What is a reflow? (Laptop Repair)

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Dougx1317

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I have a broken HP laptop. The screen is blank, but the lights come on. It does not work with and external monitor. A guy said that I need a reflow. What is a reflow? Can I do it myself?
 

frozenlead

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Basically, reflow soldering (on your end...it's actually a manufacturing term) re-solders all the points on your board. It's difficult to do by hand, and there are ways to do it with real tools - however, you can accomplish a cheap way by stripping your motherboard and sticking it in an oven, very similar to the procedure commonly done to dead GPUs.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reflow_soldering

Here's a neato way to make a surface-mount iron, which you can use to heat small points to reflow certain places or smaller boards. It would take a while to do so on a motherboard.
http://www.engadget.com/2006/03/07/how-to-make-a-surface-mount-soldering-iron/
 

frozenlead

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Basically, reflow soldering (on your end...it's actually a manufacturing term) re-solders all the points on your board. It's difficult to do by hand, and there are ways to do it with real tools - however, you can accomplish a cheap way by stripping your motherboard and sticking it in an oven, very similar to the procedure commonly done to dead GPUs.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reflow_soldering

Here's a neato way to make a surface-mount iron, which you can use to heat small points to reflow certain places or smaller boards. It would take a while to do so on a motherboard.
http://www.engadget.com/2006/03/07/how-to-make-a-surface-mount-soldering-iron/
 

Dougx1317

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I've got solder, a solder gun, and a kitchen over. Is the idea that it reheats old solder or do I need to apply new solder? Would you suggest trying this myself or paying $100?
 

frozenlead

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The idea is that it reheats the solder. The theory is that fractures form inside the solder points on boards, which causes instability. By reflowing the solder, you get rid of the fractures, and sometimes you can bring apparently dead parts back to life.

If you've found your board to be dead, it can't really be in any worse condition. I wouldn't pay $100 for someone to take a dead part and try and fix it, with no guarantee that it'll actually work. All you've gotta do is strip it down and put it in the oven.
 

jsc

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If you have a soldering gun (one of those gun-shaped things that uses a copper loop for a heating element and makes a humming sound when you pull the trigger), as opposed to a soldering iron, do not use it on your motherboard.

They use the shorted turn of a transformer to generate heat, so they are not antistatic.
 

Dougx1317

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I think what I have is a soldering iron. It looks like a flat-head screwdriver. Will it hurt my motherboard to use this?

The guy says that I'll pay $100 for him to fix (reflow) my motherboard, but I won't pay anything unless he gets it working. My problem is that it's an older laptop (see below). I'm not sure if the value of the laptop would increase $100 after this procedure.

HP DV2315nr: http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/document?docname=c00858746&lc=en&cc=us&dlc=es&product=3370091

Would it be possible to perform this repair in a normal oven, or are special tools needed? Are there any guides in terms of temperatures and stuff?
 

frozenlead

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A soldering iron shouldn't hurt the board, but there's far too many connections for it to be practical to use.

It's really up to you. Is $100 worth your old notebook back? Keep in mind that it may break again in the future. To me, for an old notebook like that, I'd get a new one, back up all my documents, and then attempt to fix the thing myself. It's already broken...so you can't exactly worry about breaking it.

There's limited information available on the procedure concerning motherboards since most people use a graphics card with it...but I don't see why it wouldn't work for a motherboard, and I've heard of it being done before. Most people do it on Xbox 360 motherboards since they've got a high rate of death.

Anyway, the prescribed solution is 6-8 minutes in an oven at 385F, then letting it cool. The board is supposed to be put on a pan and supported with aluminum foil balls so the board doesn't touch the metal.

I've tried this once with an AGP X1650XT, but it didn't fix it. Some of the electrolytic capacitors on the board got bloated, so I'm considering replacing them (which is easy to do). Your board should mostly have solid caps since it's in a notebook, but it's good to check anyway.
 

Dougx1317

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I think I'll try to fix it myself. It doesn't make sense to pay a stranger $100 to use his oven. I also don't know if it's even worth $100. I'll try the method you described. After all, the laptop can't function less than it does now.

I assume that I need to remove all of the heatsinks, processor, RAM, ect? Should I watch it, or is there anyway to know if it's done? Should I put it in the oven cold and preheat up to 385F, or should I just stick it in at 385F?

