Thursday, 6 April 2017

Repair Like A Professional

Repair Like A Professional

A broken notebook doesn’t have to be repaired at a repair shop. Our experts will tell you what kind of minor damages you can repair yourself and what you need to look out for when doing so

Notebooks keep on outstripping conventional PCs, becoming so popular because they accommodate a computer with all peripherals plus battery in a compact body. But the high degree of integration increases the susceptibility to errors and complicates repairs. Furtheremore, the trend of thinner and lighter laptops aggravates the situation. With more affordable ultrabooks, special components or components soldered onto the motherboard are used, user-friendly screws replaced by adhesives and the weightsaving design is rarely the most robust one. Therefore, many notebook owners do not dare to repair the notebooks themselves. In view of higher costs and long processing times by the manufacturers service centre, Some end up buying new notebooks instead of repairing their current one.

But a lot of problems can be fixed yourself without having to be at the mercy of a manufacturer’s service centre, or by visiting third-party computer repair shops that specialise in repairing notebooks. You could browse their website to look for customer reviews to see if they’re worthwhile. If they are, you could send in your notebook for repair. Getting professional help makes sense too, especially at places that at least offer free diagnosis. Some repair shops ask for a fee to diagnose and subsequently repair the notebook, so remember to ask before you send it in.

Repair shop or DIY?

For common issues, the diagnosis and suggested repairs are listed in the table on the next page. If none of those works at all - no image, no running noise and no glowing LEDs - then the defect may be with the On-Off switch, or the power supply (battery/power jack) might be dead.

Depending on the cause, the problem could either be resolved easily in the comforts of your home or it might have to be sent to a repair shop. In some cases, the user might have had an unfortunate coffee accident and need to get the notebook back as soon as possible.

However, many service centres tend to be too slow, and the conditions for a warranty claim might also exclude your problem. "Hard drives, displays, hinges as well as power jacks go kaput very often," said a repair shop owner we talked too. On the flipside, some people come with laptops that are just as easily repaired the DIY way, like replacing the battery.

Repair-friendly notebooks

Notebooks differ from one another in terms of their susceptibility to damages and ‘repairfriendliness’. Some notebooks are more robust, are easy to repair and replacement parts are readily available. Then there are others that are too thin and susceptible to a variety of defects. For the purpose of this practice article, we sent in a four-year-old notebook that, despite a steadily running fan, is getting slower and is crashing now and then when it comes to processing demanding tasks.

One reason why this could have happened is a blocked fan, which would then require cleaning, so the internal components have to be completely removed first and then re-placed when done.

Every Professional Started From Scratch

When an expert goes to work on a PC, their work bench are tidy and well-organised. In a sense, anyone can learn how to repair a notebook, given the right tools and experience. And tools are definitely required, along with a clean, dust-free work bench. Keep the area well-lit and fabric cloths away, as the latter could induce static-electricity that could damage sensitive PC components. Make sure to discharge any static by touching something that‘s grounded, like a power supply, before and during the repair work so that you do not get any static-shocks when you touch electronic items. Apart from the suitable tool (Philips screwdriver in different sizes, a guitar plectrum or flat spatula made of plastic), you will also need some thermal paste. For the thermal paste, any reputable brand like Thermaltake or Cooler Master will do.

Proceed methodically

If you’re attempting to fix your notebook yourself, then seek professionals for advice on the right sequence and procedure of dismantling the notebook, since they’re the ones with the experience for the job. You’ll also want to collect as much information about your notebook as possible before the repair work. Besides consulting professionals, you could try visiting YouTube to find out how to fix your notebook. You can easily find the relevant video using search keywords like 'Model name' and 'Teardown'. The best option is to keep a computer or a tablet ready with the video playing during the repair. If you can’t find any instructions, then proceed cautiously. To dismantle the body, you have to loosen components like the footplate and battery, as well as all visible screws that hold them together. It is recommended to place all components with the respective screws separately and noting down the sequence. You can then proceed part by part while keeping the other parts for re-assembling later aside. This way, you’ll ensure that you have not forgotten any screw or component.

Open a notebook like a pro

A common mistaken that many make is when unscrewing components. If the screwdriver is slightly bigger than the screw, it might rotate easily but also cause damage to the screw head. When that happens, most experts will try various procedures like using a special turn-out tool, soldering a second screw head, or even drilling the screws. For smaller notebooks with tiny screws, these methods are more tricky than helpful. To avoid this, use a compatible screw driver and never use an electronic screwdriver. Also, use a clamp to secure parts if you have to, but be careful with controlled torque.

