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Obtaining Replacement Parts for Your Laptop? 688

Posted by Cliff
from the more-difficult-than-you-might-think dept.
halosfan asks: "I recently broke the LCD bezel (the plastic thing that holds the LCD and related wires together) on a laptop that I bought half a year ago. I checked eBay as well as a few online stores specializing in laptop replacement parts, but still couldn't find the replacement. I contacted the manufacturer, but they were absolutely useless. Local laptop repair shop said they wouldn't replace the bezel without replacing the LCD, which isn't acceptable. It is an extremely frustrating situation, as the bezel is a minor part that I otherwise couldn't care less about, but it is necessary to carry the laptop around. I am wondering what other ways are there to obtain a laptop replacement part? Also, any recommendations for manufacturers that are good about making obscure replacement parts for their laptops available to the general public?" Does your laptop manufacturer make it easy or hard to get the necessary replacement parts?
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Obtaining Replacement Parts for Your Laptop?

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  • by Aliencow (653119) on Monday January 12, 2004 @03:55PM (#7955162) Homepage Journal
    Last time my Discman broke, they wanted to charge me over 100$ to replace the lil' spinny thingie inside of it because they'd replace the whole bottom part of it.. which includes the lens and pretty much all the electronics.. Laptops are the same, your best bet with a laptop is to take a good extended warranty and pray you don't need to use it..
    • by BACPro (206388) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:02PM (#7955253)
      Extended warranty could be worthless too.

      Toshiba laptop with broken hinge and extended warranty...

      $75 for the hinge,
      $56 for four screws.

      Extended warranty invalid as the broken hinge was due to "misuse"

      BP
      • funny i dropped my laptop and they replaced the screen no problem
        i even told them i dropped it
        you must have bought the wrong support option
        • by Awptimus Prime (695459) on Monday January 12, 2004 @05:42PM (#7956198)
          Were you issued the laptop from your employer?

          If so, your treatment will differ quite a bit from some Joe who bought his laptop on his own.

          My experience with Dell through work was completely different than with my personal equipment. Our helpdesk was able to get laptops replaced with no charge, even if they had obvious signs of abuse (droppage, etc).

          With my personal laptop, I was unable to have a similar issue corrected as the author, except the hinges that hold the screen on were badly constructed and managed to come apart after 6 months of use.

          My final solution was to swap the hinges from my work laptop onto the personal one, then getting Dell to fix my work system for free.

          Good thing the office issued Dell Latitudes, otherwise it would have been $89.. :)
      • by l810c (551591) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:56PM (#7955607)
        Circuit City screwed me on my IBM laptop. The latch on DVD player stopped working causing the tray to pop out. This happened one time when I was pulling it out of my bag and the whole cd tray snapped off. They gave me the physical damage, misuse yadayada and screwed me out of my $480 3 Year Covers Everything Under the Sun fancy schmancy warranty I paid for.

        IBM wanted $450 for the DVD. I bought a wrong model on Ebay(my bad, but IBM's whole FRU thing will drive you crazy until you figure it out). Then I bought another that's showing a corrupt firmware(AS-IS, damnit).

        I've wasted hundreds of $ and time and I still have a otherwise nice Laptop with no DVD/CD player. I finally gave up and went out and bought a new one 2 months ago.

        • by Anonymous Coward
          I have a Toshiba laptop from Circuit City, sent it to be have something fixed in it (turned out to be a loose wire I think.). They claimed to of found liquid within the laptop and terminated my warrenty or something I think. I later took it apart and saw no signs of liquid. The repair person who located the fault said that they had heard of the company doing this to many people I think.
        • by bscott (460706) on Monday January 12, 2004 @09:34PM (#7958388)
          > (my bad, but IBM's whole FRU thing will drive you
          > crazy until you figure it out

          There's somebody who's figured it out?

          This is OT, but the IBM part number system is legend amongst repair depot techs... my best story about it involves a 3-day odyssey of trying to find the right part number to order a replacement floppy drive for a PS/1. Hours on the phone just trying to find the right department (and I had the special support numbers and access codes they give to places which do warranty work for them), etc etc - skipping to the climax, I was on a conference call with 3 different IBM employees (in 2 diff states), and they were ALL arguing over what the part number was. The best bit:
          guy#1 - "I just asked my supervisor and he's sure this is the right number."
          guy#2 - "I AM your supervisor, and I'm telling you it's not!"

