:25 am

    Thank you thank you thank!!!  I took appart the computer and removed the fan for cleaning (and I was curious) but I couldnt put the fan heat sink pin things back in properly, they just wouldn’t  fit back in and they stuck out a bit and it was not sitting very snug.I then put it together and the computer turned on but nothing was happening (I panicked a bit)…After reading this post I realised I needed to unlock the ZIF CPU and when I did it fit in perfect and bam! it works. Thanks again.

  66. joetech said,

    on May 14th, 2012 at 11:57 pm

     @LutherM So glad it worked for you.  Let’s hope it keeps working for a lot longer now.

  67. TechoTalk said,

    on May 20th, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    its really disgusting even my friends also suffering for this i feel like dell is bad in their heat pad coz after they get heat up their processor become slow

  68. Jomaz said,

    on October 10th, 2012 at 1:57 am

    @TechoTalk Why dont u try lenova, i m using it and the features also really good.

  69. Jomaz said,

    on October 16th, 2012 at 12:23 am

    @LutherM Thanks great keep it up.

  70. DamienMoye said,

    on October 17th, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Thanks for the tips about screwdrivers. Last time I used the wrong one, and I had to buy a new keyboard!

  71. on October 19th, 2012 at 5:30 am

    Joe you are wonderful- it has solved my problem and save money

  72. on February 26th, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Awesome…thank you so much for this informative lesson. Sometimes you think you know how to do something and then you read to find out you were wrong. Saved me buying unnecessary parts.

  73. on April 8th, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Great post. Tech info can be used on other applications I think too. Cheers.

  74. on April 17th, 2013 at 10:13 am

    interesting I am glad I never had to do that.  I don’t think I could.

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