Laptop Repairs

A basic guide to repairing common problems in laptops

Replacing hinges

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A common problem with older or heavily used laptops is that the hinges that hold the lid open can either lose their strength, or fracture and become ineffective. While for some models of laptops it is just a matter of tightening a screw on the hinges, if they are damaged, fractured or cracked in any way they must be replaced. Replacing laptop hinges is not a particularly easy thing to do, as it involves disassembly of both the screen and the main chassis of the laptop. It is very easy to damage the cable bundle running between the two during this process. I have found it is generally easier to disassemble the main chassis before the screen, as it means the laptop can be turned upside down and sat on a bench more easily. Further information on replacing hinges is given later.

Disassembling the main chassis (assuming the screen has not been already disassembled):

Turn the laptop upside down and remove the battery, and if applicable, any removable drives, such as CD-ROM and floppy disk drives (If they are built in, this will be discussed later).

Remove the screws holding down panel covers, and then remove the covers and any devices such as RAM, internal network cards and hard disk drive. It is best to keep the screws with their respective panels, as this makes it easier to know where they go when putting the laptop back together. If possible, store all removed devices in anti-static bags.

Remove all visible screws from the bottom of the main chassis, starting with the corner screws, and ensure you know which hole each screw came from. (Note: some laptops number their screws and screw holes, it does not matter if screws of the same type get mixed up).

Remove all screws from the back of the main chassis where the peripheral connectors are located.

Carefully turn the laptop back up the right way again, and open the lid. Check for any removable panels that may hide screws that could be holding the laptop together. Often there will be at least one panel hiding the screws that hold the keyboard down. To remove these panels it is best to try and lever them up using fingernails, as they do less damage than screwdrivers.

Remove any screws from underneath all panels and make a note of where they come from. If this step is done correctly, the keyboard should lift away and the ribbon cable running from it to the motherboard should be able to be disconnected.

Carefully disconnect any visible cables that seem to run to the upper part of the main chassis, noting the orientation and location each one plugs in to.

Lift the top of the main chassis away from the bottom section. Look between the two sections of main chassis to ensure that there are no remaining cables connecting the two together. If there are, disconnect them and then lift the top section away from the bottom completely. In this case, it is best to keep the top section of the main chassis upside down and the bottom section upright.

Left Hinge Right Hinge

At this stage, internal drives such as the CD-ROM and floppy disk drives can often be removed. In most cases these are held down by a few screws and are connected with a single ribbon cable. Once the screws are removed and the ribbon cable disconnected the drive is able to be slid out of the rest of the chassis.

As previously mentioned, to access the hinges the upper section of main chassis (including the screen) has to be completely disassembled to get to the points where the hinges are attached to the case. The entire section must be disassembled due to the fact that the hinges have to be mounted directly on a strong section of the chassis, as quite a lot of pressure is put on the hinges and mounting points when opening and closing the lid. The ease of access to these points is highly dependant on the model and brand of laptop, as some laptops have speakers and other devices mounted next to or on top of the hinge mounting points.

To remove and replace the hinges, first disassemble the main chassis, then the screen. As always, care should be taken to prevent damage to the cable bundle running between the screen and motherboard. When installing new hinges, make sure that each hinge is on the correct side of the screen, as right and left hand hinges are not interchangeable. Once installed, make sure that all mounting screws are done up tightly. If they are loose cracks could develop in the chassis, or the screen could be wobbly and unstable. Loose mounting point screws will also reduce the lifetime of the hinges.

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