Laptop computers offer a real disassembly challenge to the newcomer, and
sometimes to the professional technician who hasn't worked on that model
before. In all cases, the best thing to do is find the repair manual the
manufacturer created, normally as a PDF, and often on their website. If you
just try to blunder your way through, you'll usually end up taking apart
more than you need to in order to do a particular job. Laptop manufacturers
often hide the screws for reasons of styling ,or to prevent casual tampering,
but you'll soon figure out which rubber pads or plugs hide screws. With many
laptops, the Rosetta stone of getting them open is a plastic panel above
the keyboard, snapped into place, which hides the screws that hold the keyboard
in place. Removing the plastic panel and the keyboard reveals the guts of
But our main concern here isn't just taking the laptop apart, it's disassembling
it in such a way that you'll be able to put it back together again. The first
mistake many amateur technicians make is not paying attention to the screws.
Laptops use a multiplicity of screw sizes, a sampling of the larger types
is shows above (all came out of the bottom of one laptop!). Much smaller
screws are used inside the laptop for holding circuit boards and components,
but they aren't as difficult to track because they have different thread
sizes. All of the screws above have the same thread size, so they will all
start screwing into any hole with that thread. But if you stick a long screw
into a short screw hole, you can end up breaking something, and a short screw
in a long hole will fail to hold the laptop together.
Reasonably designed laptops label the exterior screw holes, an example above
identifies the screw as a type "B8". There will be an entire series of screw
holes of a labeled the same way, and they will either be the same size or
part of a particular disassembly process. You can't be sure unless you have
access to the manual, which isn't always available, so keep an eye out that
the screw sizes don't vary as you remove all the screws of one series. Of
course, the trick is keeping track of which size screw goes in which designated
hole. One easy way is to tape an example screw type to an envelope, label
the example, and then keep all of the screws in the envelope. If you try
just arranging the screws on a table in the order you take them out and somebody
bumps the table, you're (edited for language). If the screw holes aren't
labeled, label them yourself with a pencil or masking tape and a pen.
PC technicians and hobbyists working on their first laptop are often shocked
at the ribbon cables. Ribbon cables in PC's come equipped with robust connectors,
usually keyed so you can't make the connection the wrong way. Laptops use
more ribbon cables than desktop PCs, since they offer the main type of
interconnect for data between the motherboard and the various components,
including the keyboard and drives. But the ribbon cables in laptops are designed
without connectors on the ribbon. The connector, on the motherboard,or on
the drive or device, has a spring loaded locking mechanism, with a very small
travel. To open a connector, you pry up on the ends under the tabs, and the
raise about an eight of an inch. I usually use my fingernals, but I used
a screwdriver to the left so it would be easier to see.
Once the connector is opened, the ribbon cable pulls out with zero force.
The ends of the ribbon cables are bare on one side, with the wires each
terminated in a broad conductive trace. The exposed side of the ribbon goes
to the low side of the connector, the side with the metal spring contacts
that conduct the signal. The back of the connector, when closed by pushing
the extended part back down, merely pushes the cable against the contacts.
While you can suspend a board in the air from a ribbon cable properly inserted
in a good connector, sometimes cables will simply pull out of an old connector
if you tug while trying to take apart the laptop. You won't be able to get
them back into the connector without opening it properly, but the cable should
work fine when you put the laptop back together if you reinsert it the correct
way and re-lock the connector.