Apart from the screws, notebook casings are often held together by clips as well. While the experienced professional can quickly find out which of them must be loosened first and how much force can they sustain without breaking, the layman must proceed very slowly and carefully. It is often helpful to insert solid pieces of flat plastic, like cards, between the case where you’ve made an opening, so that they do not snap shut upon further opening. Depending on the notebook, the base plate can be removed first, or the keyboard could be removed with it. But removing the keyboard is risky. Once you’ve loosen the screws and the clips that hold a keyboard, be careful not to remove the keyboard too quickly, or you risk damaging the flat cable that connects it to the motherboard.

In other words, after the attachments of the keyboard are loosened, lift it carefully so that the cable is accessible and can be properly removed from the jack. It should come with a lock that either folds upwards from the cable, or must be removed from a connector along the cable. You have to then pull the cable using flat tweezers from the jack. A similar process must be followed for the cabling of the touchpad.

To reach the notebook’s fan, you have to remove it from the motherboard. With some notebooks, it is not found on the accessible side of the motherboard, which is why you have to dismantle it completely - flat cables and normal connectors included. The fan can then be easily unscrewed and (carefully) lifted from the CPU and GPU chips. To remove the old heat conducting paste, use household items like a cotton swab dabbed in cleaning alcohol. If the fan is clogged with dust, bad enoughthat you can see dust fluffs stuck between the fan and the cooling fins, then you need to clean it by removing it from the notebook‘s body. If the fan is screwed on, good for you. But if it’s riveted or glued on, then you have to play it safe by removing the dust using tweezers, or use tools like compressed air cans and vacuum cleaners. Once done, you have to glue or bolt it back on accordingly.

If you have come this far, then assembling things back isn’t all that much different. Start putting the components back in, beginning with the inner parts and then moving your way out.

After every step, ensure that there are no missing screws or loose cable ends. Otherwise you might have unpleasant surprises at the end of the repair process. During the assembly of the fan, spread some thermal paste, about the size of a drop, on the CPU and GPU. It will spread and cover the chip itself once you put the everything back where they should be.

Eliminate Mechanical Damage

The other thing to look out for are hard drives. When it comes to notebooks, hard disk errors ranging from a few defective sectors to total damage due to head crash are the most frequent 'correctable' hardware defects. As long as the hard disk is somehow running, you could create an image of the drive to use as backup, by using an imaging software or something like Linux Clonzilla. It’s also a good idea to do so before undertaking any repairs on your own.

In case of standard and business notebooks, changing the hard disk is trivial since the disk mostly sits under a removable flap. In case of Ultrabooks, or Chromebooks with SSDs tailor-made for the body or soldered eMMC memory, you have to either get an original replacement part installed from the manufacturer or change the entire motherboard, which is usually not the most financially viable option.

Problematic damages: Breakages

Mechanical damages are a challenge. Most common cases include split displays or the broken display hinges.

A defective panel can be replaced with another one, which the repair personnel can procure from eBay, online stores, or directly from Chinese manufacturers/wholesale dealers on But that can be tricky as well; the hard part is in finding the exact compatible panel. Chances of finding the right one for business notebooks are easier and you can also find the exact model numbers of the parts, as well as instructions for replacement via forums on fan websites for most brands.

Generally speaking, working on notebook displays is a delicate task since many parts such as fixtures, cables, backlights and wireless network antennas are packed in a narrow space inside a thin cover. In particular, if the display is behind a glass plate, then you must ensure that no dust enters that space or it would be really annoying later. While doing so, if the display’s flat cable, that connects it to the motherboard, is damaged then most likely there’s no saving it. This is because replacements for those cables are not readily available. Long story short, send your notebook in to a repair shop if the display, or the hinge, is damaged. This is especially important with hinges, since those are made of metal and are unbreakable. But they can, and often will, break off from the base plate that they are attached, since it’s only held on by soft plastic and a few screws. Fixing these usually requires powerful twocomponent adhesive to stick the screw threads back onto the plastic, then followed by placing the hinge on it and fixing everything else after tightening the screws again.

After a repair, reboot the computer and try out all possible hardware. For example, if the audio, USB ports or hardware keys do not work, then it is a sign that they have not been reconnected properly. If that happens, whether in the repair shop or at home, you will have to start everything from scratch. A final tip for DIY repairs from the professionals: If you don’t know or are too tired to proceed, then leave the repair job aside and start the next day again with a clear head.

Symptoms and causes of defects
Symptoms and causes of defects