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Fixing Your Motherboard for $15

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May 18, 2007 11:25:06 AM

Leaked or burst capacitors will kill your system for sure. We show you how to exchange defect capacitors on a motherboard to revive your computer.

More about : fixing motherboard

May 18, 2007 12:21:30 PM

15$ for capacitors. All tools : 300$ ?
New mainboard : 150 $, i'll go with the new mainboard.
May 18, 2007 12:29:24 PM

You obviously don´t have friends that have any tools, do you?
Related resources
May 18, 2007 12:32:07 PM

Quote:
You obviously don´t have friends...


What are those? :lol: 
May 18, 2007 12:36:44 PM

interesting, i have a Dell Optiplex 270 mobo i might try this on
May 18, 2007 12:40:28 PM

Quote:
15$ for capacitors. All tools : 300$ ?
New mainboard : 150 $, i'll go with the new mainboard.


I totally agree with you. Plus when you consider the time it takes to do it all (never done that before so I guess it would take a couple of hours) again I'll go with the new mobo. IMO this is a waste of time also for the guy who wrote the artcile.
May 18, 2007 12:47:15 PM

I did this with a motherboard with buggered capacitors... 6 of them :!: the cpu wasn't getting enough power so was running at no where near original speed... I used an ordinary solder sucker..and an ordinary soldering iron... took a lil more effort but only took half an hour :D  did all this at my work experience place... total cost $0 (free equipment use and free capacitors WOOT) and it worked.... :)  score for me!

excuse my poor spelling (if there is any) as I'm incredibly lazy and 1st time poster...
May 18, 2007 12:49:42 PM

Arround here it costs closer to 9 usd for having some caps swiched on a mobo, have had all my old soc a mobos done by one guy.
a c 129 V Motherboard
May 18, 2007 1:10:10 PM

Well as it says. this is a good option for old boards(and hard to find boards). I bet its not too easy to find dual Athlon MP boards any more(could be wrong?)
May 18, 2007 1:12:09 PM

I have to agree with the guy who talks about the cost of tools. I have a ton of stuff in my shop but a processor controlled vacuum assisted de-soldering tool is not one of them. None of my electrician friends have one ( I made some calls looking to get my hands on one this morning to re-vamp an old K7S5A), nor does the plumber on my hockey team (he solders with torches only). I suppose if I had a friend who specialized in electronics repair (we have to oursource that to a town 1h away) I may be able to get away with it.

Overall it did look like a good idea, tool access notwithstanding, because at the end of the day the worst case scenario is that a useless motherboard is still useless and you're out all of $15.
a c 129 V Motherboard
May 18, 2007 1:19:11 PM

if you are carful you can do it without that.

Ahhhh good old K7S5A :)  i am posting this on mine as we speak...

EDIT....

i do have to agree that the fixing your mb for 15$ is a little missleading.
May 18, 2007 1:41:30 PM

Very good article. I've been doing this for a couple years. I figured I do not need a solder sucker. Only a 30W solding iron is good enough. Although it is quite a pain to do this. I also pulled old working capacitors from ancient mobo (old mobos from major brands like HP and Dell uses high quality capacitors, even used ones can still last quite a while). Thus there was no cost for the replacement.
The problem was that a few years ago, mobo manufactures were using Taiwanese capacitors (GSC, OST etc.) on their mobo, replacing the Japanese product (Rubycon, Nichicon, Chemicon) to reduce the cost. These cheap capacitors worked for 2~3 years then they blew themself, causing system to be unstable. I have a Abit KT7A-raid and Epox 8KHA+ with most of their capacitors blown. Abit even recalled some of its KT7 for this problem. Also the ECS mobos were said to have ~3 years of life expectancy due to the same problem (I've seen two cases). Now the manufactures learned the lesson and switched back to Japanese products on their high-end products. The MSI mobo I bought recently has all Japanese caps.
May 18, 2007 1:58:15 PM

I recently also successfully changed the caps (9pcs) on my mobo which died and it works great again.