          Anyhow, we eventually got the right drive. (I couldn't use just any one 'cos the button had to fit through the bizarre bezel of the cabinet)
      • Thats why I got an IBM "bumps and brusies warranty"
        I drop the thing , spill coffee on it (which has happend with every single previous laptop I have had) and they still cover the replacement.
      • by ionpro (34327) on Monday January 12, 2004 @05:34PM (#7956074) Homepage
        Dell CompleteCare. Covers accidents, and well just about everything. Perhaps it's just my local rep, but he said we could basically toss the laptop out the window and get a replacement, as long as we said it wasn't 'intentional'.
    • by robslimo (587196) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:09PM (#7955345) Homepage Journal
      Agreed. I've got a Toshiba 105CS (P5 at 75 MHz) still kicking since 1990-something. I've used the Hell out of it and, through no particular abuse of mine, eventually cracked out all around both hinges.

      Ebay is not the answer, extended warranty is no the answer.

      The answer is JB-Weld (www.jbweld.net) or a similar epoxy. It's the modern nerd answer to tape on your glasses. My old Toshi ain't much to look at, but it still works.
      • by Alan Cox (27532) on Monday January 12, 2004 @05:15PM (#7955842) Homepage
        I used "no more nails" on the crack on my palmax. Im not sure it was the right kind of glue for the job, but it sticks anything to anything. It doesn't actually look too bad.

        Unfortunately now the battery has died, and that one is *way* trickier to find. Ironically my old 486SX IBM PC110 Palmtop PC uses standard batteries that I can replace at any DV camera shop.

        • Most battery packs use 'standard' size cells in a box. If you open the box you can usually obtain replacement cells.

          By standard I mean one of about 2 dozen sizes, not just the consumer sizes you cay buy at the grocery store.

          I have no idea what the battery for a palmax looks like, but there is a good chance that you can get suitable replacement cells for it.
      • Most parts we deal with are ABS.

        Plastic Welder is designed to glue ABS.

        Wal Mart, True Value Hardware stores, and lots of other places sell it.

        If they call it "Plastic Welder" its the Duro stuff under licence.
    • by The_Systech (568093) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:10PM (#7955364) Homepage
      This reminds me of something my Electronics teacher back in High School used to tell us. (Keep in mind this was back in the late 80's) He had been in the consumer electronics business practically for quite some time and the way he put it was this. Back in the early to mid 80's consumers started demanding a product that was cheap enough that if it broke, they could simply throw it away and buy a new one. Consumers began demanding "disposable electronics". Now they are getting it cramed down their throats. He told us the story of an unnamed consumer electronics firm that he had worked for where they designed a product that in theoretically would last 15-20 years without any component failures. Then they changed the specifications of two or three components so that they same product would have an average life expectancy of around 5 years. He ran an electronics repair business while he was teaching high school and he said that it was amazing to see now that people would bring some of these same products in to have him work on, and he could pinpoint the problem in 90% of the cases to one of those three parts.
      • Which reminds me, I am just waiting for my 6 years old 29" Sony black triniton to break down so that I can buy myself a plasma screen. I just can't bring myself to swap the working tv with a flatscreen when comparing the quality of the picture.
        • Which reminds me, I am just waiting for my 6 years old 29" Sony black triniton to break down so that I can buy myself a plasma screen. I just can't bring myself to swap the working tv with a flatscreen when comparing the quality of the picture.

          You may be waiting many years then. You would be pretty unlucky to get less than ten years use out of a Sony Trinitron. They build those things pretty damn well.

          Over Xmas I spent some time looking for a replacement for my parent's 14 year old Sony TV. The tube wa

          • by tep-sdsc (218375) on Monday January 12, 2004 @08:02PM (#7957664)
            Yeah, Sony Trinitons are pretty indestuctable, especially the mid-80s XBR (semi-pro) line.

            We have a 27" XBR that was purchased in December 1985, with all kinds of inputs, including digital RGB, and its still just fine.

            So, when I needed two new TVs this Xmas, guess what I bought? The 36" and 21" have joined their older sibling and all is well, and I know I'll never have to have them repaired.

            As for plasma/LCD, why? Just because they are available doesn't mean that your CRT TVs are obsolete. I love to buy at the back side of the tech curve. Home computers are ~1Ghz, CRT monitors, 80G drives, 32x CD-ROM instead of 52x, etc. I've got 1 and 2 year old Palm/Handsprings and they work just fine.

