Laptop Fixing Fail August 2, 2011

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Recently my dad’s laptop — an HP DV6 purchased just a year ago — started popping up random websites in Chrome, so I installed some spyware detection programs to try and fix it. They continued happening, so last night I tried installing windows anti-spyware program and also avast.

I also downloaded service pack 1 for windows 7. After doing some scans, avast found a suspicious program that was probably the cause of the problem. However, it also asked if I wanted to do a boot-time scan as well, and I chose to. During shut down, the service pack installed, and then hung on the “shutting down” part.

After looking it up online, people didn’t have any problems turning the computer off at that point and turning it on again, so I did.

Avast then began doing its boot-time scan. After running properly for some time, the display suddenly went black at about 1am. I thought something had gone wrong with the scan or service pack install, so I kept trying to reboot the computer to get it into safe mode.

However, the computer wouldn’t display anything at all most of the time. Only occasionally would anything display, and sometimes when it did it was a mess of pixels that scrolled up the screen — kinda like the matrix’s display except colorful and rotated.

I thought it was some kind of software problem that was keeping me from even reaching the BIOS. However, I finally got it to display after tens of reboots, and went into safe mode. In safe mode, it said that the service pack update hadn’t finished properly, and that I needed to keep the computer on while it reverted data that had been changed.

I decided to let it run, and left it on overnight as I went to sleep (it went black again after a little while).

When I woke up this morning seven hours later, the computer was off. When I tried to turn it on, it would power up for a second or two, then turn off again with a quiet beep.

In the beginning, I was able to get it to stay on a few times (sometimes by blowing into the laptop with canned air), but nothing showed up on the display.

I then spent pretty much the entire day working on fixing the laptop between posts on PetaPixel. After taking off most of the components I could (optical drive, disk, usb, display, etc…) and finding that the problem was still happening, I eventually came to realize that this was likely an issue with the GPU — something that apparently a ton of HP DV series customers have had issues with.

I found a disassembly guide for the DV6 online, then carefully took the entire laptop apart, removing the motherboard from the case.

A lot of people online were able to fix their problem by “reflowing” the motherboard, or heating up the solder to fix any cracks that had appeared over time and due to heat. Some people used a heat gun or large lamp to do the reflowing, but I didn’t have either. I then found that many people actually fixed the problem by baking their motherboards in the oven to do the reflow.

After buying some thermal paste from radio shack (and a couple burrito supremes for lunch), I baked the motherboard in the oven on top of some aluminum foil balls at 385 degrees for 8 minutes.

I then used a 1968 penny to help dissipate heat, attaching it to the GPU with thermal paste.

After testing the board, I found that the laptop did indeed start staying on. However, the display was still completely black.

I then attempted to reflow the GPU area using a clothes iron, and afterward found that the computer wouldn’t even power on as long as last night. The lights would flash for a split second before going dead again.

Even after a second over reflow, the laptop was still broken.

Since the issue is with the motherboard, I think I could fix the laptop by buying a replacement one off ebay, but they cost about $100-$200 each right now, and given the reputation of these boards, it doesn’t seem worth it to take the risk. It just stinks because all the other components of the laptop are fine and super new. 8GB of ram, the display works fine, and it was purchased for over $500 just a year ago.

In the end, I threw everything into a cardboard box, stuck the hard drive into an external enclosure so my dad can access his files, and bought a desktop computer off newegg. I don’t think I’m ever going to buy another HP.

Was a pretty stressful day.