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Post  microflitedude Tue Feb 26, 2013 10:45 pm

Disclaimer - you may find this little story of my life utterly boring; proceed at your own risk.

I thought I would share this after the latest discussion on computers.

I was helping out at the annual parish garage sale for the day, when someone brought in a Dell Inspiron 15 M5030 laptop. It was labeled "for parts" without a hard drive. The rest of it looked fine otherwise. It was stickied for $5, so I set it aside to take home.

Got it home, plugged it in, and attempted to boot into BIOS. The fan spun up for about 3 seconds, and shut off. 7 very loud, consecutive beeps followed. After repeating this a few times and opening it up to find nothing wrong, I Googled it. Apparently, almost every laptop in this series has this same problem. Dell would come and replace the motherboard, sometimes 3 times a week to "fix" the issue. After the warranty expired, they dropped it and refused to recognize the manufacturing flaw.

A few more days of looking brought some sliver of hope. As a last resort, a handful of people were able to re-flow the solder on the motherboard with a heat gun. It was a long, complicated process, but I decided I would try it once I found a deal on a gun. A couple days later Northern Tools sent me some coupons that could get a gun for $6. Bought that, and did a little more research before trying it. While I was doing that, I found out you can bake the motherboard in a conventional oven and yield the same results. Thought that would be easier to try first. Cover all plastic parts and bake at 380 for 10 minutes. How hard can it be? Very Happy If it doesn't work the first time, you are supposed to keep doing it for longer until something happens, good or bad. I do have a heat gun now which I have no idea what to do with. Rolling Eyes tongue

So 10 minutes later and surprisingly no foul odors, I removed the board and let it cool for 35 minutes. I Carefully carried it down the stairs and plugged everything back into the laptop. Install battery. Plug in power supply. Press power button.

It booted into BIOS! Very Happy We put Linux onto a SD card and booted it from there. Later, I installed a 160GB drive and gave Linux 14 Mint a 30GB partition in hopes of getting Windows 7.

What goes bad are the solder joints underneath the CPU socket. The cheap Chinese assembly left it with weak, sometimes cold solder joints. Reflowing the board returned all the contacts and joints to a solid, strong bond.

It has been working great for 2 months now. I use it mostly for school and web browsing. (it does these wonderfully) I had to replace the battery which had gone flat.

I recently found a product key for Windows 7. I am going to try to activate an OEM download disc with it, and create a second partition on the drive. I like that Linux is streamlined and easy to use, but have only found 1 program that will run with Wine. This is very aggravating. Windows is more practical.

I need to move and complete my iTunes library.

I can't view 1 or 2 document formats.

None of my Simulators work, among other things.

Flash and Google images have completely crashed in Chrome, and a little in Firefox.

Such a relief from my Dell Optiplex GX270 desktop though - so painfully slow. All I could really use it for was music and surfing some of the web.

Specs:

AMD Athlon II 2.3ghz CPU

4GB of DDR RAM

512MB of dedicated graphics memory

ATI Radeon graphics card

Atheros WiFi card

160GB Apple Hitachi HD (would like 360GB)

Linux Mint 14 Cinnamon edition OS

Not a bad investment for less than 25 bucks - less than 2 years old.

Thank you for reading. Flying


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Post  microflitedude Tue Feb 26, 2013 10:45 pm

Wow that was long....
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Post  Jason_WI Tue Feb 26, 2013 11:01 pm

Does your mom know you used her oven as a reflow oven!

Most of our customers don't allow reflowing of parts and a replacement is usually warranted even on the $1500 a piece Xilinx FPGA's. We also bake all of our circuit boards at rework at 100C for 24 hours to bake out all of the moisture. The plastic cases on the parts absorb moisture. Without driving out the moisture you can create a steam pocket in the part and crack the silicon die during the rework process. You got lucky on your reflow job!

Hopefully it lasts. Does the laptop get hot on the bottom? I suspect the underlying problem is a fractured solder joint from repetitave hot and cold heat cycles. Simular to the ring of death on the early Xbox 360's.
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Post  microflitedude Tue Feb 26, 2013 11:15 pm

Yep - I explained what I was doing and she was okay with it.

It gets about as hot as any other laptop. It gets warm on the bottom, but not hot.
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Post  John Goddard Wed Feb 27, 2013 3:54 am

Excellent Matt well done.

Slightly less spectacular... I got your Norvel purring last
Week.
Very Happy
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Post  microflitedude Thu Mar 07, 2013 9:54 pm

Nice John. Smile

Got Windows 7 Professional installed and working okay.
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Post  RknRusty Thu Mar 07, 2013 11:03 pm

Good work. That's pretty interesting. I never would have guessed to try such a repair.

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Post  microflitedude Tue Mar 12, 2013 10:19 am

The repair lasted 3 months 4 days. I'm getting the 7 beeps of death again. DAMMIT! I guess the solder broke back down.

I've become rather reliant on this thing, so I need to decide if I want to fix it myself again or take it into a repair shop with a real reflow oven. The only thing holding me back is what Jason mentioned about steam pockets - something I can't really control.
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Post  microflitedude Tue Apr 30, 2013 7:49 am

Reflow again - success.

I figured I had either nothing to lose or a lot of money, so I baked it.

Running better than ever. Going to double the RAM to 6GB.
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Post  WingingIt74 Tue Apr 30, 2013 10:58 am

Smile

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Post  SuperDave Tue Apr 30, 2013 12:02 pm

A "half-baked idea" if I've ever heard one! lol!

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