How to Repair Laptops for Free

By Shawn M. Tomlinson

  • Overview

    Laptops are taking over the world. Well, at least, they are selling more than desktop computers these days. And while most modern consumer electronics are built to be thrown away---it's cheaper usually to buy a new one than get it repaired---there's no reason life can't be extended for most laptops. Here are some suggestions for doing that.
    This is the Macintosh Pismo, one of the easier laptops to repair yourself.
    • Step 1

      Fix it yourself. Laptops are made up of components, such as a screen, hard drive, optical drive, memory and motherboard. Each of these can be removed and replaced by the owner without the need for professional and costly computer repair. The key is to find out what kind of screwdriver you need and assemble the other tools prior to starting. The best bet is to get a small screwdriver set for fine work that includes Phillips, flathead and Torx screw heads. These sets are inexpensive and available from department stores, hardware stores and electronics stores. You also will need a spudger. This is just a fancy name for a plastic semi-ridged tool like a spatula. It is used for prying up parts that you don't want to ruin with a metal tool, such as a processor, any circuit board or hard drive.
    • Step 2

      Try the diagnostic software on laptops that still boot up. Most good diagnostic tools can tell you quickly what is wrong. They can tell you if the hard drive is bad, has bad sectors or is about to fail. These tools can tell you if the memory chips are malfunctioning or if the software has glitches.


    • Step 3

      Open the computer using the appropriate screwdrivers. Get a sense of where everything is. Remove the hard drive. This is a small, thin metal rectangle that can be at either side or in the middle of the laptop. Most often, it is on the right side. It will be connected to the processor with a ribbon cable and it usually sits in its own cradle. In most cases, once you're inside the laptop, the hard drive will pop out with a spudger once the ribbon cable is disconnected. Be careful with this connection. When you have the hard drive removed, there will be a long row of connector pins on one end. Blow on the connector pins and carefully reattach the hard drive. As simple as this sounds, a hard drive not connected correctly or with dust on the connectors can prevent a laptop from booting.
      This is a typical laptop hard drive with the connector pins at right.
    • Step 4

      Do the same thing with the memory chips. RAM chips just clip in and out on most laptops. They are very thin circuit boards or chips that usually plug into the processor or have their own compartment. They usually are secured by spring-loaded clamps you can open with your fingers. Taking them out and blowing off dust can suddenly breathe new life into the computer. The same can be done with processors on some laptops.
      This is a typical laptop RAM chip.
    • Step 5

      Check the wiring, particularly to the power jack, but everywhere you can get to inside the laptop. While it is rare that the wiring goes bad, a loose connection at the power jack will prevent the laptop from working properly.
    • Step 6

      Get free help. There are a variety of websites, including ifixit.com and mygadgetbag.com, that have step-by-step instructions to remove and replace most components in laptop computers. While you will still need to buy the parts, it will cost you nothing to do the actual repair yourself.
      The Pismo is shown open with the RAM and hard drive removed.
    • Skill: Moderately Challenging
    • Ingredients:
    • Phillips screwdrivers
    • Flathead screwdrivers
    • Torx screwdrivers
    • Spudger
    • Tip: There are photos and videos available on YouTube and other websites that show step-by-step laptop repair.
    • Warning:
    • Remove the battery and power cord before beginning any work. Not doing this can give you a shock and can fry the computer's components.

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