Yes, you can fix your laptop!
Fixing a laptop isn't nearly as scary as you might think.
Most traditional "clamshell" laptops are relatively straightforward to disassemble and repair. Although they don't contain as many standard parts as a desktop computer, most parts can be replaced and some can be upgraded.
If you decide a laptop is beyond repair there may still be the possibility of reusing a few of the components.
Unfortunately, newer ultra-thin laptops offer less scope, and a few are virtually unrepairable.
- Backup important data before you start. Things don't often go badly wrong, but why take the risk?
- Before starting work, disconnect the power and remove a user-replaceable battery if there is one.
- Consider whether you need to take antistatic precautions. Brushes and vacuum cleaners can create static.
Before you start
For any but the most basic tasks, the first thing to do is to search for an online repair or disassemble guide or video. One of the best places to look is iFixit.com but a search engine will give others. Many laptops come in several variants so if you can't find your precise model then take a look at a the guides for the closest match and it should give you a very good idea how to proceed.
The only tools you will normally need are a set of small screwdrivers and a prying tool - a thin-bladed tool for prying open the clips which very often hold the case together. The iFixit Jimmy is ideal. A knife, preferably with a round end and not too sharp will do if you have nothing else.
For the intermediate level tasks you will also need a means of organising the screws. Pill boxes are an excellent choice but egg boxes will do. Be sure to make a note of which compartment contains the screws from which disassembly step. Another good solution is to stick the screws to a sheet of paper with Blu-tac, and to write against each blob of Blu-tac where those screws came from. So long as you only use half the sheet you can fold it over in order to keep the screws reasonably safe if you need to come back later to complete the job.
What can you do?
The various tasks you can undertake are listed below, grouped roughly according to difficulty for a typical laptop. However, some tasks may be harder for some laptops.
- Battery removal or replacement.
- Many laptops allow you to remove the battery simply by releasing a couple of catches. Often, one is spring loaded. With newer ultra-thin and convertible laptops you will probably need to remove the case back. Look for an online guide to show you how.
- Unfortunately, sourcing replacement batteries is something of a minefield. Genuine manufacturer's batteries tend to be outrageously expensive, and if they have been sitting on a shelf for several years they may already be loosing capacity. After market batteries may or may not be worth the money and may even be pulled from scrap laptops. Always make sure the seller has a credible returns policy and check their reputation. A good mid price battery may well be re-manufactured with fresh cells.
- RAM replacement or upgrade.
- Upgrading your RAM is probably the easiest upgrade you can do. You can usually access the RAM slots simply by removing a cover on the base.
- If your laptop has a 32 bit processor or runs a 32 bit version of Windows and has less than 4GB of RAM, then upgrading to 4GB (the maximum it can use) is generally well worth while and relatively inexpensive.
- (If you're not sure whether your laptop is 32 or 64 bit, press the Windows key and "R" and type msinfo32. Press Return. A complete run-down of your computer's resources will be given.)
- Upgrading a 64 bit laptop beyond 4GB may well be worthwhile, particularly if you do graphics, video or audio editing, or commonly have many browser tabs open.
- Replacement of a damaged or faulty keyboard.
- Many people put up with a damaged or unreliable keyboard without realising just how cheap and easy it might be to replace.
- Search for an online guide. Quite commonly, all you have to do is release a series of catches along one long edge of the keyboard in order to lift it out. A ribbon cable will still be connecting it to the motherboard, and you can release this by carefully lifting or releasing a clamping bar.
- On some laptops the keyboard is additionally held in place by one or more screws which you have to unscrew from the bottom of the case. On others, it's integral with the case top, but still not that hard to remove.
- Replacement keyboards for most models of laptop are available online for around £20. Make sure you get one for your exact model. Also, make sure you get one with the right national keyboard layout, otherwise you may find some keys in unfamiliar places.
- Hard disk replacement or upgrade.
- Very often you can access the hard disk simply by removing a cover on the base.
- Replacing a hard disk with a solid state disk is probably the most effective way of injecting new life into an old laptop. But if it's running slowly because of unwanted software, pop-ups or viruses then you should tackle these first.
- If you are running out of storage space then fitting a larger hard disk is easy. Laptop hard disks are highly standardised in size though they do come in 2 or 3 different thicknesses. If you are fitting one with a higher capacity, check that it's no thicker than the old one.
Just a little harder
- Cleaning the fan.
- Replacing the power connector.
- Replacing the WiFi adapter
- Fixing a broken hinge.
- Replacing or upgrading the processor.
- Replacing the screen,
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