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rdklinc
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How does a person learn to repair MacBook logic boards?

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Hi! I'm wondering how people go about learning to repair logic boards. Not replacing components (DC-in, memory, etc.), but actually repairing the board itself when it has liquid damage or other issues that are typically fatal. I've sold a lot of dead MacBooks and have noticed there is definitely a market, and I've also successfully used flat-rate services which pretty much repair any MacBook board for a few hundred dollars. In my experience, they haven't switched them out -- they've actually fixed the board. And not only that, but the high success rate leads me to believe that the repair process must be fairly systematic and straightforward.

I'm very interested to learn, so I'm wondering, is anyone aware of resources for doing this kind of thing? I'm assuming it involves soldering, chip replacement, and some pretty hardcore electronics knowledge. I've asked people who do this for a living, but for obvious reasons they don't seem too interested in divulging the info.

Thanks!

Edited by: rdklinc ( )

Good Question++ Electronics Engineering is your best bet, but brace yourself!!!!

Majesty,

I'm going to see if I can find a "dummies guide". Obviously an engineering degree would be awesome, but this is a very specific goal, and I bet the basics of MacBook logic board repair can be learned in a week with the right resources.

rdklinc,

Hi All! Thanks for the suggestions. Over the last year I've definitely come across some interesting techniques (check out some of the recent MacBook unibody repair discussions at rdklinc.com/answers) but I think the best one so far is to take out the logic board, and scrub it down thoroughly with 90% rubbing alcohol and a soft toothbrush. Not very scientific, but it often works. :-)

rdklinc,

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mactech plus
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Apple has courses you can sign up for. See the following link.

http://www.apple.com/support/programs/ss...

The requirements can be a bit tough but when you are done you are Certified. That will get you ready for board level replacement.

For component level repair you might try and find a business that does this type of work and see if you can get a job there part time. That is how I started back in 1993 and then I went to the Apple School in 1994. Not all Apple techs can provide this type of training. Most places like Galaxy Hardware Publisher in Oregon does this type of repair but the manuals they have are on the expensive side.

Good luck and enjoy

Thanks for the info! Yeah, I think at the end of the day it will come down to looking over someone's shoulder for a while. I'm pretty comfortable replacing boards, so now I'm interested in repairing them. Did you find certification worthwhile? In past lives I did a lot of that on the PC side (MCSE, ASE, CCNA, etc.), but I found it was mainly beneficial in terms of getting jobs, and so for the Apple stuff I just assumed I'd learn what I needed to on my own, and reading service manuals, etc.

rdklinc,

+ vote your answer is not as glib as mine but has better information ;-) It's Friday

mayer,

To be perfectly honest: The only plus to having the Apple Certification was when I got the Job at Apple and the University. As far as my life now, I get some folks who ask but not a real plus at this point.

mactech plus,

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Face
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I can tell you that you don't need a degree to learn how to do this. I repair anything that says apple on it at the component level. I've been doing it for about 12 years. I learned how to do it on my own. I did a lot of electronic work in the military but that was a whole different ball game. You should be familiar with basic circuits and how individual components actually work. Thats all I had going into the Apple side. It took a lot of trial and error to learn how apples work. But once I figured it out, it was all similar afterwards. Every apple product has a unique problem based on what the product is. Imac, Emac, iBook, MacBook, whatever. From what i've learned over the years, Apple doesn't do a whole lot of in depth testing on their products. Thats why they are always coming out with new stuff. The volume I did at one time ranked our service center top 5 in the world. By doing so many units, I saw the individual problems and actually was in direct contact with Apple to let them know if there was a similar failure on a specific model. When it got big enough, it was time for them to decide if they should do a recall or not. And anyone that knows Apple, will also know that for them to do a recall is pretty much non existent. What they do is called a "Repair Extension." They'll fix your unit up to 1 year after the warranty expires "IF" it exhibits the said problem.

So back on point, the main thing you need to do this is the tools. Figuring out the component problems is the easy part. Replacing, say a BGA chip, can't be done by hand. (look up BGA if you don't know what one is). We bought a 50 thousand dollar machine that replaces these chips for you. Oh, I tried every way to Sunday to do it by hand, and actually fixed a few, but the ratio was so bad that we had to get the machine if we wanted to do this and make money at it.

