Computer, well done

You know how we make fun of the accuracy of information found on the web?  Recently I got caught up in a thing that ultimately surprised me while increasing my appreciation for people out there with too much time on their hands.

My Macbook Pro (2008 model) just conked out on me one evening.  One minute it was working, the next – dead.  I tried all the reset procedures I could find online but nothing seemed to give it the urge to recover.  Finally took it to the Genius Bar at the local Apple store and a really nice young lady ran it through some of their diagnostics and offered an answer.  The logic board is probably gone.  That was the bad news; the good news is the hard drive was intact and operating, and she showed me a way to off-load all my data to an external drive without having the logic board actually function.

So, I have my data but a non-operational laptop.  Do I buy a new one (well, a newer refurbished one), get this one fixed (expensive) or just give up having a laptop (my photo processing done in my Mac Pro desktop)?  I decided to browse some sites to see how other people dealt with this quandary.

The consensus seemed to be bake the logic board in an oven.

Yes, the first site where I read that was met with chuckles.  Then it started showing up on other sites, actual Mac sites I respect.  And it seemed several people had performed this culinary/computer operation with success.  And there were a couple of really nice descriptions (with pictures!) of how to disassemble this model Macbook Pro in order to remove the logic board.  Who knew people were taking their laptops apart and bragging about it online?

Really, what did I have to lose?  I’ve always enjoyed seeing what’s inside stuff and it might just fix my problem.

Which it did.  Yes, I now have a recovered Macbook that runs just like it did before.  Crazy, I know, but one explanation seems to make sense.

Laptops go through significant thermal cycles, with the innards getting hot, then cooling down, then getting hot again.  Those little fans you hear running apparently don’t actually move enough air to cool down the insides, just enough to keep it from setting your lap on fire.  As a result of all this thermal cycling (and tossing the laptop around from desk to backpack to countertop, etc.) the solder joints on the chips can get brittle and actually separate.  With this the chips lose connection to important parts of the computer and it just shuts down.  Yeah, that sort of sounds like it makes sense.  But what about the baking thing?

Putting the logic board in an oven for a brief time softens the solder just enough to fill in any cracks interfering with the connection and returns it to a more flexible state.  The key is apparently exposing it to just enough heat to soften the solder and then letting it cool undisturbed so the solder solidifies in place without spreading between connections and causing a short-circuit.

So, it works and I add my happy voice to all those other brave souls who have dismantled their Macbooks and baked the insides.

One caveat mentioned is this fix probably won’t last forever, meaning another baking session or complete breakdown of the board.  Still, I’m getting a little more life out of it and I’ve learned one of those cool internet things – one you simply have to try to believe.

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