Ghetto electronics repair


After hearing that his video card might be repairable by heating it up to reflow it, this user did just that. He stripped it down and tossed it in his oven. It’s amazing how often this type of hackish repair works. We’ve heard of people using candles on ibooks, tossing video cards in oven,s and wrapping an xbox 360 in a towel and running it for 30 minutes to get it hot enough to reflow itself. Why even bother with controlled temperatures and exact measurements? What other crazy fixes have you had to employ? We had a Playstation that only worked upside down.

[via engadget]

190 thoughts on “Ghetto electronics repair

  1. My sister has a laptop which was random rebooting.
    After a full hour inspecting the motherboard circuitry, I found a detached SMD resistor.
    I simply soldered it again into place.

    I doubt putting the motherboard inside the oven would work because the SMD resistor was actually a little out of its place.

  2. my 360 gave me the whole red rings o death, i punted that pos a couple of feet(no longer covered in warranty) gave it a good ol pimp hand slappin, pushed on, and it came to life again. strange thing is it never did it again. but now i know about the towel thing, i might do that next in conjunction with my pimp hand technique.

  3. @EFOX I mostly agree, apart from the reflow bit
    when a 360 is ‘fixed’ with the towel method, it doesn’t reach above 100C before the thermal protection of the 360 kicks in. 100c is no where near enough to re-flow solder, which melts at above 250c.
    all its really doing is creating enough flex to re join the pads for a while. and creating more damage to the components. the towel fix rarely lasts more than a few hours of playing.
    a better way is to wrap up all the capacitors in some heat insulator (to stop them from overheating) and put the motherboard in the oven. or use a heatgun concentrated on the gpu area.
    thats a tried and true method, thousands of 360’s have been fixed with it.

  4. Back in the day, we had an electronics lab full of 286s with hard drives that would stick on boot up. A 1″ hole in the side of the case allowed a well timed whack to the HD with a nut driver. This kept us going for over a year until the school could replace the machines.

  5. If you have a 4th gen iPod with a sad face, take the back off and put half of a business card folded in two between the case and the hard drive. Also clean the contacts of the ribbon cable with an eraser. Works on almost all of the iPods I have tried (except the one dropped out of a 4 story window).

    Find some like this on craigslist for $20, fix and sell for $50.

  6. Also, I once had to dive for an iPod nano 3rd gen in a lake, it was about 15 feet down. After 20 minutes of looking, I find it, open it up, dry it out with a hair dryer and sock, waited a day, plugged it in, and it worked fine.

  7. circuit boards are often rinsed with water during manufacturing to remove flux residues. i have cleaned several motherboards with the garden hose followed by a rinse in distilled water and a few days in a warm place to dry off. i suspect the reason half the motherboards don’t make it through the dishwasher is that they were broken in some way that washing couldn’t fix. the dishwasher is also pretty aggressive.

  8. several years ago i got a really nice playstation 2 controller. it had macros buttons, rubberized grip and was pretty big which fits my hands nicely (i can’t use mini controllers). anyway we had kittens at the time and they chewed the cords. I plugged in the controller and it would sorta work. I finally found that it would work perfectly if the cord was bent at a sharp angle and then held along the side of the controller. A half role of electrical tape later and it still works today :) of course now the cord comes out the bottom of the left side of the controller. i could porbably open it up and fix it but i mostly just play my 360 and wii

  9. btw nick show that 360 whos the boss!!! its amazing how often electronics responds to physical violence. i used to regularly smack computers that didn’t work. most even seem to respond to verbal threats lol

  10. I once took my broken phone to a certain UK high-street phone retailer and they told me it was “beoynd economic repair” as it was “water damaged” after about a 2-hour wait.

    I walked out of the shop, turned it on and it worked. They really do know f**k all. I’m sure it was all about having phone insurance. bloody cowboys.