The easiest way to figure it out, is to assign "Zones" to a logic board. Video area, drive controller area, memory area, etc. Then when you have a video problem, you look in the video zone. The comment about reverse engineering above is exactly the way to figure out what the "good" part is suppose to be doing. Many times you can visually see the bad part under magnification. Other times you cant. Then you just have to start troubleshooting the components in the effected zone. Doesn't take that long once you get the hang of it, but it's not something your going to learn how to do in a few months. It takes years to perfect it. My suggestion to anyone that wants to get into repairing component level, send it out for repair instead. It will save you a lot of time and money. Just make sure you use a reputable company.

Hope this shed some light on the questions.

Edited by: Face ( )

+ excellent! the voice of experience and you didn't SPAM your company. But please click on my icon and send me an email so I can find you or put a link on your profile so we all can. You're a class act!

mayer,

+, experience

rab777hp,

+ hear, hear. Experience, education, dedication...

oldturkey03,

i'd agree with this..in any profession. A degree does not make you instantly proficient. It is the basis to start from and only time and experience can make you expert.

pollytintop,

Awesome answer, thanks! You bring up some great overall concepts (blocking the board into functional areas, etc.) I agree about the amateurish video chip solutions -- there is simply to way to fix it reliably without having professional equipment.

rdklinc,

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lemerise
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The problem is that you can't find Apple logic board diagrams anywhere. The guys who repairs MacBook logic boards have the circuits plans and can mesure the components voltage etc. Even if you are a skilled electronic tech you'll go nowhere without the boards components values. Obviously Apple doesn't release the information. They want to sell parts at premium price. They don't want you to repair it.

Diagrams for apple anything probably don't even exist, Steve Jobs probably remembers how every mac is built, and doesn't keep stuff like that on paper. I had a dead power supple in my PowerMac G4 years ago, and after 4 hours of searching for a schematic, calling Samsung, and even looking through lots of PDF'd, i couldn't find anything, if you could tell what was wrong, and had a schematic, macs would be so much more fixable

Chris Green,

Yes that's true Chris. Sometimes it's easy to find the bad component on a faulty logic board like the graphic processor on iBooks G3, the U28 chip on iBooks G4, the faulty airport card slot on the iBook G4 1.33, bad capacitors on iMacs G5, blown microfuses, desoldered connector sockets, etc but sometimes the faulty board is mint and there's no visual damage. I once asked a friend who's an electronic engineer to help me troubleshoot a board and the first thing he asked is <<where's the diagram ?>> LOL. I have many faulty boards at home, still waiting to get hints on the web to repair them.

lemerise,

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mayer
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If we're considered Geeks, motherboard repair is in the land of Uber geeks and the guys that flash PC video cards to work on Macs. I went there in the days of the Apple II, it's a strange land full of RPG characters, wizards and golems.

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Majesty
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You can always try Electronics Engineering courses, that's the best bet. That was my major the first year and a half of college, but i found the Math and Sciences requirements were insanely difficult, so I decided to switch my Major to IT professional. Wayyyy easier. :0) Once you reach that level of training, (Board Repair) you're looking at over 100K/year easily. Problem is, if you work full time and go to school full-time and have a family it's not easy. You literally have to burry your head in books and spend countless hours studying just for the requirements. The course is insanely difficult.

Edited by: Majesty ( )

I agree, formal training on electricity and electronics is the BEST, but not the only route. Seeing the flow of electricity in your mind is the key to chip level troubleshooting. Many people can't get beyond the math, the math is only necessary because the math proves what is there that you can not see and only measure. Hands on proves the math is true. Somewhere in it the light bulb comes on and you can see what should have been obvious all along. If you can't see the flow of electricity in your mind, you can't read schematics. If you can't read schematics you will have harder problems reading the board. With in reason anyone can do the repairs, if they know what to repair and the procedure. If you can see the flow of electricity in your mind you can can get around formal training. - By the way Magesty the answer is YES - if you are female, lol, :-P.

