Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lucky's Laptop Repair

Recently a friend of mine asked me if I could look at his laptop for him. The screen (both LCD and external monitor) was showing multi-colored, vertical bars and was generally screwed up. I tore it down and did a lot of searching and came to the conclusion that the graphics chip was screwed. Since these are soldered directly to the mainboard I searched high and low for a reasonably-priced one from HP (yeah, right...) and on eBay. While the eBay prices were about a third of the cost of a new one, it was still prohibitively expensive and wasn't worth fixing.

Not one to be thwarted so easily, I kept scouring eBay for parts and busted laptops of the same model to no avail. Eventually, while searching one night for a potential source or method of replacing the chip itself, I stumbled upon a thread in a Mac forum about iBooks that apparently had a known flaw where the graphics chip would flake out. Someone figured out it was due to a poor connection between the chip and the motherboard (rather than the chip itself being screwed) and decided to try to fix it themselves with a heat gun. The graphics chips on most modern laptops are surface mounted using a ball grid array type configuration. If you can heat up the solder underneath enough to re-melt it (without melting the graphics chip or the motherboard, of course) you can fix the poor connection.

Well, since I had spent so much time on this and it was really starting to irk me, I figured what the hell, I've got nothing to lose at this point. So I borrowed a heat gun from a friend (thanks, Todd!), and tore the sucker down again.

I grabbed a bunch of aluminum foil and shielded the surrounding areas.

Then I threw caution to the wind and cranked up the heat.

I then re-assembled it all (with no extra screws, I might add; which rarely happens when I start tearing stuff down like this) and flipped the switch. Would it work....?



Initially, the screen stayed black for a few seconds and I figured I had finally pooched it for good with too much heat. And then...

Nice. I fricking rule. Although with the amount of time I have spent on this particular challenge, I probably could have earned enough money to buy a new one 10x better. Oh well. That's not the point, right?

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