  11. Sony DSC-series digital cameras are reknowned for the “E61-turn power off and on again” error, which is usually down to the lens cover gears getting crunged up. They are tiny, plastic, and driven by a tiny motor producing bugger all torque – the slightest bit of dust in the gearing causes them to jam.

    A common fix for this is “turn it off, slap the hell out of the camera, then turn it on again”.

    This works, but is liable to bugger up the focus and zoom motors – a better solution is to take the front case off, remove the lens cover assembly entirely, short the “cover open” sensor, and put it all back together. The lens cover can be replaced by gluing part of a 35mm film canister to the front of the camera, and using the canister lid to seal the lens assembly when the camera’s not in use.

    I bought 2 busted DSC-600s for 15€ total including shipping from fleabay, fixed them this way, and use them as “disposable” cameras for snowboarding, rockclimbing and other “hazardous” activities. I had one of them taped onto the top of my ice hockey helmet for a match once…

  12. The freezer trick on hard drives works longer if you wrap the hard drive in a “cold sleeve” for medical uses. It’s basically a cold gel pack you freeze.

    I can get 30 minutes that way.

    I had a laptop that you had to spin when you powered it up to get the drive to spin up. I also had to open it every 6 months to put a drop of silicone oil on the center of the HDD spindle shaft.

    20 meg laptop hard drives were not only rare then but insane priced Plus I refusedto go back to using the 2 inch” special floppys it had.

    Zenith minisports were cool as hell, but man they were a PITA in special parts. I was lucky and sent a Minisport HD with the Massive 20 meg hard drive accidentially instead of the Minisport I bought. I kept quiet :->

  13. I fixed an old Creative Zen mp3 player with a stuck hard drive and a loose audio jack. I disassembled the whole thing, removed the hard drive, and slammed it as hard as I could against a desk. BAM! Fixed. As for the audio jack, I folded a thick square of paper up and propped it between the interior of the jack and some metal casing on the inside. When the battery stopped holding a charge, I gave up on the piece of garbage and got a SanDisk Sansa.

  14. A few weeks ago my friend bought a new CPU for his 775 socket. after he put it in and it didn’t work he brought it to me. it turned out to be DOA, but when he put his other CPU back in it didn’t work either. long story short i found out he was missing a pin on the socket. I managed to fix it by making a new pin out of a piece of stripped twisty tie from a loaf of bread. The funny part was, he said it worked better than it ever had before. (ran 20c cooler)

  15. I put my xbox360 in the oven after applying pennies to the motherboard to fix the shoddy factory heat sinks. I to this day haven’t seen a red ring.

    I have also used rice on phones that have been submerged in water. I’ve had pretty good success with that. As long as voltage was not applied to the phone while it was wet, it seems to do well.

  16. Back in the day, my family used to have a VCR with some slightly broken mechanical components. It played tapes just fine but would eject them immediately if the tape wasn’t pressed down manually while inside. Fortunately we had a hatchet just small (and heavy) enough to fit inside the opening and rest on top of the tape. So every time we watched a tape we had to put the hatchet inside the VCR to press the tape down. It worked for years!

  17. The old Rio Riots seemed to have a regular problem where the HDD would stick, which required you to crack it against the edge of a table in an exact spot at an exact angle to fix.

    Surprisingly the HDD kept going longer than the screen which ended up ‘barcoded’ after a year.

    Ghetto solutions to technical problems are the best. My first laptop was a bag of crap that I had to hold together with duct tape, smack the keyboard in *just* the right place to get it to boot, wiggle the power adaptor until it was at an exact angle for it to charge and all sorts.

  18. I know there’s so many posts already that nobody will get a chance to read this. I had to test a rs232 port on a computer in the field, so to create a loop back connection, I bent up a small paperclip and cut two small bits off an ink pen’s ink tube and used those to couple the paperclip to the serial pins.

    also, I had a crt that would show screwy colors randomly, but a good punch to the glass sorted everything out.

