Here are a few tips that may help you strip down and reassemble laptops:
- Use a digital camera or camera phone to take a shot of each stage of the disassembly for reference when you are ready to reassemble it. Zoom in and take separate shots for areas where you have various plugs and connectors or wires running in a specifc way so you know exactly how they were before you took them apart. (unless you have a really good memory!)
- Use scrap sheets of A4 paper to map out screw positions. Sketch a point (or points) of reference like a battery compartment or RAM module cover on the paper so you know what way up it goes and stick each screw to the paper with clear tape so when you’re finished taking all the screws out of the bottom of the laptop they will all be stuck in their corresponding positions on the piece of paper. Depending on the laptop I may have 2 or 3 sheets of paper with screws on – bottom of unit, under the keyboard and motherboard screws. Doing this will be a great help if you have to leave the laptop disassembled for some time (e.g. to order parts etc) as you will have no doubt as to which screws go where. Some makes and models will use the same length screws for most of the base assembly but others have all different lengths which makes it all the more important to remember where they go back. A ‘too-long’ screw in the wrong place could cause major damage!
- I use a hobby case/assorter for each laptop with various compartments like this to store components separately like keyboard, hard drive, wireless/bluetooth, battery, DVD drive etc with the A4 papers inside. As much as I like finishing one repair before starting another, sometimes you may have to leave the laptop in a disassembled state for some time.
- Check for Laptop Service Manuals before you start. Some manufacturers like Dell and HP/Compaq make their laptop service manuals freely available from their websites. Other manufacturers do have service manuals but they may be hard to find and in some cases we have had to pay for them. They do however make the job go a lot faster when you aren’t guessing if you’re doing the right thing!
- Forget the crappy little metal precision screwdriver set – get a decent set of precision screwdrivers for your laptop repairs (like the ones in the photo) and magnetise the tip of the cross-head screwdrivers. This will save a lot of dropped screws in places you don’t want them to drop! If you don’t have a magnetiser, get an old desktop harddrive and open it up. there’s usually a really powerful magnet on the actuator assembly you can pull out and use. Just stroke the tip of the screwdriver in one direction across the magnet a few times.
- A PCB holder makes life a lot easier when soldering on a motherboard. These can be obtained from Maplin and other electronic supply stores.
- Use the flat pieces of sponge you get in the boxes that new screens come in to disassemble the laptop on. This will prevent scratches to the casing of the laptop. I have a big rectangular grey antistatic piece with a flat side and a bumpy side. I use the bumpy side up so any errant screws get caught in the little cups.
- Keep a cracked screen or two (that has a good backlight or CCFL tube) to test inverters on. It’s an easy way to tell if a dim screen is caused by a bad inverter or a bad CCFL tube. Most inverters have a standard high voltage connector so to test the inverter all you need to do is:
- 1. FIRST MAKE SURE YOU HAVE NO POWER SOURCE CONNECTED! (This includes charger and battery. Inverters put out high voltages!)
- 2. Remove the hard drive (Your customer’s data should be your first priority – unlike PC World)
- 3. Remove the plastic bezel surrounding the screen but leave the screen in place – just unplug it from the inverter (usually this is the little two wire plug with pink and white wires.
- 4. Plug the cracked screen with the good tube into the inverter. You don’t need to use the video/graphics cable; just the inverter cable.
- 5. Connect the power supply and turn the laptop on – if the cracked screen lights up ok you know the inverter is ok.
- * Some people say you must change the tube when you change the inverter and vice versa but I have changed many of each with no problems.
Feel free to post questions in the comments