Laptop Repairs

A basic guide to repairing common problems in laptops

Power Socket Hacking







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At the time of writing, the hack done was completed more than a year ago, with no documentation. This article outlines some of the steps followed as they can be recalled from memory. No guarantees are made to their accuracy, and unfortunately only pictures of the outcome are available. You will need a soldering iron to hack your power socket. If you do not have one, or if like me you have a habit of burning them out, check out Screwdrivers and buy a decent one. It will save you many headaches and will be useful for many other jobs!

The power socket in any laptop is by far the most critical part of the machine. Without power, a laptop is little more than an expensive, complex brick. Very few laptops now come with external chargers, and it can become very inconvenient to swap battery packs repeatedly. So, below are details on how to modify the power socket in the event that it is damaged.

Many notebook manufacturers use custom made sockets and plugs, to prevent people plugging the wrong power pack up to their laptop. Toshiba is one such manufacturer, who uses a special barrel connector with a very wide central pin. This makes the sockets remarkably durable, but introduces further problems.

Original Power Socket for a Toshiba Satellite A10 Model Laptop

The photo to the left is of the power socket for a relatively new Toshiba Satellite A10 model laptop. It would seem Toshiba has learnt from experience, as in this model the power socket is attached to its own miniature daughterboard, which is connected by flyleads to the motherboard. This makes replacing it cheap and easy, as a new socket can be sourced from Toshiba.

However, in older and more compact models, the power socket is often soldered directly to the motherboard. When bent violently (such as when someone trips over the power cord) or even when wiggled through prolonged use, often the first part to fail is the solder joints to the motherboard. As laptops run on relatively low voltages with high currents, this can cause charring of the PCB and sparking, and could potentially cause a fire. In some cases, the power socket can be resoldered to the motherboard, however the possibility of the new solder joint cracking is drastically increased, and there is nothing more annoying than having to pull apart your laptop a week after resoldering the socket :P

The answer to these problems is to replace the socket with a suitable cheaply sourced variant, and solder it to the board using flyleads. This will prevent any further serious damage occurring to the motherboard, and makes any future replacement of the powersocket quick and a lot safer (no more soldering between tiny surfacemount components!)

Modified Power Socket for a Toshiba Satellite 4080XCDT Laptop

NOTE: Due to the variability of the models and brands of laptops out there, not all these steps may be relevant to you. It is quite possible that it may be impossible to fit a new socket in the way described below, in which case either the board must be replaced, or better yet, you must work out a hack suitable to your needs... You have been warned!

Step 1. Disassemble your laptop and inspect the damage.

If you are visiting this site, chances are you already have a basic idea on how to disassemble a laptop. If not, please have a browse around first, a little reading will probably save you from making any EXPENSIVE mistakes!

The best bet is to try and find a repair or service manual for your brand and model of laptop. Many are available on the net. Often a quick Google search will find them.

Step 2. Disassemble your laptop carefully until you can identify the power socket. If it is a modular socket that can be removed from the board without any soldering, find a supplier of spare parts for your laptop and see if any replacements are available. Remember to shop around, prices can vary widely, and second hand sockets from junked machines may be acquired on places such as ebay.

If the power socket is directly soldered to the motherboard, remove the motherboard and determine what sort of damage has been done. If the board has been charred, you will need to follow the tracks until you find a secure place to solder in some flyleads.

Step 3. Test the new socket fits comfortably where the original socket was located. If necessary (as it was in my case), file down the edges of the socket until it fits tightly in the hole. Ensure that when reassembled, the socket will not move around and will be held tightly in place.

Step 4. Carefully desolder the old power socket from the board. Try to keep the socket as intact as possible if you intend to use it in the step below.

Step 5. Solder two leads to the contacts of the new socket. Ensure that the wire you use will be capable of carrying the current the power pack supplies.

Step 6. Solder the flyleads to the motherboard where the old powersocket was located, or to the next most suitable point on the motherboard. Do not solder it directly to the battery lines, as this will bypass any charging control circuits and may damage or more likely destroy the unit and battery (possibly in a spectacular explosive way). Check the polarity of the flyleads, as reversing the polarity will almost certainly cause further damage.

Step 7. Locate the new socket in its position. It may be necessary to modify the case and/or socket to do this. What type of modifications you will need to make depend on the model and brand of laptop. In my case, I had to file the sides of the round socket flat, and bend some of the metal frame to accomodate the socket and locking nut.

New socket fitted to the case of the laptop

Another picture of the socket fitted to the case of the laptop

Reddened picture of the new socket fitted to the case of the laptop, shows connections more clearly

Step 8. Reassemble your laptop, checking that the new power socket is aligned correctly and that no further damage has occurred during repairs.

Making the new power socket fit your powersupply

Presuming your power pack and its plug was not destroyed in the incident that made it necessary to replace the power socket, you will need to construct a converter to connect the original powersupply up to the new socket.

The other way is to cut off the original plug, and solder in the new one. Personally, I do not favour this method, as it makes the power pack useless for any other laptops unless they have the same powersocket hack, and can make things very difficult should the powersupply still be covered under warranty.

To build a converter, you will need the original socket from your motherboard (or from another which has the same socket, if yours has been destroyed), a plug to fit the new socket, and some wire capable of carrying the current supplied by the power pack

Home made adaptor for power supply

Plug end of adaptor

Socket end of the adaptor

Step 1. Solder the wire to the plug. Using different coloured wire is advised to ensure no polarity problems later on.

In my case, i used multiple strands of solid core telephone wire, twisted around each other. This seems to be very durable yet flexible, and hasn't needed to be replaced since construction.

Step 2. Solder the wire to the socket. Make sure polarity is correct and that all the tabs are connected properly. Many sockets have three pins, two of which seem to be connected to the shield. Usually these can be safely soldered together.

Step 3. Shrinkwrap the plug and socket to improve durability.

I did this originally, however I had to later remove the shrinkwrap to replace the plug again. Shrinkwrap is by no means a necessity, but it makes it look nice and makes it considerably harder to destroy through future accidents.

Thats It!

For the moment I can't think of anything more to put here, but if anyone has any suggestions or ideas, feel free to let me know using the Feedback and Query form and include on the first line "Power Socket Hack" and I'll see about putting them up here.

Mike writes: I fixed the power supply to my laptop (Toshiba Sattelite 1135), but instead of soldering it to the board, etc.. I just superglued it to an anchor which I didn't think was going to fall off or come apart.
This is a great idea, and in many Toshiba machines that I have repaired or replaced the system boards in (those with integrated power sockets), they do actually put a lot of glue around the power socket to stop it breaking off. If you do choose to resolder the existing power socket, it is a good idea to do this, but make sure you use the right sort of glue, one that will not damage the board.

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