Do it Yourself Laptop Repair

by Shawn M. Tomlinson

Laptops are made from easily changeable components. Most components are modules---such as the hard drive, the CD/DVD optical drive, Random Access Memory chips and the processor---that can be changed in a few minutes. If you have an expensive laptop or just one that you really like and want to continue to use, repairing it yourself may be the way to go. Here are some hints to get started.

Inside the Computer

RAM chips generally are the easiest to replace because most laptops have an access door removable with several screws. You can get at the RAM chips in most cases by opening this rather than opening the entire computer. Again, each laptop is different. You can gain access to the processor on an Apple Macintosh Pismo or Lombard Powerbook just by popping up the keyboard. For newer computers, you may need to remove the upper or lower half of the entire shell which involves removing the keyboard, the RAM chamber door, the battery and possibly other internal components first.

Basics

While the wiring occasionally can be faulty in laptops, most often problems arise from the components that make up the bulk of the computer. If your laptop is getting power, for example, but won't boot, the culprit probably is the processor, the hard drive or the RAM chips. Any of these can prevent boot-up. Start with the RAM chips because they are the easiest to check and the least expensive and difficult to replace. Unclip each RAM chip, pop it out and blow gently on the gold connectors. Reinstall the chips and try the computer. As simple as this sounds, dust and dirt on RAM chips can cause crashes or failure to boot.

Hard Drive

The next thing that can fail is the hard drive. If you have a second laptop computer, you can check to see if the first hard drive still works by swapping it in the second laptop. If it doesn't, there's little you can do to actually repair the hard drive. Hard drives are built in clean rooms---high-tech facilities filtered to keep particulates, dust and dirt out of the air during manufacturing---so unless you have one, you can't really open the hard drive to tinker with it. Laptop hard drives are readily available, both new and used, online and at computer stores. To remove a hard drive, disconnect the ribbon that attaches it to the processor and lift it out. Laptop hard drives usually are seated in some kind of carriage, so you will need remove it from this with a screwdriver. Most such drives have a multi-pin connector. To remove this, carefully hold the drive in both hands and rock the connector with both thumbs. Be careful not to bend the pins. A new hard drive will connect the same way. If you need to recover your data, try a data recovery service. These are all over the Internet.

Processors

If the hard drive and RAM chips both are working properly, it may be the processor or motherboard. These, too, can be removed and replaced. Since there is a lot of work involved---the motherboard is connected to everything in the laptop, so everything must be disconnected from it---and the price may be high, before doing it, consider whether a new laptop would be less expensive. If you decide to go ahead with replacing it, there are many step-by-step online tutorials to choose from for your specific model and brand of laptop.

About the Author

Shawn M. Tomlinson has been a newspaper and magazine writer for more than 28 years. He has written for a variety of publications, from "MacWEEK" and "Macintosh-Aided Design" to "Boys' Life," "Antique Week" and numerous websites. He attended several colleges, majoring in English, writing and theater, and has taught college classes about writing.