Save me loads of $. :lol: 

To me, definitely worth the efforts/time !

BTW, I used ordinary solder iron + sucker.
May 18, 2007 2:02:46 PM

Good article. BTW, they didn't say that you needed a processor controlled soldering station, thats just what they had. I think they were trying to say that the standard $10 Radio Shack soldering tools would make the job rather difficult. Possible, but more difficult.

I thought it was a great article. Anyone with some decent soldering tools should be capable of doing this.

Good Job dudes! 8)
May 18, 2007 2:14:58 PM

some lucky people have all the breaks, one of which includes me, my work has one, very handy, we used to make our own amps(for audio), but somehow we turned into a computer repair place...
May 18, 2007 2:52:38 PM

It's not just cost, its a matter of actually accomplishing something.

Some folks get satisfaction out of fixing something, building something, etc....

Of course you can go buy a new mobo or system.
But that was not the point of the article.
May 18, 2007 3:04:20 PM

I have several hundred, if you get to bored...
May 18, 2007 3:08:01 PM

Quote:
Leaked or burst capacitors will kill your system for sure. We show you how to exchange defect capacitors on a motherboard to revive your computer.


BTW, maybe I missed it but... did the motherboard work after????
May 18, 2007 3:14:18 PM

I agree, this is a great article! I've saved money replacing caps on old video and sound cards in the past.. with minimal electronic experience.

The details explanation of why caps go bad is excellent IMO.
May 18, 2007 3:14:28 PM

how much for a solder wick, now-a-days? and flux?
every one and their grandfathers have a solder iron somewhere

Good Article: the usual well written THG standard.
should be labeled "how to replace blown Low-ESR capacitors, for the hobbyist"

if it's just one bad capacitor, it shouldn't be a problem to fix.

it really is a: cost for MB vs. Time + parts + if you have access to the tools already - Time if find mildly entertaining:
this is good for a new MB with no warranty or an old one

lets see this redone make-shift outdoors style, with cheap a solder-iron and still done the proper way, show us a working computer.

Someone post a store that you can order the specific good quality capacitors from.
May 18, 2007 3:40:45 PM

Some de-soldering braid with a cheap soldering iron is all you need to clear all that solder. Thats all I ever use here at work to repair our motherboards.
May 18, 2007 3:41:27 PM

www.digikey.com you can get ALOT of stuff from there... not the best price, but usually decent.

www.mouser.com is also a good source, especialy LARGE aluminum electrolytic caps, like the ones I used to build my gauss and rail guns when I was in college.

oh, and though the explanation of caps was pretty good... caps dont really "conduct" electricity. They are always open, they induce electric (inductors use magnetic) fields in the other plate of the cap... thus making current. However they only do this when there is a voltage CHANGE.

aka I = c*(dV/dt)... current = capacitance times the derivative of voltage with respect to time.... no change in voltage... no current (assuming the cap has reached it's DC state... a standard assumption of this is 5 time constants after it's last change (time constant = capacitance * resistance of circuit cap is in + the caps own parasitics including lead inductance!!!!! (big factor at high frequencies, impedance can be annoying....)).

Also, as side note, the dielectric used in the cap changes it's capacitance as well as it's ESR, it's voltage rating, and it's life expectancy. Higher voltage higher capacitance caps require the dielectric with a higher epsilon (electric permativity), and a higher resistance as to not allow a high leakage current between the cap plates, or else you can boil the dielectric with too much current/heat and BOOM goes the cap. However this is hard to make because not only is it hard to make high epsilon materials, but they tend to like to conduct electricity more... making them even harder to make and more expensive. Also, putting the plates closer together increases their capacitance, but again you need an even higher resistance in the dielectric or else above said will occur.... and if you get too close no matter how good your dielectric is you can arc between the plates = bad as well. At DC voltages caps look like an open, if arcing occurs it will look like a short at DC for short on and off.

