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What is a reflow? (Laptop Repair)

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January 12, 2010 3:04:56 AM

I have a broken HP laptop. The screen is blank, but the lights come on. It does not work with and external monitor. A guy said that I need a reflow. What is a reflow? Can I do it myself?

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a b D Laptop
January 12, 2010 3:28:21 AM

Basically, reflow soldering (on your end...it's actually a manufacturing term) re-solders all the points on your board. It's difficult to do by hand, and there are ways to do it with real tools - however, you can accomplish a cheap way by stripping your motherboard and sticking it in an oven, very similar to the procedure commonly done to dead GPUs.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reflow_soldering

Here's a neato way to make a surface-mount iron, which you can use to heat small points to reflow certain places or smaller boards. It would take a while to do so on a motherboard.
http://www.engadget.com/2006/03/07/how-to-make-a-surfac...
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January 12, 2010 4:38:51 AM

I've got solder, a solder gun, and a kitchen over. Is the idea that it reheats old solder or do I need to apply new solder? Would you suggest trying this myself or paying $100?
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a b D Laptop
January 12, 2010 8:10:31 AM

The idea is that it reheats the solder. The theory is that fractures form inside the solder points on boards, which causes instability. By reflowing the solder, you get rid of the fractures, and sometimes you can bring apparently dead parts back to life.

If you've found your board to be dead, it can't really be in any worse condition. I wouldn't pay $100 for someone to take a dead part and try and fix it, with no guarantee that it'll actually work. All you've gotta do is strip it down and put it in the oven.
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January 12, 2010 11:20:48 AM

If you have a soldering gun (one of those gun-shaped things that uses a copper loop for a heating element and makes a humming sound when you pull the trigger), as opposed to a soldering iron, do not use it on your motherboard.

They use the shorted turn of a transformer to generate heat, so they are not antistatic.
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January 12, 2010 2:36:44 PM

I think what I have is a soldering iron. It looks like a flat-head screwdriver. Will it hurt my motherboard to use this?

The guy says that I'll pay $100 for him to fix (reflow) my motherboard, but I won't pay anything unless he gets it working. My problem is that it's an older laptop (see below). I'm not sure if the value of the laptop would increase $100 after this procedure.

HP DV2315nr: http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/document?docname=c00...

Would it be possible to perform this repair in a normal oven, or are special tools needed? Are there any guides in terms of temperatures and stuff?
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a b D Laptop
January 12, 2010 7:27:02 PM

A soldering iron shouldn't hurt the board, but there's far too many connections for it to be practical to use.

It's really up to you. Is $100 worth your old notebook back? Keep in mind that it may break again in the future. To me, for an old notebook like that, I'd get a new one, back up all my documents, and then attempt to fix the thing myself. It's already broken...so you can't exactly worry about breaking it.

There's limited information available on the procedure concerning motherboards since most people use a graphics card with it...but I don't see why it wouldn't work for a motherboard, and I've heard of it being done before. Most people do it on Xbox 360 motherboards since they've got a high rate of death.

Anyway, the prescribed solution is 6-8 minutes in an oven at 385F, then letting it cool. The board is supposed to be put on a pan and supported with aluminum foil balls so the board doesn't touch the metal.

I've tried this once with an AGP X1650XT, but it didn't fix it. Some of the electrolytic capacitors on the board got bloated, so I'm considering replacing them (which is easy to do). Your board should mostly have solid caps since it's in a notebook, but it's good to check anyway.
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January 12, 2010 7:43:47 PM

I think I'll try to fix it myself. It doesn't make sense to pay a stranger $100 to use his oven. I also don't know if it's even worth $100. I'll try the method you described. After all, the laptop can't function less than it does now.

I assume that I need to remove all of the heatsinks, processor, RAM, ect? Should I watch it, or is there anyway to know if it's done? Should I put it in the oven cold and preheat up to 385F, or should I just stick it in at 385F?

I found this guide to reflow a GPU on an IBM motherboard. They're only reflowing the GPU and have used a heatgun. The part that I thought was worth noting is that they only went up to 230C or 446F, and that they recommend slowly heating and cooling it.

http://forum.thinkpads.com/viewtopic.php?p=386104
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a b D Laptop
January 12, 2010 8:05:08 PM

You should remove the heatsinks, processor, memory, add on cards, cabling, insulation, everything from the board. I've never seen anyone stick the board in the oven in cold - every guide and thread I read they've all preheated to 385F.

