There’s a sweet old lady I help out with her computer. Just before Christmas she phoned and the problem was thus: her laptop, just two years old, was dead. Dead, in that it did everything it should except display it. The monitor was kaput.
Now I’m not, by any stretch of imagination, a computer tech. I’ve put together towers, but really, that’s more like lego. Laptop’s no, primarily because you need weency fingers and a lot of spare screws. Anyhow, I trundled her laptop up to the local computer shop and almost before I’d opened my mouth they said ‘HP? Pavilion? Oh dear. Hmm, too expensive to fix even if we new what was wrong with it, though it’s probably the GPU (graphics processing unit). The best thing is to bin it.’
Can you say ‘built in obsolescence!’
The result was that, since she didn’t need a laptop as she wrote at home, the sweet old lady bought a new tower and asked me to dispose of the ‘wretched thing.’
Now, I’m not a horder. But I’m keen on ‘projects.’ Besides, it was an immaculate HP Pavilion DV2, and if I could get it going… well, peachy. So off to Google I went.
To cut an inordinately long story short I found out that:
- There was a class action suit against HP for the bad design of the Pavilion series.
- It was the GPU that had the problem, and that most excitingly:
- it was fixable!
Ah ha! I thought. A viable project. All I had to do was take the laptop apart, reflow the GPU, and reassemble it. Easy-peasy, and very Maker-ish.
There are oodles of video’s on YouTube.com showing exactly how you should reflow a GPU on a Pavilion motherboard. The thing is that none of these videos agree on how to do it. The concept is that because the design was flawed, the GPU got very hot. The hotter it got, the hotter all its solder connections became until, eventually, they fail. To reflow means heating up the GPU chip until the solder joints sort themselves out. Well, ish.
There are three methods I came across. The first, which I instantly decided against, was to put the motherboard in the oven on gas mark 6 for 20 minutes – this is not a joke. The second was to buy the pro kit needed to do the job properly. That was out for financial reasons. So I went for the third: using a miniature propane torch to heat the chip. It sounded the least mad and the most affordable. So I dismantled the laptop in preparation….
Two months later I finally got the propane torch and the tube of liquid heat sink required. I dusted off the motherboard, and, with heart in mouth, fired up the torch.
Letting it cool is an anxious time, as is testing it. Nothing.
I tried again. Nothing.
Back to Google where I found a thread that suggested anybody who tries reflowing their GPU is mad, if not carted away in a straight jacket certifiable.
Grumbling and in a last fit of pique, I trotted downstairs, grabbed the big kitchen Crème brûlée blowtorch and had at the motherboard with that. There might have been some pleading, intermingled with cursing, involved, too. Nothing. Nothing, nada, nowt, dead as a dodo.
So there you have it. Although I’m no better off as far as laptops go, it has been a fun, if fruitless, afternoon. 🙂