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HP Pavilion dv9000 NVIDIA Geforce Go 7600 - Fixed With Black Voodoo

09/05/2009 07:40 PM - Permalink

This article was posted as a continuation / update of the article posted here: http://jaybaldwin.com/Blog.aspx?id=125

Apparently the problem is with the solder joints.  I called HP and determined even if they cover the damage, because I am past 24 months, the replacement motherboard would only be discounted $150 so the cost of HP repair would be $250.   I googled the issue further and saw some advanced / expert users (a category I classify myself in) attempting some black voodoo.  I also googled and found replacement motherboards that I could use myself for $185 - so I knew I could try some manual repair techniques myself.

Me and another advanced / expert friend of mine (Jimi - deserves mention as a thanks for assisting me) removed the motherboard (a process that takes about an hour, and much patience.  We then removed any peripheral components from the motherboard, including any wires, ribbons, or expansion cards -- even the cooling unit and the CPU.  After the motherboard was all alone by itself, I placed a sheet of aluminum foil shiny side up on a cookie sheet, and I made 4 one centimeter balls of foil to use as legs for the motherboard.  I placed the motherboard on the cookie sheet and place the balls of foil under each corner to allow for there to be room on the underside of the motherboard.  I preheated my oven to 385 degrees Fahrenheit and when the temperature had risen to that, I put the cookie sheet with the motherboard on it into the oven for exactly 8 minutes.  During the "baking," we could definitely smell some burning plastic, which in fact did not encourage me all that much.  I also noticed the motherboard appeared to be bowing a little bit in the middle.

When the "baking" was finished, we loaded the motherboard back into the casing enough to plug things in and determine if it would fix the issue.  Neither of us expected it to even boot up (we were worried due to the smell of burned plastic).  To our surprise, the post screen had no red lines on it, and I began to get excited.  It booted all the way into Windows (I had previously removed the video drivers to make it somewhat usable), and I installed the drivers and rebooted.  Everything worked like it did the day I brought it home.

To be safe, we drove to my buddy's house (it was late and he had a very good CPU cooling compound to place under the heat sink).  We took it apart enough to get to those components again, scraped the old compound off the cooking unit and CPU (there was none on the GPU).  We applied the new compound to the CPU and GPU and replaced the cooling unit (fan).

We carefully put everything back together - a process that takes about 2 hours (harder to put back together than to take apart, and furthermore, much more complicated than doing the same in a desktop computer).

Everything is now running fine.

In case you're confused as to why baking the motherboard will help, let me explain.  The GPU and motherboard and other chips on the board are able to undergo an extreme amount of heat.  Why, then, does overheating break it?  Solder has the lowest melting point of anything on the motherboard.  Solder is the liquid compound that melds joints of important computer components together.  If the GPU overheats to a certain point, it will usually be non-damaging to the GPU itself, but it can sometimes melt the solder of certain joints around it and cause them to break certain connections.  Sometimes, if you can reheat the unit or component (in this case, the motherboard) with a heat gun or what I did -- the oven -- you can sometimes cause the solder to remelt, and flow back into its original position.  When the unit is in the oven, you have to be extremely careful not to nudge or bump it.  Solder melts into a similar consistency as water.  If the board is not flat it can potentially cause the solder to drip out of position, and you can cause more problems than you started with.  I figured, worse case, I have to pay $185 for a new motherboard that I can put together myself -- so I took the chance.  It was worth it, because it worked.

The process of remelting the solder to fix a connection break that was caused by overheating is referred to as reflowing or re-flowing.  I put the motherboard in at 385 F for 8 minutes.  Then I let it cool without touching it for about 20 minutes.

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