If you want to go through buying a heatgun, you can probably try the IBM guide on your GPU too (considering that most of the time, the GPU is at fault). 230C seems a bit hot to me, but I've seen people recommend 450F for 4-5 minutes when doing oven reflows. I've tried it once (without success) after a 385F reflow on my GPU I mentioned before. It didn't melt any of the components, again, just bloated some capacitors.

Weigh in buying a heatgun. If you think it's worth it, get one, do your GPU only, see if it works, and if not, you can always resort to sticking her in the oven. The beautiful thing about broken parts is just that. They're broken. No harm done if in attempting to fix it you fail.

About cooling - most people take the board right out of the oven and set it on the counter to cool, but I wouldn't. Like the IBM guide says, solder is pretty fragile when liquefied, and moving it about isn't a good idea. I just open the oven door a bit and let it sit for a while.
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January 14, 2010 4:33:40 AM

The reflow was a success. The laptop is now working perfectly. I broke one hinge and some plastic, so I can't get it completely reassembled. But at least it works and I can find some use for it. Thank you so much. This makes me want to look through some old video cards I have.
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a b D Laptop
January 14, 2010 7:45:03 AM

I'm curious - which method did you try?
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January 14, 2010 2:09:12 PM

I put the motherboard on balls of foil and put it in the oven for 8 minutes at 385F. I'm amazed that it actually worked. I half expected the whole board to melt.
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a b D Laptop
January 14, 2010 5:47:08 PM

Excellent - I'm glad to hear it worked out. It seems so weird to put it in at such a high temp, but apparently it works, so I'm not arguing. Let's hope it stays that way.
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January 14, 2010 8:03:00 PM

Hi guys!

I have a HP Pavillion DV6331, like many of these series of lappies I have the black screen problem (one long beep on start up and two short beeps, telling me I have a video card problem).

So I had a look about and seen the heat gun method of re-flowing the GPU, but thought it looked a little sloppy, unless you have a thermometer etc. The oven method however looks interesting and more controlled! Thing is, and I'm a computer noob in a way :p  I have the lappy stripped right down, the motherboard is bare of all wires, comeponents etc (basically anything that could come off is off.............there was some black square things that came off after I hit them with a hammer, but, thats fine! haha, joking!! :D )

Anyway, what about all those connection points, the docks for the RAM etc, they look like plastic, or a material that'd melt when put in high temps?! Should I be concerned about this, or will it be fine? Do I have to cover anything before a pip it in the oven, and, more importantly, will it stink out the oven?!

Many thanks for any help guys!! :) 

P
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January 14, 2010 8:16:43 PM

There was some black plastic that started to peel up, but it was unnecessary. I didn't see any bulging capacitors. My kitchen smelled like solder, so I guess it was hot enough.

Pete: My motherboard with all of the RAM slots ect survived the oven. I think the most difficult part of the process was reassembling the laptop. The oven and kitchen smelled like solder (bad), but it went away pretty fast. I can't guarantee that the oven will work for you, since I'm amazed it worked for me. But as frozenlead said, you can't do any harm to it.
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January 14, 2010 8:32:00 PM

Thanks for the quick reply dougx1317! I'm going to give the oven method a go, as you say, I have nothing to lose really.

However, I'm a little concerned after doing further reading that reflowing isnt a long term solution and may only last a couple of months! Bloody HP's, last time I'll be buying from them!

Cheers! ;) 
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January 15, 2010 1:35:28 AM

i have a video card on my dell 9400 im am getting ready to do this to. which way up. and did you leave it in the oven or remove.
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January 15, 2010 2:58:48 AM

My laptop motherboard had stuff on both sides, so there was really no distinction for me. I left it in the oven for 8 minutes, then I opened the door to let it cool slowly.
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January 15, 2010 9:50:34 AM

I put it sort of, 'main side' up, ie the side with the big NVIDIA chip on it and the base for the CPU etc.

Put it in last night 195c (385f) for 8mins, have to get a new thermal pad for the processor now and hopefully get her back together and se if she works by this evening.
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January 15, 2010 12:32:13 PM

Good news!!

Reassembled laptop (had a couple of screws left over :??:  ) anyway, nervously flipped her over, inserted power cable, hit power button, and.........she worked!!!!!!!! :D  :pt1cable: 


Bad news!!

The speakers seem to be making this constant loud cracking sound, even if I plug in headphones, put the sound on mute it still makes it.
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a b D Laptop
January 15, 2010 8:05:09 PM

Carlow_Pete said:


The speakers seem to be making this constant loud cracking sound, even if I plug in headphones, put the sound on mute it still makes it.