Because the evaporating of the electrolyte in aluminum electrolytic caps from heat (current between the plates through the dielectric and causes heat increasing this on top of ambient temps), and other factors that are complicated and I wont get into, using a cap that is rated for a higher voltage than the application you are using it in will effectively increase MTBF (mean time before failure). The typical rule of thumb is to use a cap that is rated at 2x the voltage you will be using it at (when using aluminum electrolytic caps). So if you replace the caps in the system with the same capacitance and low ESR caps, but use a higher voltage rated cap you will decrease the likely hood of failure again... however it will cost a few more cents per cap... lol
May 18, 2007 4:03:55 PM

Quote:
Someone post a store that you can order the specific good quality capacitors from.


I'd like to know a place to get them also. I haven't had time to search yet but if anyone has a couple of links saved they would be much appreciated.

BTW, would this work on a power supply, assuming I can determine it's the capacitor? Surely it would be easier since things aren't as tight as on a mobo. Would it be better than before if they were replaced with better caps, or is this just asking for trouble?
May 18, 2007 4:34:33 PM

I agree that a solder wick works better than a solder sucker IMO. Just as long as you soldering iron is hot enough and clean enough.

Mouser.com is great for all electronics. You can sign up to periodically get a free catalog.
May 18, 2007 4:46:11 PM

I have only replaced caps once on an Aopen AK73-1394. It was for a low-income family that couldn't afford a new board and I didn't have another Socket A board available. The Taiwanese caps around the CPU failed but the rest of the caps on the board were Japanese and didn't have any problems. I have many years of soldering experience so it wasn't difficult for me even without a desoldering station. But it is not an easy job for most people. The primary problem is getting the caps out without pulling out the plating inside the hole. Doing so can short out the internal copper planes and render the board useless or potentially damage the CPU. I preheated the component side of the board to 150°C by putting it over a special preheater (a heat gun could also be used) and desoldered the pins using a large-tip 50W iron and braid. Tip: If the solder doesn't want to flow then add new solder to it.

I was able to cross-reference the caps to another brand but the pin spacing was different. But the AK73-1394 had a dual-footprints for the caps which could accommodate the wider spacing style.

The online stores Digi-Key and Mouser Electronics are both good vendors but I ended up using Newark.
May 18, 2007 4:48:31 PM

Excellent article. You don't need a desoldering station or a computer controlled soldering station. There are little rubber desoldering bulbs and solder wick, and a cheap 25-30 watt soldering iron will work just fine. Technically you don't even need to remove the solder at all. Just heat one leg of the cap and rock the cap. repeat to each side alternately until the cap is free. Be sure not to overheat the board or you will remove the trace. Cut the leads on the Cap to a manageable length like 5 millimeters. Place the cap through the holes and solder in place and clip the excess lead. If the holes are clogged press the leads on the clogged holes and apply heat alternately to the holes the Cap will magically seat itself, then solder and clip. If you do remove the trace around the cap leg then get some thin solid wire and bridge the connection to a good part of the trace. It is so easy as to be ridicules. Or, if you are really lazy or are too scared, then you could always use the mobo for a Frisbee. Watch out though because they hook to the right.
a c 86 V Motherboard
May 18, 2007 4:54:18 PM

I have a few cheap 300W PSUs that failed due to output filter capacitor failures - there is more to picking capacitors than nominal capacity.

Capacity aside, electrolytics used for power distribution and bulk decoupling have two important characteristics: impedance at their intended operating frequency (often 100kHz) and maximum RMS ripple (charge/discharge) current. What I have found in my cheap PSUs is that they use terribly under-spec'd filter caps: sub-1A RMS ratings on a 20A rails means the capacitors are very likely to be exposed to well over 10A of RMS ripple... no surprise these things routinely fail full-load testing even when fresh from the factory.

Under-rated RMS ripple current capacitors in PSUs is one of my pet peeves about PSUs: they rarely result in immediate catastrophic failures and will survive days, weeks or even months of moderate stress-testing before failing for good. When hardware sites review and endorse high-end PSUs, it is still no guarantee that these PSUs will endure the reviewed or rated loads throughout the warranty period.