ABCellars,

Lmao....Ut-Oh!!! Houston we have a problem. LOL I agree with you BCellars, but unfortunately without hands-on training, or a mind with a sixth sense to actually "see" the electricity, the only option left is some type of formal training in Electronics Engineering board level repair is almost impossible. And try telling your professor that you don't need those insane math requirements. LOL ;o)

Majesty,

Perhaps my wording wasn't eloquent but I was/am in agreement with you Majesty. Whether at school or at home formal training is necessary. The vast majority of people don't have the discipline to do the math with out a Professor to answer to. I did tell my professors that I didn't need Differential and Integral Calculus, they just laughed and fed it to me with a Vegemite sandwich. ;-)

ABCellars,

vegemite is an essential dietary requirement! can't start any day without it.

pollytintop,

LOL I meant we had a problem with the whole engagement thing. LOL I agree with your comment as well.

Majesty,

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ABCellars
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A good, skilled electronic tech with an interest in repairing these boards, with out the proper documentation on them, would reverse engineer a known good board, to have general understanding of the board. They would keep a known good board for a reference board. That way they could compare component, electrical and frequency values with problematic boards. They would have an oscilloscope, a function generator, a DC power supply, multimeter and logic probe as minimal test equipment. For repairing the boards, they may have a reflow oven, smd rework station, and a soldering iron, among other things.

Bottom line you need to have a firm grasp of electricity and electronics. You need the proper test equipment, the knowledge of how to use them and what values you should be seeing to determine the good, the bad and the ugly. Then you need the proper repair equipment.

rdklinc I hope this helps you.

Edited by: ABCellars ( )

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Chris Green
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I Have had limited success repairing boards, and I have taken at least three shots at it. I have two roasted PowerBook's and i have looked at just about everything, and you really can't tell which components have actually failed. I have tried just about everything, from baths in chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide, and rubbing alchohol, to rebonding solder with a heat gun, and nothing seems to work, the only main board i ever repaired, was the one in my apple 17" Studio Display, and i replaced a Diode that had fried on the main board.

Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol, USP / B.P. contains 68-99% of isopropanol (isopropyl alcohol) by volume, the remainder consisting of water. Methanol is cheap and does not have the water, I also use it in alcohol lamps because it does not sputter from the water. Ethanol, is also good

mayer,

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jcarter
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Hey guys -

Since I saw that resources for apple laptop logic board schematics were brought up several times, take a look at this link:

http://laptop-schematics.com/db/8/

They give great blocked out schematics for the majority of the pre-unibody macbook pro models. Granted, you have to purchase each schematic, but at least you have a source for it if you're serious...

Cheers

Jason

Thanks for the link + The manuals seem to be worth the dough.

remacberlin,

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rj713
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I learned to do component level repairs in the Navy working on radars and occasionally working on an early Navy computers. (with vacuum tubes) By the time I retired from the Navy they were doing board swaps but would send boards to a rebuild facility. There are company's today doing board level repair for computers but I think it would take a very committed person to find one and apprentice out until they learned the skills. Ralph

Edited by: rj713 ( )

There is a question on why someone would buy a corroded logic board. You can obtain one or two cheap and use it to practice removing and installing parts as well as cleaning procedures. Ralph

rj713,

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Louis Rossmann
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Understanding how the components fit together is a big part of it. You start to notice patterns in the failures and eventually gain an understanding of how it all works. Work backwards. Look at what's causing the board to not turn on, and then figure out what that part does. Sometimes it requires hunting, sometimes it's a simple as blue-green corrosion on the leg of something you can google. As long as you don't allow yourself to get overwhelmed by it all.

The second part is the "sports" part of it - the soldering of the small components. You can have all the brain in the world, you will need some physical dexterity to deal with 25 ball BGA packages the size of a pinky fingernail. We have some videos on how to solder these components here. http://rossmanngroup.com/soldering

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rab777hp
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From what I've heard/know, people like electrical engineers have the know how for this kind of hardcore electronics. If you go and get a degree in electrical engineering, you'll probably learn that level electronics.