Should probably not hijack this thread...but do a different set of speakers do the same thing?
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January 15, 2010 11:51:45 PM

Hello again!

Ok, an update, since I last posted my lappy decided it would die again!! :( , but, instead of giving the usual one long beep/two short beeps as before, when I hit the power button it would come on (black screen) stay on for 30 secs or so and go off, come on again, 30secs, off..........etc. This, is another problem also attributed to the graphics card issue.

So, I figured I really had nothing to lose, stripped her down again, got out the heat gun and followed a technique as posted in a youtube vid!

And, the result, well.............here I am typing on my HP!! :D  and, whats more, it seems the wireless has also begun to work again, after a year or more!!! :)  Just hopes it hold out for a little longer this time. I think however on reassembling I may have kinked/damged one of the ribbon cables as the power button wont work (have to power up the laptop via one of the quick launch buttons and there only seems to be sound in the right speaker. But, I guess ribbon cables are easy enough to pick up. The sound otherwise is fine!! :D 

Cheers.
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February 5, 2010 9:12:37 PM

Well,

Im in the computer business for repairs and tech support. A customer of mine left his laptop DV9420ca to the local shop before I met him. The screen would not turn on what so ever.

I did a quick fix on a a computer of his not too long ago and was impressed by the disgnostic so he asked me if I could fix his laptop.

He picked it up at the local shop and dropped it to my place.

After a few check ups I figured out there was a recall on that specific model. Warranty is over of course and HP is charging me 299$ for fixing it or 583 for to send me a new board.

I found this Reflow trick this morning and though id give it a try. I already recovered lots of data by freezing HD's in my freezer, why not fix a MB in the oven !

So I took everything appart, removed EVERYTHING from the board, put it in the oven at 380 for 10 minutes. waited 30 minutes...then tried it. Nothing.

I put it in the oven for 5 minutes at 450, shut the oven off and went play CODMW2 for 45 minutes. Then I gave it a try. To my surprise ITS WORKING !

I got it all back together now and everything seem to be ok so far but the 3 leds on the board showing the power, battery and HD. They have have cooked.


I thought Id share this with ya'll !!!

The laptop smells like fries a bit but I guess that'll go ! lol !
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March 2, 2010 3:30:37 PM

Dougx1317 said:
There was some black plastic that started to peel up, but it was unnecessary. I didn't see any bulging capacitors. My kitchen smelled like solder, so I guess it was hot enough.

Pete: My motherboard with all of the RAM slots ect survived the oven. I think the most difficult part of the process was reassembling the laptop. The oven and kitchen smelled like solder (bad), but it went away pretty fast. I can't guarantee that the oven will work for you, since I'm amazed it worked for me. But as frozenlead said, you can't do any harm to it.



I'm having the same problem and HP says I'm out of warranty.
I'm interested in trying this since the laptop is garbage otherwise so who cares if I fry it.
Does your laptop still work? Do you think I can protect any areas that were damaged on yours? Got any tips?
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March 2, 2010 7:44:02 PM

My laptop still works. The only problems I ran into were when I was reassembling it. Be careful not to break any parts when you take it apart.
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March 18, 2010 5:36:47 PM

I did the oven reflow on my HP DV6000. About two weeks ago, screen went blank and VGA out did not work. I started searching on the internet and found thousands (literally) are having the same problem. The "heat the laptop up in a towel" and heat gun looked to iffy. So, I did a search on reflow and BGA. Folks, there are lots of documents out there that describe the process... it is how they put the BGA devices on in the first place.

So, I pulled my system board, I wrapped all connectors and other chips in one layer of aluminum foil, insulated the edge connectors and cpu socket and memory connectors, and left about an inch all around the Nvidia chip. I obtained some liquid flux and squirted it under the Nvidia chip.

If you look at some reflow profiles on the web, you will see that (generally) commercial reflow ovens will execute a profile in about 6 minutes. 2 minutes to heat up the board, 2 minutes at about 385F, 2 minutes at about 420F, cool down.

my oven could not achieve temperatures that fast. I used a SEPARATE thermometer. I executed the following profile: 4 minutes to 350, 4 minutes to 385, 4 minutes to 420... held for 2 minutes at 420. Cool down slowly for 30 minutes.

I reassembled the computer. At the same time, I upgraded my T2050 CPU to a T7200.