            I love to allow other people to pay the development and launch costs of new products.
            • As for plasma/LCD, why? Just because they are available doesn't mean that your CRT TVs are obsolete.

              $3000 plus for a TV is a heck of a lot, but $3000 on home repairs or decorating vanishes pretty damn quick.

              I suspect that quite a few of the people buying plasma TVs are doing so because it is cheaper to buy a plasma TV at current rates than to try to work a decent sized CRT TV into a decor scheme.

              My Sony Wega works really well in the corner we have put it in, but there is no way we could have a CRT TV

      • Sometime in the 80's, manufacturers found that the American consumer would pay for cheaper products that don't last as long. There are still some people who would rather pay more for a product that lasts longer, but a company can't build two separate products for the same niche...so the "extended warranty" was created for the latter group, who wanted some assurance of a longer product life.

        Unfortunately, the presence of an extended warranty has no effect on the quality of the product itself. It's just a w

    • by mixmasta (36673) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:14PM (#7955408) Homepage Journal
      Duct Tape. =)
    • by General Alcazar (726259) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:50PM (#7955563)
      I never buy warranties. My thinking is this: Essentially it is a bet between me and the company giving out the warranty. They are betting that they won't have to shell out the bucks, and I am betting that they will. Since the vendor has way more data upon which to base their bet (it is their product), I am betting that it probably isn't a good deal for me to bet against them.
      • For some companies yes, but mostly the scam works like this.

        You have 100 people shell out 400$ for a warranty on a 1600$ laptop. 10 people may have to use the warranty so you make

        100*2000 - 10*1600 = 184,000$ or 1840$ per laptop. If you sell the laptop at a profit for only 1600$ you definitely make more than you're share off the warranties.

        So far I've had my laptop since October [ok so only three months] and it's been churning along fine. I can you one thing though, if my laptop dies before October 10th, 2006 I'll definitely be on them about the warranty.

        Chances are my laptop will die October 12th, 2006 at which point I'll probably be able to afford a new laptop. So I'll donate my laptop to someone [who can then shell out less money to repair it then a new laptop costs] and go on my way.

        The trick is to have a family lawyer available and treat your equipment properly [e.g. hard shell case, leave it off when not in use, don't turn the LCD up all the way, etc...]

        Tom
      • by Dogtanian (588974) on Monday January 12, 2004 @05:56PM (#7956383) Homepage
        Essentially it is a bet between me and the company giving out the warranty.

        The other reply to this post sort of indirectly said this, but to put it more simply:-

        In theory what you say is true, but relies on money having the same 'value' to everyone. Of course, if I'm penniless (and, say, need something to eat), $2 will be 'worth' more to me than it would be to a millionaire.

        Would you risk everything you owned on a double-or-nothing bet; even if the odds were 60:40 in your favour? Probably not.

        It has been shown (don't ask me for a reference for this) that the value of money is logarithmic compared to the amount you already have.

        So a big insurance company can make a profit with little risk, even if the odds are only *slightly* skewed in their favour, and the small guy who doesn't have tons of cash in the bank will accept this (otherwise) unfair bet as protection against him being destroyed by a single disaster.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 12, 2004 @03:56PM (#7955169)
    Duct tape.
  • Computer Junkyards (Score:5, Informative)

    by akedia (665196) * on Monday January 12, 2004 @03:56PM (#7955171)
    My side hobby is auto-repair and restoration. Together, my father and I have restored several vehicles (1970 Pontiac GTO Judge, 1969 Triumph Bonneville T120R, 1968 Chevrolet Corvair convertible, and a 1982 Volvo GL to Mustang 5.0 conversion, if anyone here cares,) and one of the best things we did was to scavenge junkyards for 95%-complete vehicles that were just rusting away. If we got one with a good body, but a blown engine, then that would be our project car, and we would just scavence a rustbucket that was still good under the hood and swap out the drivetrain.