I'm looking for the Cliffs Notes. There simply have to be resources out there other than a $100K degree.

rdklinc,

Community college is also another idea, community colleges offer perfectly good vocational courses on the cheap

rab777hp,

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ChrisW
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an attempt that helps pick up damaged components at work:

inject a limited current at the appropriate voltage on the power leads & use a IR thermometer to pick out the weak ICs. (if the board is already toast then the risk is minimal, just take normal precautions for electronics lab safety and get ready to turn off power supply.)

won't always work, but i've salvaged a few $1400.00 bds that way....

-Chris

Hi Chris, Could you contact me at my email address: lemerise.m AT gmail.com thanks,

lemerise,

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Steve
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I don't know if you have noticed but it appears to be the same block diagram for all of the models, am sorry I don't trust them and second $30 a pop seems a lot of money, the diagrams are out there some were it is just finding them, there are a few China sites with them unfortunately I can not understand to navigate my way around, i have been going through the manual page by page taking screen shots, in an attempt to get the full thing,

http://wenku.baidu.com/view/273a40eff8c7...

if any one can help me load this up in English I would be very greatful

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bennett von bennett
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FWIW Steve - i found one of their schematics that some kind soul put up for download:

http://www.2shared.com/file/woR7wLVv/App...

unfortunately it's not the same one i need (late 2009) so it's of limited usefulness - but maybe it will help you or someone else.

cheers,

b

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Steve
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you are a star, I do need this many thanks, I hope I can return the favor very soon, I am also looking for schematics for the unibody 17' first one , or for that matter any of them would be a great help, back light or rather fuse on board some where, as they are all now LED

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Kuba
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I skimmed through the thread hoping for some links to documentation, thanks for the schematic, should help me mod my macbook, here are my quick comments:

I noticed a few suggestions for an 'Electrical Engineering' degree. Although probably many EE's possess the expertise necessary for circuit level debugging/repair this is not the purpose of the degree, hence not what the courses are focusing on. If you want to take the school route maybe something like 'Electronics Technician' at a local college?

That being said... one of the best ways to learn how to debug hardware is to learn how to design it, haha!

Just playing around with electronics and becoming familiar with the basic lab tools will jump start you in the right direction. You can make a cheap lab power supply out of an old PC power supply, and rig up an oscilloscope with some voltage dividers and an old soundcard or other scrapped data acquisition card, or maybe even arduino?. There are also some 'decent' usb scopes but be carefull there's lots of junk. You will be operating in a limited frequency range but should get you going.

Hands on, tinker, tinker and things will start making sense. There are tons of 'kits' and instructions online, get building! You will realize that none of your creations work on the first try, and THIS is where you learn how to debug! There are so many resources online, this is a great time to get into electronics!

Cheers and good luck!

Kuba

P.S. Check the EEvblog: http://www.eevblog.com/

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madmaxmedia
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I wouldn't think you need an EE degree from a 4-year college. I imagine a good working knowledge of electronics (the tinkerer type), plus the necessary schematics for the computer you want to fix, are basically what you need. Of course there will probably be certain tricks of the trade that only experience (or someone with experience) can teach you.

One thing is for sure- I see a lot of water-damaged MBP's on EBay nowadays. (I can replace parts but can't fix motherboards.) I wonder if the current models are more susceptible to water leaking through the keyboard. I think they typically sell for more than the parts value, so I imagine people are fixing them.

Edited by: madmaxmedia ( )

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anshul anand
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i've been looking here and there for about a week now to repair a logic board with my electrical engineering degree in my hand . i've done my engineering from a top university in my country and i am just blank right now. degree wont help you in this , its really very basic when it comes to repairing a logic board. I think if you need a solution to this you have to do your research on it. And that i think will only be done by putting your every free minute to it.

to FWIW Steve thank you soooooo much for that dowload link it really helped alot. i'll put repair details for logic board soon now.

anshul anand,

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jcarter
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Wanted to add... albeit much later... the company I listed as a possibility for schematics for Mac MLBs... is indeed a good source. I bought their full set 2006-2013, every mac produced. Not sure I'm totally ready to put them into use, but they are solid references and very much individual to each computer model and config. Cheers

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