The Laptop Repair Workbook
Copyright 2012 by Morris Rosenthal
All Rights Reserved
I paid over $1,000 for my first laptop ten years ago, and after a month,
the battery had already failed to the point that it couldn't hold a charge
for a half hour. Fortunately for me, I was a bestselling computer book author,
so I threatened Toshiba with public exposure, and they sent me a new one.
It failed the same way a month later. Many early laptop batteries were simply
lemons, no matter how you trained them and used them. NiCad (Nickel Cadmium)
batteries were replaced with Ni-MH (Nickel Metal Hydride) batteries, but
batteries remained remarkably unreliable until the modern Li-Ion (Lithium
Ion) technology was introduced. So I opened up one of those Toshiba battery
packs to see If I could rebuild it. The manufacturers don't want you rebuilding
battery packs, they are glued shut or sonic welded.
While the batteries themselves are high tech, the battery packs are low tech.
Just a bunch of battery cells in series to get to the required voltage, and
a snap switch or thermocouple for protection or monitoring. A primitive battery
pack like this one had a circuit card that was really just a connector, with
no active logic. In other words, all of the charge management was performed
within the laptop, which is why swapping batteries wasn't going to help.
The replacement battery pack would be mismanaged and quickly trained to fail
just like the prior two battery backs.
To create the proper battery voltage from the individual cells they are connected
in series with little bus bars that are soldered to each cell. Rebuilding
the battery involves replacing every individual cell, and the pricing I've
found for individual cells at retail showed that it's cheaper to just buy
a new battery pack from a manufacturer who gets battery cells at wholesale.
At the time, the price I found for the Sanyo HR-4/3AU cells was more than
five bucks apiece, meaning it would cost me over fifty bucks just for the
cells to rebuild the battery. To come out ahead on rebuilding a laptop battery,
you would need to find a a wholesaler who deals retail and doesn't charge
much for shipping.
The new Li-Ion batteries last much longer and don't have the same training
issues that the NiMh and NiCad batteries had, and they've also come down
in price, so there's little point in trying to rebuild them. Most importantly,
I hear from many people who don't figure out that their problem was with
the charger until they buy a new battery. By troubleshooting the battery
charging issue first, you can often save yourself fifty bucks or more on
a new battery you didn't need. I include a good introduction to battery
technology and charging issues in The Laptop Repair Workbook, which you can
purchase for instant download anywhere in the world,
plus a detailed troubleshooting flowchart for battery charging problems.
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