Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Penny Trick! Solves HP Black Screen No Video Output

This repair can garder from $50- $100 cash profit. After the initial $55 material cost any future work of this kind costs only a penny. So for one penny and about an hours work you can make up to a hundred dollars. Hence I call this the Penny Trick. 

HP made a big mistake on the DV9000 and DV6000 models. A year or more after purchasing on of these laptops the video output will go completely out. The LEDs and will light up showing the computer's on, but the sad screen will stay completely blank. Many shops will take the easy way on this one and replace the entire motherboard. It's unnecessary. Let's point the finger at the real problem child here, the GPU or Graphics Processor. When these laptops heat up the solider connecting the video chip to the board weakens and loses connection. An inadequate heat sink is the usual culprit. The same thing happens to the Xbox with the RROD or Red Ring of Death.

Items Needed:
  • A Digital Probe Thermometer ---$20
  • Thermal Compound                ---$5
  • Butane Torch                          ----$25
  • Aluminum Foil                        ----$1
  • Scotch tape                              ----$1
  • Small Screw Driver                 ----$1
  • A Penny                                  ---$0.01 

Okay before you go to town pulling the 50 some odd screws it's going to take to get the motherboard out I must note- be cautious to prevent ESD. Electrostatic Discharge or simply static shock could damage your board especially the RAM. If affordable buy a wrist strap and ground yourself. Other wise at least touch metal to ground yourself before you begin. Also I take no responsibility for these plans- Procede with Caution.

With that out of the way take your small screw drive and disassemble the laptop down to the motherboard. Take the heat sink off paying close attention to what chips it's covering. Definitely make certain to take off the processor and the RAM.  Of course remembering where every cable part goes, take notes if necessary. With the board out in front you'll need to identify where the GPU is. On most boards it will be close to the processor and most likely covered by the same heat sink. If in doubt look it up. 

Now cut a piece out of the foil about twice the size of the chip. You'll want this to be two layers if not three. Press this piece of foil against the chip to get a good indentation or imprint. Cut out that imprint so this will fit nicely around the chip. Now tape the outsides of the foil to keep it in place. This is done to cover the surrounding board from the flame.

Next turn on the digital probe and set it to fahrenheit. Tape the metal part of the probe directly behind the chip on the other side of the board. Since you may want to hold the board steady, use an oven or something similar to hold the side taped to the monitor.

Now comes the fun. Light up the torch. We're not trying to fry the board here. Only heat the GPU to a certain temperature to reconnect the existing solder under the chip. Similar to reballing except not taking the chip off. Bring the torch down to an acceptable level to heat the chip and not burn the surrounding components. Watch the temp and take it up to around 220f. The whole time keeping the flame circulating to even out the heat. Much hotter you'll burn the chip, any less the solder won't completely melt. Only keep it at that degree for a few seconds, then let it cool off. 

After the board's cooled off apply the thermal compound to the back of the chip and to the back of the processor. Now to ensure that heat doesn't cause this problem again. Place the penny on top of the video chip and replace the heat sink on top of that. While not absolutely necessary, this helps the heat dissipate off the chip and ensures this fix will last much longer. If it's to tight of a squeeze a copper shim works fine as well. Am I the only one that thinks it's funny to have a penny inside a laptop? Just to assist here's a vid with a similar fix:

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How to Build a New Computer under $200

This article will present a brief tutorial explaining how to repair or build a Windows PC. More instruction will be added as time permits.
Bill of Materials:
  • Motherboard
  • Processor (CPU)
  • Power Supply (PSU)
  • PC Case/ Enclosure
  • Hard Drive (HD)
  • RAM
  • Monitor
  • Key Board & Mouse
  • Blank CD or DVD
  • 2 Power chords 
The most important thing here is choosing the components that will be compatible. A Motherboard is usually compatible to either one of the two dominant processor manufacturers- AMD or Intel. Pick the board for the CPU of your choice. If you're into gaming or visual effects, AMD caters to that market and leaves room for over clocking (speeding up the processor past original settings). Intel shoots for reliability and longitivtiy. It's war choose your side carefully.