After so many PSU failures, the first ones being with external HDD boxes a few years ago (these typically use the flyback topology which can produce very high capacitor ripple currents), I decided to order a bag of 100 Phillips 16V 2700FM capacitors (the lowest 100kHz impedance and highest RMS ripple current ratings I could find on a generally compatible footprint) and made it a standard practice to replace output filter caps at the first sign of PSU problems: spontaneous reboots - the degraded ESR/ESL renders the capacitors incapable of filtering voltage spikes from the PSU transformer stray inductance and trips the overvoltage crowbar protection increasingly often as the capacitors slowly and silently continues to degrade until total failure.

I have also found out that nearly all Linksys BEFSR and many WRT routers along with some D-Link models like the DI-524 suffer from relying too much on their electrolytics for decoupling: all those I owned started to behave erratically or failed after a year or so of service. All of them so far were restored to better-than-new operating condition after I soldered 1uF 0603 MLCC capacitors under at least one electrolytic near each IC for each voltage rail to supplement local decoupling. I started experimenting with this practice after my BEFSR81 became unusable even as a network switch over two years ago. Before I added capacitors in my D-Link router, the wireless link would never stay up for more than a few minutes/hours at a time but after adding the MLCCs, it now routinely stays up for 2-3 days straight and the average signal strength appears to be up 3-5dBm.

Right now, I'd say those 2700uF (~$0.70 each) and 1uF (~$0.08 each) caps along with my WESD51 soldering station are my best friends when I see hardware behaving mysteriously. I have not had motherboard capacitor failures yet but I am tempted to fit any open capacitor sites with 2700FM caps wherever the footprints may be compatible as a preventive measure and supplement electrolytics with MLCCs near sensitive areas to spare eletrolytics from decoupling most high-frequency noise.

Since I buy parts in bulk and have plenty of spares while I already own the supplies and equipment, fixing trivial faults in $30 hardware is still less expensive than replacing it as long as I have spare time and still have a use for whatever failed.
May 18, 2007 4:54:21 PM

Quote:
If you apply too much pressure to the metal pin, you might cause crazes in delicate circumjacent conducting paths.


8O You guys seriously need to consider hiring an editor.
May 18, 2007 5:06:18 PM

Quote:
If you apply too much pressure to the metal pin, you might cause crazes in delicate circumjacent conducting paths.


8O You guys seriously need to consider hiring an editor.

I'm all for bitching, but what is wrong with that statement? Punctuation?

Edit: In case you didn't understand let me put it into plain terms. If you press too hard you will damage/lift a trace.
May 18, 2007 5:16:09 PM

I saw the title of the article and thought "probably fixing an old MSI motherboard" and sure enough, it was. I like how the author said it could be any board, but I think the title of the article ought to be "How to fix the caps on your malfunctioning MSI". And solder wick works fine - just be patient and keep your iron clean.
May 18, 2007 5:26:02 PM

I have had some experience (good and bad) with desoldering modern pcbs and found that they are quite fragile. A couple of points are:
1. Be careful not to use too much heat for too long as the traces will disbond from the epoxy and leave you with a damaged circuit board. You can use very fine wire to repair it if you have too. Repeated heating to a high temp will cause damage.
2. I suggest practicing on an old board to get the technique down pat first. The right combination of soldering iron temp, tip tinning, timing and solder removal technique, when practiced will pay dividends in the end. Otherwise you just have to hope you are lucky.
3. Solder removal braid will cause the epoxy board to get hotter and increases your chance of delaminating the traces. It is the easy to use but has this rather unpleasnat disadvantage.
4. You would be advised to build a Jig to hold the board so you can work on it correctly instead of holding it with your elbow propped up with a book and the hand you are using to hold the solder iron.
5. In the absence of a professional soldersucker station a cheap one-shot solder sucker works good if you can hold the tip of the thing 90 deg to the board accurately positioned directly over the hole when you fire it. This way it will develop sufficient suction to remove all the solder in one shot. Squeeze bulbs are a last resort.

