So my eight year old laptop finally bricked on me. Every time I booted up, I would get a screen full of DOS exclamation points and English gibberish. For example, if I did a boot-up in Safe Mode, the word “Continue” would be spelled “Cgottntminupe” and surrounded by DOS exclamation points all over the screen. I could see it was trying to say, “Continue” but obviously not something you want to try and use on a daily basis. I could only operate in Safe Mode with icons a blind person could see and I had no WiFi. It was a dud.
After several feeble attempts to save it using restore points and multiple variations of booting up, I used my iPad to go on the internet and look for possible causes, after all I just spent $150 on a replacement battery for this thing. Turns out the most common opinion was that the video card was done for. The reason most often cited was the cracking of the solder connections on the circuit board from the constant heating and cooling of the board as the computer goes between operating and being shut down. Eight years of expansion and contraction on the board finally cracked a solder terminal or two.
The solution for this was odd and fascinating at the same time – bake the video card in your oven. What?
I spent some time seeing if anyone else had done this successfully and there were some definite success stories on the internet. Since I had nothing to lose, I gave it a shot.
I Googled my exact make and model of laptop for instructions on how to take out the video card. Turns out that on my specific laptop, the video card is part of the motherboard, so I would have to bake the entire motherboard if I wanted to attempt this. I found a very well written blog complete with photos that explained in detail how to disassemble my entire laptop right down to the shell, but for the model number right above mine. “Ah well,” I thought…”close enough.”
There was only one step in the blog where what they were saying and what I was seeing were not matching up. I Googled how to remove this specific component that was different from the instructions for this exact model and a different website gave me the information I needed. It was a small variation, where the Blog told me to move a release lever out of the way before detaching some cables, the website said to just pull on the cables and they will come out, (i.e. there is no release lever on this model).
After removing the top cover, keyboard, hard drive, CD/DVD drive, fan, heat sinks, VGA adapters, two memory boards, the wireless card, disconnecting several wires and blocks, removing some assorted other cards and bits of electronics I have no idea the name of and finally the motherboard herself, there was nothing left in front of me but an empty plastic shell.
As per the instructions, I placed the motherboard on a cookie sheet supported by four small bits of aluminum foil rolled up into balls. I placed the sheet and board in my 400 degree Fahrenheit preheated oven and set the timer to 10 minutes.
Ten minutes later I took the cookie sheet and board out of the oven, and let it cool off outside. There were some strong fumes coming off of the board but aside from that, it looked to be in good shape.
After the board had cooled down, I set to work putting the laptop back together by simply reversing the order of what I had done. It went much faster and in about 45 minutes I had the computer back together again. As I plugged the power supply into the wall I winced ever so slightly anticipating a crack and sizzle from the computer but it never came. I then shielded my eyes from the inevitable explosion of plastic flak and flying screws as I depressed the power button…the lights flashed, there were some clicking sounds and amazingly the screen came to life with the start up screen as it booted.
Sadness came as a blue screen popped up in DOS. Then relief…it was the BIOS asking me to update the date and time. I updated the clock and continued the boot-up and low-and-behold, my laptop booted right up to my Welcome Screen and it was like nothing at all had happened. All programs were running normally, no exclamation points, no gibberish and I’m happy to say it’s been a month now of perfect operation.
Since I was prepared to spend another $800 or so on a replacement laptop, I can safely say that for a couple hours of my time, the price of 3″ of aluminum foil and ten minutes of natural gas I was able to save all that money and restore my laptop.
While I was in the guts of this beast anyway, I also cleaned the heat sinks and the fan which were completely blocked by packed-in dust bunnies. In fact, ever since I cleaned it and put the laptop back together, my fan rarely turns on, and when it does it’s always on low speed. Prior to this, it was on all the time, and always on high, which probably assisted in the demise of my video card.