Gathering Components:
New Egg is a great start down that path to a new build. They are also friendly on returns in case you mistakenly buy the wrong piece. For price comparisons you also check tigerdirect and mwave. You can save by finding a used Case from a broken or cheap computer on Craigslist, Ebay, thriftstore, or yard sale. The parts inside that will be most useful are the power supply (plug it in, if the LED in the back blinks it's usually dead, if it stays lit it's usually good), the CD/DVD drives (must have a DVD drive if you want to boot anything greater than XP), and the Hard Drive (which should have a minimum of 40 GB to run XP, and have the connection your setting up for whether it be IDE or SATA). These parts alone will shave at least a Benjamin off the price tag.

Now how does this have to do with repair? Simple. Windows being So vulnerable to virus leaves users to discard perfectly good computers. While hardware will eventually bad, usually the problem lies in the OS (operating system). If the PC will at least turn on and show any thing on the screen, most if not all components are working. If the RAM is bad it will indicate in the opening screen or by a series of audible beeps. You'll learn if the hard drive is bad by accessing the BIOS or attempting to install Windows.

Downloading Windows: 
First you need a torrent downloader. Those that have downloaded free music before might remember the days of Limewire, Frostwire, or even Napster. These were just user friendly torrent down-loaders. While there are many, I've used Azureus Vuse for years and found it to be the fastest and most reliable. Once you have this the world is yours in terms of media. Music, movies, and software all here FREE. With Windows downloaded you just saved yourself almost 200 USD. Now on to our library of torrent. There are many sites that supply links to torrent. Better yet one site to list them all. Torrentz has got to be the end all list of torrent. That with the power or Google or Toorgle, you can find anything. Be Careful. Install some trusty antivirus before shoveling through the trenches of torrent. Avast has kept my hands clean for some time. It should to the same for you.

Installing Windows:
First we need to access the BIOS. Usually the beginning screen  right when the PC turns on will display which key to hit to enter the BIOS options. If in doubt hit all the F keys, Escape, and Delete- has to be one of them right!? In the BIOS select Advance Options (it goes under different names, what you're looking for is the boot option- or where the computer will begin searching for an OS). Select the CD/DVD to be the primary boot, and the hard drive can be secondary. Hit F10 and save your settings. Now when the PC is reset it will read the disk with Windows and say "Press any key to boot from cd or dvd" with a black screen. The basic drivers will be installed, then you will be asked to select a drive to install the OS on. Choose your drive, delete all partitions, then do a quick format with NTFS (it's faster). From here it installation should be a breeze, self explanatory.

To assist in the build New Egg has a 3 part lengthy yet through instructional video. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Diagnose and Replace a Dead PSU Power Supply Unit

One of the easiest parts to replace and one of the more lucrative is the power supply or PSU. It's also very easy problem to diagnose. A customer calls and explaind that their computer will not turn. If the computer shows any lights or anything on the screen then the problem is not the power supply. The only light that may be showing is a blinking LED on the power supply indicating it's broken. Otherwise the computer won't show any signs of life. Here in California I can easily charge any where from $60 to $75 for this repair including the part. Used power supplies are easy to find in old discarded PCs, at thrift stores, or on craigslist. 

The connections and size of the PSU vary, but are very similar and universal. The main connections you'll be looking at are:

  • 20 or a 24 pin ATX connector on the board. 
  • 4 Pin (square) 12V connection
  • 4 Pin Standard 5V/12V drive connection
  • Sata connection (newer computers)

Some older PSUs may not have the connections yours requires. Luckily the wires are normally color coded and can be cut and rewired. An example is the 4 pin (square) connection. Not all PSUs have these. Cut the ATX connection off the old broken unit. Since there are 4 wires twist the 2 yellows together and the 2 black ones together. Grab an extra 'Standard 4 Pin' power connection and shove the yellow exposed wire securely in the slot with the yellow wire leading up to it and the same for black and then tape it up. This way you won't need to go hunting for one with this ATX connection. As always be safe when handling the PSU. The capacitors inside can pack a punch!