Thursday, April 14, 2005

Capacitor Recapacitation

The other week, a lady from work shared the sad and unfortunate story of her faulty computer and the events surrounding its attempted repair - she is currently still waiting. Experiencing some problems with it randomly freezing up on her, she took it to her local computer shop. They concluded that some of its capacitors were faulty, bloated and leaking, and of course told her she needed to replace the whole motherboard. Somehow, mysteriously in the process, they came across a few more problems to add to the bill and in the end, managed, among other things, to completely erase her hard drive. Needless to say she is not too happy with them.

The freezing computer is a common annoyance for just about any computer user. When it started to happen quite frequently to a few of the computer at work, after eliminating any Windows defects as the cause and testing various hardware components, I figured it must be something to do with the motherboard. Upon closer inspection, I noticed a kind of brown corrosion leaking from the tops of the large capacitors on all three motherboards.

I googled around a bit and found a little story about a flawed stolen capacitor formula that was causing some problems in computers made a few years ago, expanding, leaking and even exploding. Jim said it would probably be an easy task of just replacing the eight troublesome capacitors, so we ordered them in and got to work today in fixing the boards.

Here are the steps we took, a little unsure if it would work, but surely worth a try:

1. Take the motherboard out of the case and put it on the desk.

2. Identify the offending capacitors and using a gas powered soldering iron on the soldered joins, remove the old capacitor from the board.

3. Remove any remaining solder if it is plugging the holes for the new capacitor, or use something sharp to push a hole through the solder.

4. Insert the new capacitor in place, bend back the wires on the other side of the board, solder to the board and trim wires.

5. Repeat for all incapacitated capacitors, return motherboard to case, then just hope everything went according to plan.

We only did one board today and I was a bit sceptical as to whether it would work. When we fired it up for the first time and all that was heard was one long beep and then three short ones and nothing else, I assumed the worst. While Jim was away trying to find out what the computer meant by that particular series of tones, I tried it once again, pushing the graphics card into place a little better and after that, to my surprise, the system seemed good as new.

The lady from work says she's going to bring her computer with her, the next time something goes wrong, assuming she ever gets it back from her computer store.

Incapacitated motherboard capacitors


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