Hope this helps. Good to see a technical article like this - Kudos THG!
There are still a few spark chasers around sniffing rosin smoke and building/repairing stuff now and then.
May 18, 2007 6:08:03 PM

Any recommendations on a decent/cheapy processor-controlled soldering/de-soldering station? I could actually use one of these with what I do.
May 18, 2007 6:09:34 PM

OK

1. Never ever drill out the holes in your Motherboard. These are usually 6 layer boards and it will be easy to ruin it. If it is that stubborn, Retin the connection and try sucking it out again.

2. A hand held solder sucker will work fine, just don't use too much heat. If it isn't behaving, retin and suck again. Wick works to but it works better if you heat each side and remove the part before cleaning the pads with the wick

3. Electrolytic capacitors are responsible for around 90 percent of age failures on products. Japanese parts are much better quality.

4. Always keep your solder tips tinned. A bad tip will not work due to heat transfer. If solder flows into a ball and doesn't stick to the tip, your tip is bad.
May 18, 2007 6:45:59 PM

A temperature contolled soldering iron and patience is all that is required to do the job. Not everyone has both of these but more common than a full desoldering station.
May 18, 2007 7:18:05 PM

Here is a $10 tool from radio shack that will remove solder.

http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2...

It is a de-soldering iron. It uses a rubber bulb for suction, but it provides its own heat -- much better than using a non-heated solder-sucker with a soldring iron.

I replaced the caps on an old mobo last year. It was a bit of a pain with those tools, but doable.
May 18, 2007 7:23:10 PM

Quote:
Excellent article. You don't need a desoldering station or a computer controlled soldering station. There are little rubber desoldering bulbs and solder wick, and a cheap 25-30 watt soldering iron will work just fine. Technically you don't even need to remove the solder at all. Just heat one leg of the cap and rock the cap. repeat to each side alternately until the cap is free. Be sure not to overheat the board or you will remove the trace. Cut the leads on the Cap to a manageable length like 5 millimeters. Place the cap through the holes and solder in place and clip the excess lead. If the holes are clogged press the leads on the clogged holes and apply heat alternately to the holes the Cap will magically seat itself, then solder and clip. If you do remove the trace around the cap leg then get some thin solid wire and bridge the connection to a good part of the trace. It is so easy as to be ridicules. Or, if you are really lazy or are too scared, then you could always use the mobo for a Frisbee. Watch out though because they hook to the right.


Thank you!! You just saved me a lot of typing!!!

I have repaired dozens of mobos using this exact method. It works great.

I wouldn't bother though if the board doesn't post. I have never gotten a totally dead board alive again from replacing bad caps.

Boards that work, but freeze up the OS from bad caps though are perfect. A few minutes of work and you'll have no more freezing problems :) 

I steal good caps from dead mobos. Not an option for everyone, but saves me from having to order them.
May 18, 2007 8:02:47 PM

Quote:
15$ for capacitors. All tools : 300$ ?
New mainboard : 150 $, i'll go with the new mainboard.


Thank you. Not to mention the time, knowledge, etc. necessary to identify a problem capacitor and successfully correct it.

Reminds me of the machinist who spent an hour making a part he could buy at the local harware store for $0.14 plus tax.
May 18, 2007 8:08:54 PM

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned http://www.badcaps.net/.

I came across this site when researching problems with my Abit BP6 several years back.

A decent site with some pics of ... well ... bad caps :o  , instructions, replacement cap kits (for the most infamous bad motherboards), repair service, etc.

It looks like they are a bit pricey but they only sell high quality caps.
May 18, 2007 8:34:06 PM

I wouldn't have bothered but I saw a lot of posts that appeared to be against the idea due to the high tech equipment etc., so I figured I would lay out the low tech approach.
@utaka95 I just checked my MSI NEO2 board and caps are still good. 8)
May 18, 2007 8:53:39 PM

Quote:
15$ for capacitors. All tools : 300$ ?
New mainboard : 150 $, i'll go with the new mainboard.


