DIY obsolete iBook logic board repair
A while ago, a 700 MHz iBook was given to me with an infamous video-problem. An iBook which boots, but gives no output, neither to it’s own display nor to a hooked up external monitor.
Now the data on the thing was the most important (and valuable) so the question was if I could get that off. I’ve been taking this iBook apart and was looking for worn out cables and such, but after a while I decided this is a no-go. How much time do you want to invest in such a machine? (which wasn’t mine at that time). So to keep things a little sane, I decided to take out the harddrive, which still seemed healthy, and put a small bus-powered external enclosure around that, so the data was accessible. In the mean time, I’ve been cannibalizing that iBook for parts, making someone happy with a new keyboard and someone else with rubber feet…
Last friday I took a trip through Holland for picking up my next roadwarrior, a Powerbook 12” G4 1500 ( *^_^* ). That one needs work on it’s own, but more on that later… Any way, I also spotted an advertisement for another defective iBook (G3 600) which I also picked up for little money.
A quick inspection learned me that this one has the same infamous video-problem. Now, I could cannibalize this one for parts also but with two iBooks with the same problem something told me I could take some more risk in trying to repair this infamous problem…
I call the problem an infamous problem, since it seems Apple has been replacing iBooks with this problem while they were under some kind of warranty.
Now Apple describes it as:
iBooks that have a specific component failure on the logic board, resulting in the computer starting up but the built-in and attached external displays exhibiting one or more of the following symptoms:
- Scrambled or distorted video
- Appearance of unexpected lines on the screen
- Intermittent video image
- Video freeze
- Computer starts up to blank screen
Well, my two iBooks both give me a blank screen although they both start up with a healthy startup chime….
iBooks which were eligible for this Logic Board Repair Program were:
certain iBook G3 models (see below for a complete list) with serial numbers in the following range:
UV117XXXXXX to UV342XXXXXX
iBooks with the serial numbers listed above may be referred to as:
- iBook (16 VRAM)
- iBook (14.1 LCD 16 VRAM)
- iBook (Opaque 16 VRAM)
- iBook (32 VRAM)
- iBook (14.1 LCD 32 VRAM)
- iBook (800MHz 32 VRAM)
- iBook (900MHz 32 VRAM)
- iBook (14.1 LCD 900MHz 32 VRAM)
- iBook (Dual USB)
- iBook (Late 2001)
- iBook (14.1 LCD)
Only thing is, this program has ended… The program covered affected iBooks for three years after the first retail sale of the unit or until March 18, 2005. Unless you bought yours new in 2004, which is very unlikely, all of these iBooks aren’t covered in any such program anymore.
So, what can we do with iBooks which start to show this problem right now? I guess there must be plenty of these iBooks out there, probably already started a second life as paper weight or such. Well, how about and give it a shot to try to repair it ourselves? ^_^
Yesterday I found this excellent forumthread which I somehow must’ve missed earlier… It discusses on how to repair this problem the real hobbyist way, with blowtorches and heatguns, now this is more like it! ^_^
The real problem seems to be the videochip, the chip itself is placed onto the logic-board on a so-called Ball Grid Array
not exactly the way it’s placed on our iBook, but close enough
The real problem seems to be that these solder balls don’t hold and the solution to this is to reflow the solder… Now in that excellent forumthread some people are succesful in doing that by using a heatgun or even a blowtorch… But I didn’t have a blowtorch or heatgun so… this is how I did it…
Now, to make things sure, this is NOT A HOW TO. If you set your house on fire because of this, don’t come complain to me, okay? If you do attempt this, this is all AT YOUR OWN RISK. This really is the last thing you want to do to your iBook and the chance this operation succeeds is very little.
Well, of course, first of all I needed to open up this iBook. Now, I did that before, more than once actually so that’s not too hard. If someone needs pointers in how to open one of these up, consider these fine manuals:
Once it’s open, we need to locate the videochip. It’s on the backside and there’s some yellow foam on top.
click to enlarge
image courtesy of medicalmac.com
I scraped off the yellow foam and also got rid of the plastic around it.
Now in order to reflow the solder, I took a couple of approaches… with tea-lights! Now this being the holiday-season and such, I sure had a cosy kitchen-table! *^_^*
To get a higher temperature, I experimented with two and even three candle wicks inside the same cup. But to no avail, it didn’t seem to get the solder balls to the critical temperature.
Now, this being an all-or-nothing repair, I figured that when I would power her up, the chip would also gain a couple of extra degrees, maybe this way it would bring the solder balls to their critical temperature…
And so I did…
You can clearly see the lit Apple-logo while I’m burning tealights on top of the videochip…
But, this also didn’t repair it. I didn’t break it up to this point so I hadn’t actually hit the all-or-nothing point quite yet.
As a next one, I got a small metal cup with a flat bottom, to be able to extend the heat better from the souped-up tealight to the chip (and the chip to the solderballs underneath).
...but this still didn’t seem to solve it satisfactory… so… I took a look in the kitchencubbard and found a can of pure alcohol, which I’ve used before to clean out the skins when I painted my own iBook. Now that’ll burn probably much better (and getting us the temperature we need…).
if the video somehow doesn’t work, here’s the link
In the end, I needed a couple of these burn-sessions to get it right. I even ran out of alcohol and switched to white spirit (with a candle wick in the cup to get it going) and … I also powered up the iBook in this process(!!!). The CPU-fan starts to blow quite late in the process, only when you already applied excessive heat to the videochip. But somehow the fan is a nice way to judge where we are… if it’s spinning on it’s tops you know you’re almost there… *^_^* (this really is a Mad Max approach on fixing things, I know…)
And that somehow must’ve done the job! I hardly can believe it myself though…
By now you must all think I’ve gone mad, but get this, this baby now works! I assembled’er back together again, put a fresh install on there and I’m stress-testing her right now… But really, believe it or not, is seems to be a-okay!
As a matter of fact, I’m publishing this article by pressing ‘save’ on the fixed iBook…
...right now! *^_^*
...and I guess I really am putting old technology through it’s paces, the Sony Cybershot I made these pics with just started a new life by starting to count all over again(from DSC00001.JPG, for this article I hit DSC09999.JPG so that means 10,000 pictures and counting… oh dear…)
Anyway, I now actually have one working iBook more than I somehow bargained for. I’m gonna keep my green iBook as long as I can I guess and this ‘new’ powerbook will be my new workhorse/roadwarrior for when I’m on the road, so what to do with this one? Is it ethical to sell this, after such a DIY-job? I’m not sure yet, I can’t guarantee a thing on it (but no 2nd hand seller normally can) but when I decide to sell it, I will be honest about what I did to it, although I’m not sure I’m gonna show the pictures… *^_^* I guess life would be a whole lot easier if I find another use for this one or maybe lend it to someone who can use it really well, until then I’m just gonna make sure this baby really works well. *^_^*
Digg: Get your iBook working again with fire
MacUser: Repair your iBook… with FIRE!
The Consumerist: Dude Fixes His iBook By Lighting it On Fire
Gizmodo: Screw Geek Squad, Just Use Fire to Fix the iBook
Cult of Mac: Major geekage: Fix an iBook with FIRE!
you can find all of my projects overhere