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Final Score : Cows 0, iFixit 1

by richardaskew

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My Problem

Over a month ago my son spilled a full pint of milk into his laptop. After 9 months of hectoring him to treat his new macbook pro with care he paid the ultimate price, it was completely dead. The chickens (or cows) had come home to roost. I took it to the expert repairers who delivered the final blow, the milk had caused total obliteration and the soggy laptop was uneconomical to repair.

The laptop sat forlorn and unloved for a month on a table while the culprit moped around avoiding eye contact with the once cherished item and displaying pained expressions every time someone mentioned milk. Worse yet, the tragedy reached Facebook and his friends mercilessly traded milky jokes.

I hate waste so even though it wasn't a great financial decision I decided to fix it. I fixed it for the reasons some people climb mountains - because it was there and I thought it might be fun. As a generally inquisitive person it was an itch I had to scratch. My wife thought I was crazy, my son was quietly hoping for a miracle.

My Fix

The parts arrived really quickly and the first good news was that I had identified and ordered the right parts. The repair went really well considering the major brain surgery of replacing battery, motherboard, upper case and the swap over of several parts. I did have one moment which was nearly was my undoing. One of the screws was stiff and rather than turning i damaged the Phillips head so it wouldn't turn or release. I was devastated, the motherboard was loose but I couldn't release or remove it as the retaining bracket holding the display cables in place was holding it in position. My wife was going to kill me.. :(

In desperation I was thinking of drilling out the screw or snapping off the cable retainer. In the end and after 40 minutes of sweating I managed (by a miracle) to release the screw with the use of some small narrow nosed electrical pliers and a spare Phillips Screwdriver (the iFixit screwdriver was damaged by the initial efforts to remove the screw). After that it was a breeze. The only fiddly part was feeding the keyboard cable and keyboard backlight cable back into the retaining clips on the motherboard, it took a while as the cables kept bending rather than sliding into the retainers. I got there in the end with the help of the spudger thingy and some plastic tweezers liberated from my daughter's junior medical kit.

It was a slightly tense moment when I switched it on as I was concerned the small circuit board on the power connection might have been damaged - the one major component I hadn't replaced but ominously had a lot of dry milky residue on it. I screwed the back plate on tensed myself for a small popping and fizzing sound followed by nothing ... but instead I got that warm familiar boot up fanfare. It was a great moment... seriously.

As I mentioned, it wasn't a great financial decision but it was very rewarding. I probably wouldn't do a total rebuild again (unless I want to give my wife grounds for divorce) but considering we have 3 Macbook pro's in the family and potentially one more this Christmas it gives me the confidence to carry out other repairs, upgrades or modifications. The iFixit guides were fantastic and made the whole process really easy, I couldn't have done it without them.

My Advice

Okay these may be obvious but :

1. Most important, warn your wife up front before you buy the parts on your credit card. This is really, really important.

2. Give yourself plenty of time and don't rush it.

3. In the absence of a proper organiser, ice cube trays are a great substitute to keep all of the removed screws sequenced for re assembly.

4. It's also handy if you have some back up tools (plastic tweezers, screwdrivers etc)

5. Educate your kids to keep milk (and any other liquids) away from electronics, cheesy laptops aren't nice to rebuild.

6. Think hard about what could go wrong and be prepared to adjust your approach. Sitting back and thinking about a problem is better than going in with brute force and damaging your device further.

7. Be prepared to be treated like a rock god by your son (well at least for five minutes).