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ILoveMicrosoft
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Member Since: ‎02-17-2013
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Repairing laptops that won't boot and show the blinking caps

[ Edited ]

Here's a little tutorial for all of you who have this annoying issue. It mostly applies to the 1 blink code (other codes have much simpler and straightforward solutions).

 

Ok, so the code says that it's caused because of a not functional CPU. That is most likely not the case. Most people who had the 1 blink code actually had a problem with the integrated video graphics card or northbridge of their laptops, not the CPU (in fact, CPU failures are quite uncommon). The problem is that these chips overheat quite often, they don't have good cooling and dissipation systems (most of the time, it is shared with the CPU which is absolutely insane), and the solder connections are of very bad quality. So with overheating, solder points start fracturing or cracking and they stop making contact, which causes all these issues, including the infamous RRoD and YLoD issues in the Xbox and Playstation consoles with their soldered video chips.

So there are two main ways of dealing with this:

 

1 - Reflow

This is a short-term but easy solution that simply consists of reheating the damaged component to the point of getting rid of said fractures. It has a high success rate, as many people will tell you. It worked for me always, but again, after some time the issue may come back. Still, this is a very simple solution that doesn't require too much skill or equipment and is satisfying enough for most users. This is what I'm going to show how to do in this tutorial.

 

2 - Reball

Reflowing doesn't always work, and when it does, it doesn't last long. Instead, reballing is a permanent solution which consists of removing the chip in its entirety and replacing all the solder contacts. Reballing requires specific equipment (a reball station), reballing stencils and leaded solder balls. It is a long procedure, which requires some skill and it only should be performed by experienced people. When a reflow won't work, you are better off sending your laptop to a reballing technician, or buying a new one (which would be a waste, in my opinion).

 

Ok, so how can we do a reflow? There are many ways to do this:

1) Reheating your laptop: This is a simple as it sounds. Some people call it the "blanket" method, because you can just simply turn on your laptop, wrap it with a blanket or sweater and let it run until it shuts down because of overheating. I absolutely don't recommend doing this, as there are probably many working components (particularly the hard drive holding your data) that won't benefit from the overheating. I recommend disassembling the laptop and taking out all the good parts, like the hard drive, RAM sticks and any extra PCI-e cards installed. After that you can just simply unplug the cooling fan connector from the board then turn the laptop on. This will cause it to overheat faster, so you won't have to waste hours waiting for it to get hot (using the blanket method, it can take a lot of time). Most laptops will shutdown themselves after reaching a certain threshold temperature, if yours doesn't, well, just keep an eye on it so you can turn it off before it catches fire. After it turns off, let it rest and cool for at least an hour, then connect the cooling fan again, turn the laptop on and see if it boots. If it doesn't, well, you can keep trying this until it does (not recommended after 3 tries or so), or try the next methods.

 

2) The oven method: This a bit tricky, but it may be more successful in some cases. First, strip down your computer until you get to the bare board holding the video chip. Remove the CPU, heatsink & fan, RAM, BIOS battery, wires, speakers, stickers, plastic sticky guards, foam spacers, absolutely everything that can be removed from the motherboard. Then preheat your household oven to approximately 200°C or 385°F. If your oven does not have a digital temperature display, perhaps use an internal oven thermometer to make sure the oven is in the right temperature range. Roll up some kitchen foil into balls, between half an inch and an inch wide, and place them on a baking tray. Place your motherboard, with CPU socket and GPU facing upwards, on top of the foil balls. It is a good idea to wrap additional foil around the more sensitive parts of the motherboard, like areas where there are capacitors and the CPU socket.

Try to wrap the rest of the motherboard in foil to protect it, leaving just the GPU exposed on both the top and bottom of the motherboard. Then place the baking tray with the laptop motherboard on it into the preheated oven.

Make sure your kitchen is well ventilated at this stage, turn on the extractor fan to full power and/or open an outside door and windows. This will help to take away any fumes.  Ideally, you should leave the kitchen while any fumes are still present. A couple of times during the procedure, have a quick look through the oven door (without opening it) making sure there are no smoke or flames visible. This is unlikely to occur, but can happen if stickers were left on the motherboard. After 8 minutes, turn the oven off and open the oven door. Do not remove the motherboard from the oven at this stage, it could be very hot and it is a better idea to allow it to cool down gradually. Take care not to inhale any fumes that might be present. After 20 minutes to half an hour, remove the cool motherboard from the oven and begin rebuilding your laptop. If all has gone well, it will boot up and the problem will be fixed. If the problem remains, you could try the procedure again, leaving it in the oven for a couple of minutes longer.

After performing a reflow in an oven, I recommend cleaning the oven thoroughly, then turn it on and allow any fumes that may have built up to be completely removed.  This is especially important before cooking food in the oven again.

 

3) The heat gun method: Probably the best way to do a reflow, it is less destructive than the previous method (as you can focus on a single place, rather than overheating the entire board), but it may be worse than the first. The first step is to test out how well your heat gun will melt the solder. Place a chunk of solder on a coin, hold the heat gun one inch above it and record how long it takes the solder to flow. Once you have the timing right, mask off the motherboard (already removed from the case) so that just the chip in question is accessible. Reflow with the same spacing and timing as you did during the coin test.

 

Did it work?

If your laptop works now, then you can do a couple of extra things to avoid this problem in the future:

  • Avoid overheating by underclocking the CPU: You can run your laptop's CPU at a lower clock speed (it will run slower, BUT not as much as you think. Undercloking by a 50% doesn't mean your laptop will perform 50% slower). It not only protects your laptop from damaging over time, it has the added benefits of making it run *much* cooler and quieter and also having longer battery life, which is awesome as well. To do this, simply (in Windows 7 and up)  click the battery icon in your notification area, select More power options, then change the selected plan (like Balanced) settings (click on Change plan settings), select Change advanced power settings, scroll down and, under Processor power management, Maximum processor state, type on both 'On Battery' and 'Plugged in' a value less than 50%. Change Minimum processor state to 1% and then System cooling policy to Active.
  • Avoid playing heavy games and running intensive applications: Such programs very often cause the underpowered integrated graphics card and CPU to overheat, which causes all these issues. Use a desktop machine with dedicated graphics for such programs if you want your laptop to last.

 

Again, always take out the hard drive before any of these procedures if you don't wanna lose any data, and if you can, any other components that can get damaged in the way. Note that a reflow, particularly the oven or heat gun methods are usually last-ditch resorts because they can permanently damage your computer, in particular if performed incorrectly. DO IT AT YOUR OWN RISK. I can't be held responsible for any accidents or unwanted results that may occur after following this tutorial. If you have doubts, then you're generally better off sending your laptop to professional technicians than trying to repair these kind of issues by yourself. Unless a repair costs more than replacing your laptop, that is.

And before starting any of these procedures, try to research your issue on the Internet as much as you can. Search for your particular model, search in this exact same forum and any other as you'll be able to read about people experiencing this problem. You can search reflow on your favorite search engine and you'll find detailed tutorials and many videos which will show the procedure and help you do a better repair. Once you're very comfortable and knowledgeable with the subject, you can go ahead with the repair.
 :smileyhappy:

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Huffer
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Member Since: ‎11-12-2008
Message 2 of 2 (2,833 Views)

Re: Repairing laptops that won't boot and show the blinking caps

This is actually good stuff and well written but I hesitate to advise people to use either the "oven trick" or really even the heat gun method as both are notriously short-lived even if they appear effective. Your far better bet is to send the board in to one of the vendors on the internet who are set up to do a proper reball. Even those fixes are good for maybe 12-18 mos. But again, you get a high grade for spelling it out.

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