I pressed the power button and the lappy has been running non-stop for two weeks.
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March 25, 2010 9:09:58 PM

frozenlead said:
You should remove the heatsinks, processor, memory, add on cards, cabling, insulation, everything from the board. I've never seen anyone stick the board in the oven in cold - every guide and thread I read they've all preheated to 385F.

If you want to go through buying a heatgun, you can probably try the IBM guide on your GPU too (considering that most of the time, the GPU is at fault). 230C seems a bit hot to me, but I've seen people recommend 450F for 4-5 minutes when doing oven reflows. I've tried it once (without success) after a 385F reflow on my GPU I mentioned before. It didn't melt any of the components, again, just bloated some capacitors.

Weigh in buying a heatgun. If you think it's worth it, get one, do your GPU only, see if it works, and if not, you can always resort to sticking her in the oven. The beautiful thing about broken parts is just that. They're broken. No harm done if in attempting to fix it you fail.

About cooling - most people take the board right out of the oven and set it on the counter to cool, but I wouldn't. Like the IBM guide says, solder is pretty fragile when liquefied, and moving it about isn't a good idea. I just open the oven door a bit and let it sit for a while.


I have a bunch of what looks like protective plastic covering over parts of my motherboard, should I take those off before sticking it in the oven?
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March 25, 2010 9:42:37 PM

The answer to that is yes... it shriveled up and turned yellow but it didn't seem to harm the rest of the motherboard.

The only thing is, I forgot to remove the CMOS/RTC battery... and it exploded. But the computer should still be able to start up without it, right?
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April 22, 2010 4:15:39 PM

Dougx1317 said:
My laptop still works. The only problems I ran into were when I was reassembling it. Be careful not to break any parts when you take it apart.



I am in shock...it worked! Thanks everybody, expecially frozenlead and Dougx1317
The laptop is back from the dead and I'm running updates, etc..
I knew that this could work in principle ...but practically I wasn't so sure! I mean, wasn't %100 sure that the solder was the problem.
Here's what I did:

After carefully disassembling the laptop and removing the motherboard, I stripped it down, removing everything possible.
I put on a cookie sheet, propped up on 4 balls of tin foil and put it in the oven and set it to 385F to allow it warm up slowly.
When it reached 385F, I set the timer for 8 minutes.
After the 8 minutes, I turned off the oven and opened the door to let it cool slowly.
It was cool to the touch in about 30 minutes, so I began reassembling the laptop.
Once I had all the necessary components connected I switched it on and Presto! It came on and started loading Windows!
I tested all the hardware, to make sure everything was working, then shut down and finished securing the casing, etc..

For anyone else attempting this method, be very careful taking the casing off, watch for hidden screws and fragile plastic clips. Be extremly careful with all the cable connections, especially the ribbon cables and plastic retaining clips.
They are extremely fragile not to mention difficult and expensive to replace.






BTW Here's how I ended up here!
My sister's HP Compaq Presario V3000 died shortly before she left for teacher's college. The computer seemed to be running but the video screen (and external video output) was black with no signal. She couldn't be bothered to fix it so she bought a new one. Unfortunately, while trying to recover her files from the hard drive she broke the SATA connector as well. I offered to take a look at it.
Then, I stumbled on a "Limited Warranty Service Enhancement" (recall) at HP, so I called them and they said the computer was out of warranty and the repair would cost $399 but there was a one-time offer for $299! Ridiculous! I couldn't even think about it, it was take it or leave it...immediately! I laughed and explained that the laptop wasn't worth that and I'd rather put $300 towards a new one.
Anyway, I started looking into what exactly was the problem. A few sites mentioned bad joints on either the North Bridge or the Video CPU chip and some recommended a reflow of those connections or the whole motherboard. Which lead me to this thread.









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June 13, 2010 1:47:06 AM

just cooked my aspire 5520 mobo , 7 minuts at 200°C,3 minuts of break, five times....and oups, WORKEDDDD thank you all :D 
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June 14, 2010 1:33:03 AM

I just did a second one for another customer...

It worked for me again...

Thanks to my oven !

