Garage

Motherboard for Lunch

We had an extraordinary experience last week, probably one of the best in recent times – we tried to resurrect a dead laptop by baking its motherboard in the oven at 200°C.

The extensive everyday usage of laptops tempts us to play with unconventional maintenance methods sometimes. From sloppy water pouring to hairdryer drying, from overheating to deep freezer cooling, from sticky keyboard spilled with Coca-Cola to complete bathtub washing. In fact, every described incident has happened to one single laptop – the protagonist. However, the most recent one occurred last week when we baked its motherboard in the oven at 200°C. And yes, the oven is those same one where we make pizza.

Pain in the Neck

After 4 years of usage, our protagonist stopped working as a result of the graphical chip failure. The symptoms manifested some strange vertical red lines across the screen with distorted graphics during boot-time, preventing the OS to start. After we had contacted manufacturer support, we were advised to return the laptop back to factory because of a well-known problem. However, we didn’t have much time to send it back due to complicated shipping procedures, so we put another two options on plate:

  • to buy a new laptop,
  • to try fix the old one by our own

We gave priority to the second option because DIY excitement was much bigger than the risk. The laptop was almost dead, so we didn’t mind experimenting a bit.

Actual Problem

The graphical chip have dozens of solder connection points to the motherboard, all it takes is one hairline crack to cause malfunction of the chip. Many times in newer laptops, the heat generated causes the solder to get close to its melting point causing these hairline cracks, also known as micro fractures in the solder joints. With a little knowledge in physics and a short research, we found very interesting method to fix these sensitive micro fragments. The method is called "reflow" where the chip on the motherboard is heated under Highly Regulated circumstances for a pre-determined amount of time at a critical temperature. The objective is to "reflow" the solder from the chip to the board via BGA (Ball Grid Array) points on the chip. The question is how to heat the joints to that temperature?
Actually, there are few methods, some of them are sophisticated, some of them are plain, however the simplest and most fun is the "motherboard for lunch" method (as we call it), that requires literally baking the motherboard in the oven. Are we kidding? – NO!

The Recipe

Below are given the exact steps of how we cooked the motherboard. We took a few shots as a memo though.

  • Carefully disassembled all laptop components, connectors, cables
  • Removed the motherboard
  • Removed all parts from it: CPU, Bluetooth modules, CMOS battery, plastic parts and caps
  • Cleaned up the CPU and GPU from the thermal paste residues

  • Turned on the oven to pre-heat at 200°C (392°F)
  • Made 4 improvised aluminum ball legs to hold the motherboard lifted
  • Foiled up the baking tray, with aluminium cooking foil
  • Put the motherboard in the tray

It’s cooking time!

  • The baking took exactly 7 minutes and 45 seconds. After the 6th minute, we felt heavy smell of solder. It was a good sign, something was melting :)
  • Left the motherboard to cool down slowly for approximate 30min
  • Reapplied new thermal paste
  • Reassembled all other components
  • Pushed the power button

The Taste

It smelled like Sheldon’s Bazinga, but actually was Eureka!
The laptop was fully functional with no sign of the issue at all. We are smiling while writing this blog post on that same machine and probably going to smile again and again every time we retell this story. Almost forgot – this was the second successful baking, after one which happened 12 months ago! How long it will last I don’t know, but it seems this laptop wants to be cooked. After all it doesn’t cost a thing, only 8 minutes in the oven, right?

Invoicebus Team

Invoicebus Team

We're a team comprised of a few die-hard code freaks, lovers of beautiful design, stewards of simplicity, and passionately dedicated to the user experience. Invoicebus is a great vehicle to express what we do best. Click here to learn more on our business philosophy and how we actually do it.
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15 Comments

  1. Linda M. says:

    Sorry but I could not believe this, it’s too much for me

  2. Chris Wagen says:

    I believe it’s true cause I found a bunch of people succeeded reviving their laptops by this method

  3. Reen32 says:

    had the same problem with my laptop, unfortunately it ended on parts

  4. Tim says:

    Let’s make laptopizza :)

  5. $tev3 says:

    Chris I wouldn’t try this even it’s 100% true

  6. Invoicebus Team says:

    Linda – We don’t expect you to believe because we didn’t believe it too. However, this machine works as smooth as before.
    Chris – True, there’re hundreds of how to videos and all get similar results.
    Reen32 – Ended for parts because you didn’t try to bake it, or because you did?
    $tev3 – Why not?

  7. Kim Roeble says:

    Awesome post. You guys, rock!

  8. Invoicebus Team says:

    Thanks Kim.
    Yes Chris, that’s exactly what we’re talking about.

  9. Reen32 says:

    Haven’t tried with baking. The service guy told me that the card has failed and there’s no way to fix it

  10. seo services london says:

    Haha good job

  11. sumo_master says:

    omg lol, i’ve been laughing for over 15 min nonstop. this is the best post i’ve read in months. i have HP pavilion dv9000 series laptop so if the gpu ever fails (which is very likely for those hp series) i will do this. i have nothing to lose with trying

  12. Invoicebus Team says:

    Reen32 – You should definitely try this sometimes, it doesn’t cost a thing + you’ll get lots of fun for free.
    seo services london – Thanks :)
    sumo_master – Don’t worry, maybe you won’t need to cook it :)

  13. jeday says:

    I had the same problem with my graphic card nvidia 8500gt and I baked it and now it started to work normal again, so it works for PCs as well :))

  14. [...] laptops (the one occasionally baked), one white board and approximately 300 white paper sheets for mockups and [...]

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