I’ve always told myself I’m no good with physical work. I seem better at and enjoy working more with “soft” things, theoretical things. I write software for a living and fiction as a hobby, play with digital photography and graphics a lot, and just discovered Blender for 3D modelling. All of this involves using a computer. Give me something real and physical to do and that’s when I also become very proficient at procrastinating because it usually ends in failure.
But sometimes the bullet has to be bitten. Last week I had to repair my laptop as a matter of urgency. As you can see from the above, I can’t live without it. Long story short, this particular machine has done the rounds in the family over the last couple of years and has been a little mistreated. Over time the power connector has developed an ever-shrinking sweet spot where it actually works and keeps the battery charged. A couple of weeks ago that sweet spot shrank to nothing. I had about four hours of battery left.
I had to fix it. My wife, who does not do the household budget and was off work for a week with bronchitis, said I should buy another laptop. No. When it has power, it works perfectly and does everything I need it to do. Its only problem is getting power past the power socket. Here is an abridged account of my experience making this repair.
From memory this seems to be the back of the touch-pad board. Probably the only pic I took during the process.
Disassembling a laptop for me is like driving a dark road without a map. At night. While wearing sunglasses. Behind a welding mask. You get the idea. Should this part just clip off or is there a hidden screw somewhere? Hidden screw. Socket connection fine, must be internal. Must avoid soldering if possible. Stuffing the socket’s ground and active cavities with tiny bits aluminium foil to act as packing worked. Should be able to live with that.
Reassemble. No power up. But the multi-meter showed power behind the socket! Why not switching on?
Disassemble. Found loose ribbon cable for power button and 2 RHS USB ports. Plug in.
Reassemble. Power up. Working. Wriggle power cord. Power down. Connector developed a rapidly shrinking sweet spot again. Not enough packing foil.
Disassemble. Abandon refusal to solder and decide to replace power socket on laptop. Challenge finding same socket to match plug on cord. Buy new plug-socket pair and leave shop hoping to have success with soldering iron for the first time in 20 years. Return to shop to buy solder. And iron.
3 hours, soldering socket to wires in laptop, desoldering ground and active terminals I shorted together with carelessness and excess solder, carefully resoldering socket to wires in laptop, removing plug from cord and soldering on new matching plug for new socket.
Reassemble. Laptop working. Happy.
Before and After of DIY Repair of damaged storm water pipe.
This new found confidence with a soldering iron led to more confidence when it comes to some DIY plumbing work that was years overdue – a storm water pipe that needed placing, also a gate repair, and I might even have a go at some necessary panel beating some time soon.
Now mobile phone not charging… Argh!