  19. TV Remotes are the worst offenders when it comes to liquids being spilled on them (Mr Beer, I’m looking at you!). Open it up, get some washing up liquid and using a combination of a toothbrush and a washing up sponge, give the whole thing a good clean – don’t forget to give the button contacts on the PCB a good scrub! Rinse well in running warm water and use a hair-dryer to dry out all components. Get the PCB to a good temperature so be sure all moisture has been evaporated.

    Put it back together and job done!

    Washing up liquid and a hairdryer are a repairman’s best friend!

  20. I worked at an electronic salvage yard, I used to rob really dead motherboards of their capacitors and verify they were still good with a cap tester and fix other boards that just needed new caps on the voltage regulation circuit etc… (around processor.) Worked like a charm 90% of the time. (after a 24 hour burn in they still functioned correctly.)

  21. When I worked in a data center we had one machine that never worked right. It was a 4U rackmount, and when you actually mounted it in the rack, it wouldn’t turn on. If you unmounted it and put it on its side, it would work perfectly. We changed out EVERYTHING on that machine. Powersupply, board, proc, rewired it, even changed the damn case. Tried different racks even. Nothing. As far as I know they ended up upgrading the guy to a Dell server just so we could get the space back on the rack.

  22. A few years ago I had a motherboard that would only work when not screwed into a case. This motherboard was my best mb at the time, so it just sat on a wooden block and would do it’s thing.

    I had a laptop that had a crappy video to video card interface and would periodically loosen the connector ribbon. So I would take it apart (the whole thing had to come apart), pull out the connector ribbon, and then reconnect it.

    I have a desktop that I currently run, that for some reason will only work with a CDROM connected to the first IDE port as a master. Otherwise none of the other hard drives are recognized.

  23. i’m not a spec in electronics, but i have one good job done.
    when the 300mAh battery of my old mp3 player died, i changed it to 5800mAh and everything worked.
    now the player looks like crap, but can play music for 5 to 6 days non-stop.

  24. Towel trick for the 360 is worthless. You are doing more damage than good. You only want to heat the parts that need repair (usually CPU/GPU). The towel trick heats EVERYTHING and can severely damage other unintended parts. The best solution is to take the thing apart and heat the CPU/GPU only by removing the fan and letting it overheat (just until the overheat error shows up). As long as you replaced the xclamps and have even pressure on the dies, 9 times out of 10 it worked. I had a box that worked for over two years before it completely went bad on me using that method.

  25. I once had a desktop that wouldn’t pull power right and the motherboard had leaked capacitors on it. I could get it to run by switching the voltage on the PS while powering on, it was a bit of a hassle but it gave me six more months.

  26. I worked for a small startup doing touchup&clip and QC eons ago, and until their order for dedicated board washing machines came in, we had a row of half a dozen dishwashers.Bye-bye mister flux and all that sickening pink masking, no problem.

  27. When I worked support for a desktop manufacturer years ago, we would tell people on the phone to pick their PC up two inches and then drop it. This was called a ‘Technical Drop’.

  28. @Skitchin: haha that reminds me of the time I hit a CRT monitor so hard it needed to run its degaussing function to get the colours back to normal!

    When I got my first Amiga, a 1500, I needed a 25-way D connection cable for an external SCSI drive, couldn’t afford the extorionate price of a shop-bought cable so I found out the pinout of SCSI 50-way connectors and proceeded to make my own by stripping the necessary 25 individual wires of a SCSI 50-way ribbon cable and soldering them to a 25-way D plug. Worked like a charm first time and lasted for many years.

    The lithium-polymer battery in my Archos AV500 wouldn’t hold *any* charge, so recently I took one of the lithium-polymer batteries from my iRiver H140 spares (once bought several dead ones to make a few good ones) and swapped the battery over, soldered just the battery into the dead batterys charge control circuit. It lives again! and saved me a pile of money :)
    Weirdly one of the faulty iRiver H140 motherboards would only work when it was upside, turn it over or shake it and the thing would freeze (music stopped, LCD screen not changing) until it was reset – never did figure out how to fix that despite many attempts.

