Laptop Resurrection

For a while now my trusty laptop (HP Pavilion DV7) had occasionally been reluctant to start up – the fan would fire up, the optical drive would whir and beep and the LEDs on the NUM lock and CAPS lock would flash. Then flash again. And again. The screen wouldn’t light up; no welcoming Windows logo. My temporary fix was to power off, remove the power cable/battery and hold the power button down for between 15-30 seconds. Replacing the battery I could usually be sure of a successful start-up.

This went on for about a year – until around 2 weeks ago. My dodgy fix no longer worked.

A brief search on the interwebs took me to the HP website, which contained a useful table detailing the “blank screen error codes”. This indicated that a fault lay with the CPU. Now, I’m not really that clued up on laptop hardware (despite having previously replaced the keyboard after a spilt-coffee incident) and after identifying where the CPU actually was, the idea of completely  dissembling the laptop, possibly irreparably, wasn’t particularly attractive. Neither was a trip to the laptop repair shop, who may not have been able to do anything – one piece of information I hadn’t been able to ascertain was whether the CPU was soldered in place or held in by a clamp.

On the off-chance the CPU WAS held in by a clamp I performed a quick search and identified a new replacement on eBay for around £15. So my quandary:

  • Attempt to dissemble the laptop, identify how the CPU was held in and attempt to replace it (£15 vs possibly broken laptop);
  • take the entire laptop to a local repair shop and hope they can fix it (probably ££ – £££)
  • put onto eBay for spares/repairs and buy a new laptop (£600-700 for something suitably new and shiny)

Now, the last option isn’t really an option as I don’t have the disposable income. To be honest, I couldn’t really afford to take it to a repair shop, either. Another internet search identified lots and lots of laptop disassembly tutorials and videos. It didn’t look too hard and you don’t need any tools more special than a mini screwdriver. So all I needed was a free day.

Two weeks after my laptop “died” I had a free day. So, feeling not a little nervous, I placed it on my desk. One last push of the power button; no blue windows screen. This was it. Out came the battery, the hard drive and wireless card; surgery began!

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Out came the hard drive…

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The keyboard and display were next…

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The palm rest itself was held on by 14 screws…

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My prize – the motherboard!

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The CPU itself was easy to remove

Just over an hour and a significant number of tiny screws later, I was sat looking at the motherboard and an (organised) heap of parts. Thankfully, the CPU was held on with a clip; I knew that if I reassembled the laptop and it still didn’t work I could try replacing it.

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Three and a half years of fluff…

Whilst I had the motherboard out, I decided it might be a good idea to check exactly how clogged-up the fan was, as I could see a strand of hair had wrapped itself around the hub and wasn’t coming off without a fight. A good idea, too – the dust had built up and was 5-6mm thick on the heat sinks!

Having brushed the fan and heat sinks clean, I resat the CPU, bemoaned the fact I had no thermal grease to refresh the well-and-truly dried-out original and reassembled the laptop. On a whim, I pressed the power button. The optical drive whirred and beeped, the LED’s flashed… and the screen lit up! The windows logo appeared! It lived!

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Small enough to be missed…

A stray thought struck me… the fan was awfully quiet… In fact, it wasn’t turning at all. I thought back. Surely removing the fluff can’t have made THAT much of a difference… Oh. I’d forgotten to plug the fan back onto the motherboard. That particular plug was underneath  the fan, meaning I’d have to completely dissemble the laptop again.

Oh well. At least I’d get some practise!

(PS – Firstly, apologies for the poor quality pics. They were mostly taken in a it of a hurry as I was reassembling the second time. I also apologise for my poor organisation of screws, which should have been taped back onto the piece of paper with a description of where each one lived! I didn’t lose any, or have any left over, but two mysterious C clips dropped out as I put the palm rest back on!)

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