Sunday, January 11, 2009

All Healed!

Got our Gateway laptop back!

To summarize, it had been having issues holding an AC connection.  Alvis had gotten quite creative with twisting the AC cord to get it to work, but eventually we weren’t able to do that any longer.

I figured that there must be a short in it near the plug.  That seemed like a reasonable thought seeing how mangled it looked.

So I picked up a universal AC/DC laptop brick. But that didn’t help.  Same symptoms.

A bit of research and it seemed that the next level of problem indicated was a bad/busted DC plug off the systemboard.

A replacement motherboard was looking at just under $400.

However, I wasn’t really feeling up to trying to find the correct laptop DC power jack and then attempt to do a resolder job myself.

I did find this great guide however to help me understand the issue:

In the end I decided to try a local shop, down in Webster.  I took it in and explained the symptoms, provided them both the laptop (sans hard-drive), the OEM power brick, and the replacement power brick.  I had to sign a acknowledgement that this was a dicey affair and though success was good, it was not guaranteed.  I was promised a return in 3-5 days.  Got to say, I was really impressed by their work station areas and the test-bench frames for pc components.  Wish my cubicle had some of their toys….

As this was during the New Year holiday, I expected it would take longer than that, but in five-working days I had call that it was good to go and fixed.

Total repair cost was just under $250.  Indeed, a solder connection had been found broken and the DC jack was otherwise in good shape.

The repair worked and all is well.  Considering the amount of labor involved in extracting a motherboard from a laptop, re-soldering it, and then putting it all back in place, it seems to me a fair price and investment.   The only thing that I could complain about was the company sticker affixed to the laptop next to the trackpad.  Luckily it was of a good enough quality to be easily and cleanly removed.  A business card would have been sufficient in my opinion, or offer me the sticker without affixing it.

Everyone was prompt, professional, and service delivered as promised.  I can’t complain about that.

Now I’m scheming on a way to try to “hack” an AC cord holder to the back of the laptop to keep the AC plug safely in the DC jack.

On the opposite side of the rear of the laptop from the DC plug is the D-sub VGA output plug.  I’m thinking of making a low-profile dummy cap for it to which I can affix a clip of sorts to hook the AC cord wire into.  That should keep the L-shaped AC/DC plug aligned safely so it doesn’t get jammed when resting on the desk or my lap and maybe apply pressure again that could rebreak the solder joint.  I’ll take pic’s when I get it hobbled together.

When making a laptop purchase decision, the lowly AC/DC connection hasn’t been anywhere on my list of things to consider.  Now it is going to be bumped up near the top to see if the placement makes sense and that the plug connection appears durable and stress-resistant.

Kinda wish PC laptop makers would adopt the MagSafe form AC/DC connector to be found on Apple products.  Seems much safer and less likely to break solder points on the laptop itself.  Oh well, I can wish….

For more laptop (hardware repair) fun and joy see these links from Laptop Repair Help:

There are lots more great how-to posts with detailed photos on a variety of hardware-related laptop illnesses.

It’s a great resource site and all laptop owners would do well to spend some time there.  I promise you will have a deeper appreciation of your laptop for it.


--Claus V.


Izzy said...

My old laptop had a similar problem. While it never got bad enough to need fixed(At least, not before the cat decided to use the counter as a litter box, soaking the power brick and getting sucked up into the laptop by the fan...), I was looking into it.

I was lucky enough to find a maintenance manual on the HP site, and had the problem and possible fixes researched in preparation to fix it, but the cat got to it first.

Despite my best efforts, that laptop is now on the stack of 'parts to be salvaged' computers and various other equipment...

Mr.LCD repair said...

I really find it annoying with laptops. I mean, they are very less reliable than what they used to be. Anybody agrees with me ??