    When I took a job in the IT field and began repairing computers, I applied this same logic. If I had a laptop with a cracked case, but the internals were still fine, then I would try and scavenge a laptop with a dead motherboard that still had a good case and was discarded because it just didn't work. You can easily swap out things like that. I've done it on several Dell Inspirons and IBM ThinkPads, you can have a couple "parts" machines going at once and just get replacements from those. Sometimes on eBay you get lucky and find an auction for something like "Pallet of 100 Broken ThinkPads" for $50 and you can get some serious finds. If you want to take a bit of a risk you can even try "dumpster diving" outside of office buildings, schools and libraries. Often times when something breaks or is very obsolete these places will just toss it out. My favorite find so far was an IBM ThinkPad 486, complete, with two working batteries and all the cables in a case, that was just sitting in a dumpster because it was too old to run modern software.
    • by worst_name_ever (633374) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:05PM (#7955300)
      If we got one with a good body, but a blown engine

      But enough about dating sorority girls - back to Slashdot!

  • by cspenn (689387) <financialaidpodcast@@@gmail...com> on Monday January 12, 2004 @03:56PM (#7955173) Homepage Journal
    Find out who the case manufacturer is - most cases are made by Taiwanese manufacturers, even brand names. One of the biggest is HyperData Direct - check their web site to see if they carry a generic case part for your laptop.
  • My sollution (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rosewood (99925) <rosewood.chat@ru> on Monday January 12, 2004 @03:57PM (#7955177) Homepage Journal
    This is why I dropped the jack for an extended warrenty. Normal ware and tear has cracked the back hinge on my laptop in less then 6mo. It still works okay but its a crack. Before my 3 years is up, this thing is getting fixed so that it will have some life left it in.

    Same goes for the keyboard

    The touchpad (which is already honky cause it took a static electricity shock)

    And the CD drive

    etc etc etc.

    If you are just going to buy and sit and never work to get shit replaced, then yes -- the warrenty coverage is worthless. Buy it and use it, and then you have gotten something.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    to make it hard.

    Even batteries, that ought to be a commidity, are still expensive. $147 for a 760e ThinkPad battery? The laptop isn't worth that much.
  • Dell (Score:3, Interesting)

    by diersing (679767) on Monday January 12, 2004 @03:57PM (#7955185)
    Always been real happy with Dell and its replacement of busted laptop componets. Although this was as a corporate customer and if they need to replace other parts (the LCD in this case) to fix the problem, it was always warrantied work and no extra cost came to me because of it. I'm guessing the author is a home/personal user, which if the laptop was purchased new I'm surprised the replacement isn't warrantied (don't most come with 12 month warranties?).
  • by Patman (32745) <pmgeahan-slashdotNO@SPAMthepatcave.org> on Monday January 12, 2004 @03:58PM (#7955188) Homepage
    It's becoming more common these days for 'custom' parts like these to be bundled.

    I recently broke a wiring harness on my girlfriend's Pontiac Aztec. I could replace it in about five minutes if I could get Pontiac to sell me the part. But they won't, not without purchasing the entire headlight module, for 300 dollars.

    Your best bet is to do what I'm doing for that part - namely, hitting junkyards(in your case, eBay). Another possibility is to find a user's group/forum for these laptops - I know when I had a Sparcbook, there was always a guy or two with broken ones who would send you some weird random part.
    • I know it is a bit off-topic, but, I had the same thing happen on a Chrysler Cirrus. I hit a deer and broke the plastic covering the one headlight (as well as the turn signal bulb). They couldn't just repair the plastic covering -- they had to replace the whole module (and the working headlight) for a cost of about $210.

      Good suggestion on finding a computer 'junk yard'.

      -CPM
  • >Local laptop repair shop said they wouldn't replace the bezel without replacing the LCD, which isn't acceptable.

    Why isn't this acceptable?

    If its due to cost, what did you expect from a laptop? How much do you think that piece of plastic is going to cost you?
    • It isnt acceptable because if the LCD isnt broken, then why should he pay to get a whole new one. Its VERY easy to pop a LCD out of a bezel and put on a new bezel, I have done it many times myself. What they are doing is just pulling it out and sending it back for remanufacture, and NOT fixing the part that is broken.

      I understand completely where he is comming from, minor parts are next to imposable to find for a lot of the manufacturers and it IS very annoying.

    • by j-turkey (187775) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:45PM (#7955539) Homepage
      Why isn't this acceptable?

      To use an analogy from a car. Say you need to replace a spark plug -- it's not just like an expensive spark plug -- this is like a manufacturer refusing to sell you a spark plug without the entire replacement motor.

