Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The essential laptop repair tool

What takes it so long to design a desoldering tool that works?

The weakest link on my laptop broke - the power connector. After getting a set of precision screw driver from Lowes, I dissembled my laptop for the first time. I hope it's a simple job to replace the DC connector. But I was hopelessly wrong. The DC connector contacts needed resoldering. To get to the system board, I needed to take some components apart first. I kept unscrewing things, hoping the next screw would be the last. But I ended up taking everything apart, with little hope of putting them together correctly again. There are so many bit and pieces here and there, connectors all over, and miniature screws of different sizes that I couldn't even see properly with my naked eyes.

I took everything apart, just to find out that I could not clear the DC power connector's soldering holes. The tiny holes are filled with old solder. I could not insert the connector into position to resolder.

My classic solder sucker, in the form of a syringe, never really worked. The recoil action will pull the tip away from compact electronics, nowhere near the holes to be desoldered. I saw this new type of sucker on the Radioshack website, and something else. It's promising so I went to have a look.

I saw some standalone rubber like squeezing pumps, which make a lot of sense compared to plungers. But I don't know if there is enough suction. Then I checkout this monster combing a pump and a high wattage soldering iron. It just make so much sense. My only reservations are that if a lot of heat is needed to apply to the board, and if the board is more likely to be damaged. The other question is if this is any good, why take it so long to see something like this?

I think a lot of designers don't like to be seen holding a soldering iron. Many hobbyist don't want to be associated with repair technicians. Repair technicians are proud of their skills. So nobody needs a desoldering tool that actually works.

Perhaps it's the cost. The classic plunger last a long time, suitable for the salary and budget of repair technicians. Rubber squeezers would have to be replaced frequently. Now this monster cost more than a standard soldering iron. In the past this wouldn't be popular. But now, material and things are so cheap that a soldering iron cost next to nothing, and the two in one desoldering cost next to next to nothing.

I can vouch for it. Nothing can be more compact than a laptop. I just heat that thing up, apply solder, release the pump, and the soldering tags on the board are clean as new. What took it so long to appear on the market? Though it can be dangerous. If you squeeze the bulb by accident, steam and molten solder will blow out.

Now laptop repair or upgrade is so simple after all! I was so surprised to find out that Dell published excellent repair guides on their website. I wasted so much time searching for repair guides on the web, and taking things apart myself.

Without the guide it's hopeless to put things together again. Dell listed all the screws sizes, their numbers, and where they should be used. Dell also listed the sequences to do things, for example, if you want to get to the system board, what else you have to disassemble first. I did managed to put everything together easily. But since I didn't follow procedure to take it apart, I made some mistakes. The score:

1 screw missing
2 screws unused
blue tooth module damaged

The laptop is working fine without the screws. I never used the bluetooth module anyway. A working laptop again - priceless.

I think my time are wisely invested. The laptop was never used as anything other than a browser, and a video player. I did some work on it but I prefer to work on the desk and a desktop is much more economical to upgrade frequently. A desktop is always more powerful than a laptop too.

When my laptop can't keep up with windows and fat software, I can always load linux, which would turn it into a faster browser and video player. Beats the $300 laptops at the moment.


Paras Parmar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paras Parmar said...

That's basically correct.
I'm tech Support from one of the big 3 and can vouch for the fact that it's easy to take things apart, the tough thing to do is to reassemble it back correctly.
I'm glad you were able to put the notebook together again.