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Well, just one of many general modes of attack, which certainly lays no claim on any conclusive diagnosis or remedy. Have to admit my head is almost spinning from all the detail. I definitely don't have the benefit or advantage of seeing it first hand. Laptops to me are almost in the realm of the movie "Fantastic Voyage" with all the tiny micro delicate parts. I've worked a few, but compared to desktops, some of it may as well be micro-surgery.
You've raised some very important awareness regarding the working lifespan of thermal compound. That's something I just haven't happened to run into as an issue yet, either hobbying or professionally; most PCs I've run across- people usually don't keep them long enough for that to be an issue. Guess that might be something to consider in general maintenance, kinda like regular oil changes, particularly with older machines.
But I'm glad to hear you've slayed one major dragon; hope all the rest goes well.
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