I found this guide to reflow a GPU on an IBM motherboard. They're only reflowing the GPU and have used a heatgun. The part that I thought was worth noting is that they only went up to 230C or 446F, and that they recommend slowly heating and cooling it.

http://forum.thinkpads.com/viewtopic.php?p=386104
 

frozenlead

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You should remove the heatsinks, processor, memory, add on cards, cabling, insulation, everything from the board. I've never seen anyone stick the board in the oven in cold - every guide and thread I read they've all preheated to 385F.

If you want to go through buying a heatgun, you can probably try the IBM guide on your GPU too (considering that most of the time, the GPU is at fault). 230C seems a bit hot to me, but I've seen people recommend 450F for 4-5 minutes when doing oven reflows. I've tried it once (without success) after a 385F reflow on my GPU I mentioned before. It didn't melt any of the components, again, just bloated some capacitors.

Weigh in buying a heatgun. If you think it's worth it, get one, do your GPU only, see if it works, and if not, you can always resort to sticking her in the oven. The beautiful thing about broken parts is just that. They're broken. No harm done if in attempting to fix it you fail.

About cooling - most people take the board right out of the oven and set it on the counter to cool, but I wouldn't. Like the IBM guide says, solder is pretty fragile when liquefied, and moving it about isn't a good idea. I just open the oven door a bit and let it sit for a while.
 

Dougx1317

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The reflow was a success. The laptop is now working perfectly. I broke one hinge and some plastic, so I can't get it completely reassembled. But at least it works and I can find some use for it. Thank you so much. This makes me want to look through some old video cards I have.
 

Dougx1317

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I put the motherboard on balls of foil and put it in the oven for 8 minutes at 385F. I'm amazed that it actually worked. I half expected the whole board to melt.
 

Carlow_Pete

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Hi guys!

I have a HP Pavillion DV6331, like many of these series of lappies I have the black screen problem (one long beep on start up and two short beeps, telling me I have a video card problem).

So I had a look about and seen the heat gun method of re-flowing the GPU, but thought it looked a little sloppy, unless you have a thermometer etc. The oven method however looks interesting and more controlled! Thing is, and I'm a computer noob in a way :p I have the lappy stripped right down, the motherboard is bare of all wires, comeponents etc (basically anything that could come off is off.............there was some black square things that came off after I hit them with a hammer, but, thats fine! haha, joking!! :D)

Anyway, what about all those connection points, the docks for the RAM etc, they look like plastic, or a material that'd melt when put in high temps?! Should I be concerned about this, or will it be fine? Do I have to cover anything before a pip it in the oven, and, more importantly, will it stink out the oven?!

Many thanks for any help guys!! :)

P
 

Dougx1317

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There was some black plastic that started to peel up, but it was unnecessary. I didn't see any bulging capacitors. My kitchen smelled like solder, so I guess it was hot enough.

Pete: My motherboard with all of the RAM slots ect survived the oven. I think the most difficult part of the process was reassembling the laptop. The oven and kitchen smelled like solder (bad), but it went away pretty fast. I can't guarantee that the oven will work for you, since I'm amazed it worked for me. But as frozenlead said, you can't do any harm to it.
 

Carlow_Pete

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Thanks for the quick reply dougx1317! I'm going to give the oven method a go, as you say, I have nothing to lose really.

However, I'm a little concerned after doing further reading that reflowing isnt a long term solution and may only last a couple of months! Bloody HP's, last time I'll be buying from them!

Cheers! ;)
 

spshlfx

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i have a video card on my dell 9400 im am getting ready to do this to. which way up. and did you leave it in the oven or remove.
 

Dougx1317

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My laptop motherboard had stuff on both sides, so there was really no distinction for me. I left it in the oven for 8 minutes, then I opened the door to let it cool slowly.
 

Carlow_Pete

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I put it sort of, 'main side' up, ie the side with the big NVIDIA chip on it and the base for the CPU etc.

Put it in last night 195c (385f) for 8mins, have to get a new thermal pad for the processor now and hopefully get her back together and se if she works by this evening.
 

Carlow_Pete

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Good news!!

Reassembled laptop (had a couple of screws left over :??: ) anyway, nervously flipped her over, inserted power cable, hit power button, and.........she worked!!!!!!!! :D :pt1cable:


Bad news!!

The speakers seem to be making this constant loud cracking sound, even if I plug in headphones, put the sound on mute it still makes it.
 
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