      Now I hear what you're saying about laptops just being "that way"...but it doesn't make it OK. I don't have much intention of buying a laptop until they're user servicable and suitable replacement parts are available (it's probably clear by now that I have no specific need for a laptop and when there is, my job will probably provide one). Point is, it's about as lame as Apple's iPod battery debacule, except it's an accepted industry-standard parctice.

  • Same here (Score:2, Informative)

    by MeanJeans (560482)
    I just ran into the same thing. The hinges on my laptop screen can no longer hold me PERFECT LCD screen vertical. ~$600 to replace the LCD/hinges. Jerks.
  • He tried eBay... (Score:3, Informative)

    by stevenbdjr (539653) <steven@mrchuckles.net> on Monday January 12, 2004 @03:58PM (#7955195) Homepage

    ...idiots. RTFP.

    Suits up fireproof jacket...

  • For Apple Laptops (Score:5, Informative)

    by nickyandthefuture (714155) on Monday January 12, 2004 @03:59PM (#7955204)
    There's a site called PB Parts [pbparts.com] that has Apple laptop parts. I replaced my iBook HD there and my brother replaced his PowerBook keyboard with a part from there. Some of their prices are a little high, but still cheaper than getting it repaired by Apple or a reseller if you don't have a warranty.
    • Go with Small Dog. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cryptochrome (303529) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:10PM (#7955358) Journal
      Some of PB Parts prices were REALLY high. When the inverter cable running through the hinge to my iBook monitor frayed and shorted (I've had hinge issues with both my Apple laptops - my Wallstreet hinges actually cracked!) they were charging $100 for it. Apple charged even more to repair the whole thing. As it turns out, Small Dog [smalldog.com] sold the part for around $30, although you have to talk to their techs directly to get the price quoted. I'd familiarize yourself with PB parts prices first, and then go ask Small Dog.
  • feh (Score:5, Informative)

    by Thaelon (250687) on Monday January 12, 2004 @03:59PM (#7955212)
    I work at my college servicing the IBM ThinkPads that the school leases. (There's your background

    The manufacturer should have replacement parts as long as the thing is under warranty and possibly a while after.

    I've probably replaced about 4,000 LCD bezels by now and I know exactly what you mean.

    The place that was trying to replace the ENTIRE assembly on you was doing nothing more than trying to rip you off BIG TIME. LCDs can cost more than the laptop their in, and that piece of plastic probably costs $.50 to make. (Even though IBM charges ~$50 for one)

    I recommend just trying harder to contact the original manufacturer.
  • by Alien54 (180860) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:00PM (#7955216) Journal
    Apple repair manuals are available online in a number of places.

    When it comes to plastic parts, like bezels, I usually resort to delicate use of epoxy and super thin reinforcements.

    My experience with plastic repair parts is that they are usually not sold separately, and are hard to find unless you can cannabalize.

    • are often very hard to find for most laptop models - never mind the parts, unless you work in a shop. And many shops just ship the stuff out to a factory service center, anyhow ....
  • Same here (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CompWerks (684874)
    I just ran into a similar problem [zendom.com] after I [cough] sat [/cough] on my laptop by mistake and at first I checked a few retailers that sold replacement lcd's only to find out they were astronomically priced and no one on ebay had the one that I needed until I waited a week and checked back on ebay and sure enough someone had one for sale.

    Try ebay, if you can't find it there you may be in trouble. :)

  • How did it break? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tyrdium (670229) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:00PM (#7955218) Homepage
    Was this accidental damage, or a manufacturing defect? Given that it's only half a year old, it should still be under warranty (assuming it's not accidental damage, such as you dropping it on the floor). You should be able to just send it in to the manufacturer and have them either repair it for you or ship you a refurb or new one.
  • Laptopsforless.com (Score:5, Informative)

    by kzinti (9651) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:00PM (#7955220) Homepage Journal
    I have purchased replacement batteries and a replacement keyboard for my aging Dell Inspiron 3700 from laptopsforless.com. I wasn't terribly impressed with the lifetime of the batteries - they wore out in just over a year, whereas the original Dells had lasted 18 months before dying (I can be hard on batteries). The keyboard was a refurb, but has performed adequately.

