Saturday, January 13, 2018

Computer repair?

I have been using my laptop quite a lot the past couple of years, and some time ago it developed an annoying glitch. The screen would flicker, get slightly pixelated, and then change colors to an almost negative.

This was annoying, to put it mildly.

What was even more annoying was that any movement could trigger it. I could be typing furiously and suddenly the screen would flicker. I found that I could tap the side or top of the screen to "fix" it, but found I was hitting my poor computer more and more. In fact, recently, it would take five minutes of adjusting the angle the screen was at and tapping the side until it snapped into a clear resolution. Then, after a few minutes of computing, it would start flickering again. It was driving me crazy.

I used to build my own computers, but since I switched pretty much exclusively to laptops, I haven't opened a computer. I knew laptops are crammed together more tightly and thus considerably more difficult to put back together, so I didn't mess with them. Until now, I haven't had a good reason to try. But we're broke - more than broke - and so a new computer or a proper repair by a qualified tech are not really options.

So this afternoon I prepared myself for possible utter failure, watched several YouTube videos, and cracked open my laptop. Thanks to the videos, I knew there are more than a dozen screws on the bottom of this machine, holding the keyboard to the rest of the computer. However, this computer is really easy to open once those screws are removed. So I got to work, carefully pulling each one out. But I got to two of them that just would not cooperate. They seemed to be stripped already. The machine is refurbished, so I suspected I may have gotten it that way.

With all but two of the screws out, and those two absolutely refusing to be removed, I decided to remove the keyboard and hope for the best. To my astonishment, it wasn't really hard at all. The only bit that didn't want to pull up is the area that my left hand rests on when I play my game. I guess being pushed down ALL the time made it more difficult to remove.

As I suspected, the two screws were stripped and would never have come out. I debated briefly on whether or not I wanted to remove them, and finally left them in. They aren't in the way. The keyboard itself had only three connectors to the motherboard - the keyboard, the touchpad and the keyboard lights. Easy to remove. I carefully noted where each one went, and removed the keyboard completely.

Whoa, everything is really packed tight in a laptop. However, there was a little bit of wasted space, and little baby dust bunnies had formed in some of that space. A blast from canned air removed the offenders.

I then spent the next few minutes attempting to figure out what was loose that was causing the flickering. I couldn't find anything. So I turned the computer on, crossing my fingers that I wouldn't damage it by doing so, and then messed with the cables, trying to duplicate the flickering. But it all seemed completely stable, so I finally shut the computer down, reattached the keyboard and sealed it back up.

Then I went upstairs to write a bit. And about five minutes into writing... the screen started to flicker again. Angry now, I took the thing apart again. Again, no obvious issues. All the cables are secure. All the connections are clean. Instead of sealing it this time, I snapped the keyboard back into place and decided to use it for awhile without all the screws in place. I'm hoping that if the problem occurs again, I can simply snap the keyboard out and troubleshoot.

Still, for the moment I've got a working machine, and I know what to do to temporarily fix it. I wonder if the cable itself is bad? And how do I determine which cable is the problem and how to fix it? *sigh*