5 minutes at 300, bring up to 450 and let it cook for 5 minutes. Let cool down for 30 minutes with oven door partially opened !
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Anonymous
a b D Laptop
July 2, 2010 7:13:02 AM

I cant believe it but it worked! My Acer Aspire 5520 is running as good as new. I had the issue with it constantly rebooting every few seconds, the only way to stop it was to remove the battery and the power cord. After isolating the problem by removing everything; ram, hdd, dvdrom I gave it a try. I pre heated the oven to 385, placed it in for 8 min. After letting it rest over night i re assembled and it is as good as new. Note: I was unable to boot into bios until I tried installing the ram. I did not think it was required but its working now! Thanks to all of the earlier contributors, your feedback was dead on.
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a b D Laptop
July 11, 2010 12:52:19 AM

How difficult is it to remove the motherboard?
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July 12, 2010 4:05:49 PM

It's a pain in the butt. Look at the sticky covering laptop disassembly at the top of this forum.
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a b D Laptop
July 31, 2010 10:26:21 PM

I love this thread... anyway I just used heat gun or hair blower for video card section on my MB and b4 that I removed all cards that will be affected by the heat. Only for about 3 min. on the section wr video area is . This way you can control the portion on your MB wr to center the heat from the gun or blower. It works perfectly. let it cooldown for about 10 m with fan.
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August 1, 2010 2:08:30 AM

To everyone who has done this: Be careful. I had an iBook G3 that I reflowed, and for some months it seemed to work. But after a while, the same problems popped up, and this time reflowing did nothing. Now, this could very easily just be the shoddy work of the motherboard. But still, back up your data extra-carefully.
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a b D Laptop
September 2, 2010 2:53:46 AM

Best answer selected by buwish.
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September 6, 2010 12:13:09 AM

If someone else bothers to read this to the very end I thought I'd add my two cents worth.

I've got an HP9074CL that I've had for a number of years. About 18 months ago I got the 3 beep (1 long / 2 short) message of death. Black screen, lights on but nothing else. I found the message on HP's support site about the problem and at that time I fortunately qualified for the free repair. To their credit they sent the shipping box and I got the machine back in about a week and a half. They replaced the Mobo.

That lasted about six months and then occurred again. No qualifying this time. It seemed to be either pay for a new Mobo replacement or scrap it. I got disgusted and put it aside. Although I'd built a couple desk tops, I was out of my depth playing with a laptop. I soon afterwards went out and went to the Dark Side and bought a MacBook Pro.

I've been very happy I did as I'm very happy with the Mac although there was a little learning curve getting used to it. It was easily capable of everything my HP could do (and some things better) and for those niche Windows programs of mine I just run them on Parallels.

But the old laptop remained, sitting in the closet. The trouble was I really liked the HP and hated seeing it just sit there. I began scouring the internet and heard about the oven, heat guns and so forth. Still I didn't relish the idea of disassembling the laptop. Then I stumbled across the blanket wrap procedure.

Essentially it involved wrapping the laptop in a blanket, sealing it from ventilating and allowing it to heat up. I thought, what the heck.

I removed the primary HDD and the battery. I opened the lid and wrapped the keyboard half in a comforter. I turned it on, heard the damn beeps once more and left it. In 15 - 20 minutes it overheated and shut itself down. For good measure I immediately did it again. This time it shut down within 5 minutes. It was evening so I just left it alone overnight, just to make sure any joints that may have reunited cooled thoroughly.

The next morning I hit the power button. Lo and behold it fired right up. This was actually yesterday. It's been up and running ever since. I've been catching up on the Win XP updates, virus scans and so forth since then. As we speak I've imaged the primary HHD with Acronis and I'm validating that image right now.

As weird as it sounds, the simple blanket wrap process worked. I've no idea how long this will last but at least of this moment I've got my old laptop up and running again.

Although it may be throwing good money away I'm considering replacing the primary HHD with a SSD unit. I'm thinking it may cut down on the heat build-up, make an old laptop function a little more efficiently and prolong the life of the now ancient battery.

That's it, for what it's worth. Perhaps a less invasive approach to try before you go disassembling a laptop entirely.
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a b D Laptop
September 10, 2010 8:28:34 PM

My HP dv6646us died yesterday :o 
The lights turn on, the fan starts up, stays on for 2-3 seconds, then crashes, turns back on, and repeats until I take the battery out.
I've spent the last 6 hours taking it apart, so I could reflow it with my dad's heatgun, but I think I'd rather try this, because it seems simpler, and because I don't have a thermometer to use with the heatgun.
I know I need to remove everything that comes off, but does that include the CPU? Or can that stay in with it?
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January 2, 2011 11:18:40 PM

My Buddy recently dropped off his presario f700, same problem, light turns on and off rapidly, wont boot no screen nothing, hdd works fine backed everything up on my desktop. i was wondering if the towel method would work? because it does not boot up no fan etc..
any suggestions?
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a b D Laptop
January 4, 2011 3:54:40 AM

This topic has been closed by Buwish
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