    You could always buy a sacrificial laptop on eBay and use it for parts. If it's old enough, it won't cost you too much.
  • Wood? (Score:5, Funny)

    by gruntled (107194) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:00PM (#7955223)
    How cool would it be to pay $50 bucks to the local woodshop teacher to make a custom bezel?
  • by da3dAlus (20553) <dustin@grau.gmail@com> on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:00PM (#7955230) Homepage Journal
    Reminds me of the little diddy they said in Brave New World, and piped into the heads of children at an early age: "better to spend than to mend". It seems our society is geared more towards the "just buy a new one" mentality nowadays. *cough*iPod*cough* Personally I'd find a way to MacGuyver a new part or fix it so that the device was still (safely) usable until the day I either do find a new part, or break it beyond repair.
  • I believe that these two components are generally considered one part (as in they have the same part number when they come from the factory).

    While the plastic is worth very little, if the factory will only ship them as one part, you are out of luck. I doubt you could find a store who would split them apart.

    I know that on my old compaq (Armada 7400), when the repair-man came to fix the LCD, he took the plastic surrounding it with him. I believe it is simpler for repairs as you only have to put a couple o
  • by Mr.Surly (253217) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:01PM (#7955239)
    ... for laptops: A new laptop.

    Seriously, though. I used to fix laptops. Typically the LCD and bezel came as one part, and couldn't be purchased separately.
  • Compaq/HP (Score:5, Funny)

    by DivideX0 (177286) * on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:01PM (#7955245)
    I usually have no problem getting what I want from Compaq as long as the following conditions are met:

    1. Have a lot of money
    2. Compaq/HP actually has the part listed
    3. Compaq/HP actually has the part in stock
    4. Compaq/HP actually ships the order
    5. I finally give up and buy a new laptop

    Hope this helps :-(

    Sorry I almost forgot:
    6. ???
    7. Profit
  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:02PM (#7955252) Journal
    I've had similar problems, and never had a good solution. My present laptop, I bought the extortionate appleCare insurance, but it is worth it.

    Or, what you do, is you buy from Costco and return the machine every 5 months... that ruse was cooler a while ago when you could have it for a year and then return it...

    My neighbour bought appleCare and boy did THAT pay for itself. His screen just up and DIED. First it turned weird colours and then it just died. Luckily he had appleCare, because at the time it was a $1200 repair!

    So, extended warranties (the more extended the better) are WORTH every penny on laptops. You hope and pray you never need it, but when you do need it, and you don't have it, yer fucked big time.

    good luck,

    RS

  • by mystik (38627) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:02PM (#7955260) Homepage Journal

    I had snapped off the metal hinge that attaches the LCD panel to the base. (And my laptop is out of warantee) I looked up part numbers in dells online manuals, called a Dell representative, and $40 later, they sent me the part, no fuss whatsoever.

    I was actually really surprised that the process went so smoothly.

    • I had the same hinges wear out, actually the screws sheared off on my Dell. After I managed to figure out who to call, then sent me the parts for about $40 no fuss. And I got a direct number if ever something else wears out. My monitor now stands and a nice 90degree vertical instead of the droopy 45degrees of old age :)

      But they also told me that the bezel of the monitor itself, because I also broke the clips that hold the thing shut, were unreplaceable. and to my eyes it does seem glued together.

      I was
  • by Dielectric (266217) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:02PM (#7955261)
    Laptops aren't meant to be serviceable. They're meant to be sealed up like a Pharoah's tomb and left alone for eternity, because everything inside is laid out just so, and all those printed wire ribbons are fairly delicate. It's hard to get replacement parts without going through an authorized repair depot. The manufacturer does not have the money to put in a system for ordering parts piecemeal.

    If you buy through authorized dealers, you get this thing called a warranty and a service contract. They're pretty good for getting your laptop fixed. I broke the LCD on my Sony Vaio, and they fixed it and the noisy fan which I didn't even ask about. Same with a co-worker and his Dell, he broke the hinge and Dell fixed it.

    My best solution for you is to find another dead one on Ebay and scavenge the corpse. The other solution is to make friends with someone at a repair depot so they can backdoor you a piece here and there.
    • Not all laptops are like this. You can still find the field replacement manuals for many many IBM Thinkpads from IBM's support site. They are the equivalent of a Haynes Auto Manual; you can use it to practically tear-down the entire laptop and rebuild it.
  • Some people don't like them, but I got a Dell, I've never had any problems getting things fixed.
    At work some of my colleagues use Dell laptops, when something breaks, a Dell tech shows up fixes/replaces things, makes you sign and leaves.
    Get extended warranties for laptops.
  • Doink! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by torpor (458)
    pbparts.com has come to my rescue so many times, I can't think of buying a tiBook again without having a relationship with these guys ...