    BTW, keep the replies flooding in, I’m thoroughly enjoying reading everone’s problem solving anecdotes :)

  29. broken ribbon cable.
    punched 2 little holes with a needle and run through tiny copper wires held in place with tape to bypass the interruption.
    now my old vaio’s only usb port works again.

  30. @Nick
    Show that xBox who’s boss, don’t let it quit on you like that.

    My dad’s old phone dropped to the bottom of a 12 foot pool when he was cleaning it. He let it dry for 2 days and it worked. A few months later, the same phone went through the washing machine, and all it needed then was a new battery.

    There was a 15″ LCD by the dumpster at work, the thing wasn’t powering on. Took it home with me and stripped the power button out, tapped the bare wires together and BAM! green light and video.

    I’ve also used hot glue when I was too lazy to solder.

  31. Acetone is most usefull to drive moisture and water away form pcb. It is safe for pcb and all SMD components, but be careful, it will fog clear plastics, and will eat many other. Just spill some on to the pcb, brush away with toothbrush, repeat several times, and then shake excess acetone away. Acetone evaporates easy, and an hair-dryer can make pcb workable in 30 minutes. Don’t overheat pcb, if you can touch it with the fingers and keep your fingers on it it is hot enough.

    I have been using an hair-dryer to heat PC pcbs enough to be able to unsolder leaked capacitors with wimpy 20W soldering iron. I have replaced leaked capacitors on more than 30 PC main boards with 100% sucess.

    You can test capacitors without expensive cap tester. Just measure the leakage current at voltage close to rated. An variable voltage power supply, an resistor and an voltmeter is all you need. My PC uses an motherboard more than 8 years old with fifth set of capacitors around CPU.

  32. Oh I know. A power outage killed one of my servers. It killed one of the drives, and the power supply. Unfortunetly I didn’t have a power supply that was rated high enough for the server. With 4 drives it need 350+ watts. So I used two 300 watt power supplies and it worked. Two drives on one, two on the other and the system.
    It was a little tricky to get it to start, but it worked for 5 months or so.
    My network printer locks up occasionally. Usually a reboot will reinitialize it enough to get it to print.

  33. my laptop’s cooling fan was making noise so i took out the big copper heatsink it was attached to and cleaned it off as i was putting it back in the laptop i realized it wasn’t making contact with the embedded gpu so i folded up a piece of aluminum foil and stuck it in there

  34. My Acer aspire has a loose screw securing the power switch. The switch itself is amazingly convenient as a key chain, and oddly that’s what I use it for when it’s not in the computer.

  35. I don’t have a particular fix – but I work at a company that does repairs on motherboards, printers, screens etc. We use a bga reflow machine (I’m sure it was a pretty penny) for replacing / reconnecting chips.

    Also – to chime in with the water comment – we use water on just about all circuit board cleanings. We use distilled water that is run through a steamer machine and we actually clean with the steam. No trace elements and it dries pretty quick too. Great for cleaning up spills.

  36. I had the opposite problem: Too good of a soldering job. My wife’s Dell laptop, like most 3-5 year old laptops, had a flaky power connector. Unfortunately, the only soldering iron I could find to replace it with was a decade-old radioshack cheapie. It couldn’t get up enough heat to de-solder the power connector because of its (relatively) thick housing acting as a heat sink.

    Eventually I had to resort to play “D.” As in a “Dremel” with a “diamond-tipped cutting blade.” Even then the traces in the board where too thick for four of the pins, and they too had to be dremeled out with a very narrow bore. I have to say the whole idea of taking a dremel to a motherboard didn’t sit well with me at first, but it did actually work, and power cords once again fit snug and secure.

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