Thank you. Not to mention the time, knowledge, etc. necessary to identify a problem capacitor and successfully correct it.

Reminds me of the machinist who spent an hour making a part he could buy at the local harware store for $0.14 plus tax.

Also not to mention that it doesn't take any time to identify a bulging/leaking capacitor all you do is look at it. And that capacitors are not that hard to replace and that it is a good skill to possess.
May 18, 2007 9:07:45 PM

Quote:
OK

1. Never ever drill out the holes in your Motherboard. These are usually 6 layer boards and it will be easy to ruin it. If it is that stubborn, Retin the connection and try sucking it out again.


I disagree with that statement, a drill bit a tiny bit larger that the cap leads is usually smaller that the holes in the mobo. A little careful work with a twist drill can save mobo traces that may be ruined while you're trying to wick the solder out of the holes.
May 18, 2007 9:09:26 PM

Quote:
I wouldn't have bothered but I saw a lot of posts that appeared to be against the idea due to the high tech equipment etc., so I figured I would lay out the low tech approach.
@utaka95 I just checked my MSI NEO2 board and caps are still good. 8)


The low tech approach should have been wha the article was about in the first place.

Hell I've even used the big crappy tire 200w soldering gun to do it :lol: 
May 18, 2007 9:24:17 PM

Quote:
I wouldn't have bothered but I saw a lot of posts that appeared to be against the idea due to the high tech equipment etc., so I figured I would lay out the low tech approach.
@utaka95 I just checked my MSI NEO2 board and caps are still good. 8)


The low tech approach should have been wha the article was about in the first place.

Hell I've even used the big crappy tire 200w soldering gun to do it :lol: 

Yeah, they should have at least given the caveman approach as a low cost option in the article, but I guess that's why we're here. A 200w soldering gun is ballsy, you can melt the traces off in seconds.

Edit: Or should I say burn the traces off.
May 18, 2007 10:05:39 PM

Quote:

I disagree with that statement, a drill bit a tiny bit larger that the cap leads is usually smaller that the holes in the mobo. A little careful work with a twist drill can save mobo traces that may be ruined while you're trying to wick the solder out of the holes.


On a 2 layer board is one thing. Causing an open in on through traces on the 4 unaccessable layers is fatal. I have never had to drill in 12 years of this kind of work.
May 18, 2007 10:56:05 PM

So is it possible to bring back a mobo that doesn't post using this method? I currently have 4 of them in my closet, I don't need them but I could fix them and make computers to sell or something, I have a lot of spare parts.
May 19, 2007 1:05:52 AM

Once i had a mb with a broken capacitors....who fell from a truck...
Anyway i cutted capacitor in the midle found a replacement one and soldered it on the legs of the old one... that was 2 years ago and the mb is still working...

Also i found out that Asus RMA frequently returns mb-s with notes "customer induced damadge" when capacitors or bios chips are faulty.
That means you have tu pay 15€ for a service...at least in europe.
a b V Motherboard
May 19, 2007 1:48:43 AM

Quote:
15$ for capacitors. All tools : 300$ ?
New mainboard : 150 $, i'll go with the new mainboard.


You only need $1.50 in tools. I use a generic solder iron from a local auto parts store's "cheap tools" bin

No solder sucker needed either, just leave the solder pool in place, and melt it to push the capacitor legs through.
a b V Motherboard
May 19, 2007 6:31:16 AM

This is a bit of a coincidence. Just last week, I repaired an old K7S5A with this exact problem. I didn't use any fancy tools, though. Just a Radio Shack soldering station and a bit of wick. I also ordered my caps from www.mouser.com, at $0.45 each with about $6.00 shipping, I replaced 7 caps for about $10.50 and have three spares. For the record, only one was actually bad, but after replacing it, I decided to go for all 7. It only took about an hour (25 minutes for the first one, 5 minutes for each cap after that).

I will definitely try this one again. I might even fix my Antec power supply which has a failing fan controller. Maybe it is related to a cap?
!