    Anyway, tiBook. The best 'user-replaceable/serviceable' laptop you can invest in. *tons* of after-market parts.

    I've replaced the case on mine 3 times. Not easy, definitely like gutting a fish and expecting it to swim again, but hey ... can't do it with a Dell!
  • Had a Compaq 1800xt with the 15in display and the lid hinge broke so that you could only either have the lid closed or laying all the way open/flat. The repair shop said it would have to replace the entire display for ~$900. Yikes! Freakin' more than the laptop was worth...

    I also have a cousin who works for Compaq nee HP, and he looked it up and sure enough, there was no way to replace the 50 cent hinges without replacing the $850 screen.

    Needless to say, the laptop was retired to the kitchen (used as a wi
  • by mekkab (133181) * on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:05PM (#7955305) Homepage Journal
    I bought a Toshiba 3110CT laptop right when they were getting phased out so I saved some bucks. I sunk $300 for 3-year warranty support.

    I dropped the laptop while it had a wifi card sticking out of it. PCMCIA slot now can't register any cards. Brought it in to the Warranty shop, they gave me a new motherboard. 1 day turn-around time.

    Dropped again, Harddrive died. Asked for a a new harddrive and they did it while I waited.

    Best money I ever spent.
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:14PM (#7955409) Homepage Journal
    Before you laugh, you can make your own parts in plastic.

    Plenty of books out there to teach you how to create a mould and cast your own out of scrap plastic.

    All it takes is a bit of patience.
  • by jeffmock (188913) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:17PM (#7955445)
    IBM is just great with Thinkpads. The service manual for all Thinkpad models is available online as a PDF file. It has incredibly detailed instructions for assembling the laptop from several hundred FRUs. You can order the FRUs from IBM or cheaper from a number of resellers. They seem to keep good stock on parts for older models.

    A few years ago a friend of mine dropped her T20 Thinkpad onto asphalt from about 4 feet. It made quite a mess. I thought that it was going to be a total write-off, but I found the IBM info, ordered about $150 of little broken bits and restored the thing to perfect working order in about a week. It was great.

    I've been a devoted Thinkpad fan ever since. I bought a new keyboard for my T23 recently, it took about 5 minutes to order the right part and another 5 minutes to install it. IBM really does do service manuals and parts the way you think a big company should do it.

    jeff
  • by n8ur (230546) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:19PM (#7955473) Homepage
    I've owned a bunch of IBM Thinkpads, and have done various things to them (replaced keyboards, etc.). As far as I'm concerned, their support has been really, really, good.

    You can download full service documentation (with exploded parts diagrams) from their public web site, and the parts organization does a good job of (a) helping you figure out the right part number and (b) actually selling it to you.

    The prices for what I've needed seemed generally reasonable (~$50 for a keyboard). In one instance, though, I discovered that to fix an intermittent DC power input jack they wanted me to replace the DC converter module for $150. Since I only paid $450 for the machine in the first place, I wasn't about to do that, but I was able to use the on-line manual to disassemble the thing far enough to resolder the DC jack myself.

    Compare this to my Sony Vaio, where they won't even tell you how to replace the hard disk.

    So, at least until something changes I'm sold on Thinkpads for serviceability.
  • by buss_error (142273) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:20PM (#7955483) Homepage Journal
    You can get it repaired with CA glue (Check hobby strores) or take it to a place that does motorcycle body panel repair, and have any missing parts re-melted and formed.
  • Buy Corporate Models (Score:5, Informative)

    by hirschma (187820) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:22PM (#7955504)
    I needed a "new" notebook, so I bought an eBay'd Compaq Armada M300 - under 3 pounds, under $400. Great stuff, runs any operating system like charm, has 2-hourish battery life. It has a slow proc and only 800x600 graphics, but it is cheap, disposable, light, etc.

    Then I dropped it, and it landed on the inserted wireless card. The machine seemed fine, but the PCMCIA guts inside got sheared off the daughterboard. Compaq's durability was not at fault, IMO, just my stooopidity.

    I went to the HP partsfinder, and _every_ little piece was available, most of them at good prices. The daughtercard was $35, and the instructions to replace it were online. Strangely, the only expensive things were the commodity parts - memory, cpu, hard drive, etc. And the LCD, of course - they always are.

    However, not satisified with that, I went to ebay and searched for the part number - and got a new daughercard for $15.

    Moral: stick to models that the big corps are buying, if possible. Their IT shops don't suffer the higher prices and foolishness that consumers buying consumer models do. Corollary: see if there's a corporate version of your consumer notebook, and then look for parts again - Compaq/HP use the same guts in their presarios as they do in their corporate line, for example.

    Jonathan
  • Tough... (Score:3, Informative)

    by cybermace5 (446439) <g.ryan@macetech.com> on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:43PM (#7955526) Homepage Journal
    For something that is supposed to be portable, laptops sure are fragile.

    My school required us to buy a certain laptop, and I carried that laptop with me every day for four years, in a backpack full of books, in all kinds of weather, subjected to all kinds of impacts.

    The service center on campus was certified to repair all the student laptops, therefore they had all kinds of replacement parts. In addition, the mass purchase included a four-year warranty on each laptop, in case you did something like subject it to a direct lightning strike and it had to be sent back. But they had all the case parts. I had two front bezels replaced, a back bezel, top and bottom of the case, hard drive, motherboard, power control board, and floppy drive as well. I did not think I overly abused my laptop, it's the wear and tear you get from running it 24/7 and packing and unpacking it every hour between classes.

    Virtually everyone I knew at school had to get their laptop serviced at one time or another. I have to say that for a laptop, the best accessory you can add to it is a warranty for however long you plan to use the laptop. If it's impossible to get individual parts six months out, how about two years?

    Of course you need to realize why they won't just sell you little plastic parts cheaply: the parts are being kept on reserve, based on statistical analysis, to service the laptops coming in on extended warranty. When you buy a warranty, you are basically reserving all those esoteric little parts you won't find anywhere else.

    If you don't want to shell out a hundred or so dollars more for a warranty on your laptop, you don't need that laptop bad enough to begin with.
  • Dell (Score:3, Informative)

    by gwernol (167574) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:45PM (#7955541)
    Also, any recommendations for manufacturers that are good about making obscure replacement parts for their laptops available to the general public?

    I have a Dell Inspiron laptop, the bezel started cracking about 18 months after I purchased it, and there were also cracks in the case. Dell replaced both free of charge. They also carry the bezel in the online store for a pretty reasonable amount.

    Not everything about Dell is right, but replacing the plastic parts for free or reasonable cost? They were wonderful.

    Just one experience, of course.
  • by JRHelgeson (576325) on Monday January 12, 2004 @04:46PM (#7955546) Homepage Journal
    As I was checking in for Jury Duty one day, I had my laptop bag open and sitting on the counter top as I scanned my summons - thereby clocking in for the day - when my bag took a humpty-dumpty right off the counter top and landed on the left corner hinge with a gut wrenching CRUNCH!

    Upon examination, the left hinge was broken, the front bezel, and the screen didn't light up.

    Boy was I upset. I had to sit in a jury room all day with no laptop.

    Once home, I took the laptop apart and discovered that I'd broken the FL inverter board(what causes the screen backlight to illuminate). Now, this is a Toshiba Laptop, and I had taken the thing into be serviced - so I called up the service center and asked them to order in some parts for me. They did, and I replaced everything myself - becoming intimately familiar with my laptop in the process.

    Once I got the FL inverter board replaced, the screen still didn't light.

    I called the Toshiba Service Center (Compar in Minneapolis, great guys) and they said, "It's gotta be the fluorescent bulb..."

    Huh? Fluorescent bulb?

    They explained to me that the way the screen illuminates is there is a tiny fluorescent bulb that runs along the bottom of the screen. You have to remove the LCD panel, take off the tape and some screws and you'll be able to access a tiny fluorescent bulb that is the thickness of a #2 pencil lead (about 1mm dia) and it is the length(width) of the screen. Turns out the FL inverter board is nothing but a high-tech ballast. They told me that they weren't sure if they could replace the bulb without replacing the screen - but just about any bulb from any screen, provided it was the same length, would work.

    Now, my friend had a DELL laptop that he'd stepped on and cracked the LCD, but the backlight still worked. It too was a 15" screen, so I took out his old bulb and put it in my screen, but his bulb was about 3mm to long! SO, I pulled out my Dremmel and cut away the metal & plastic so the fluorescent bulb could extend beyond the side of the LCD Panel. It only extended about 1mm out from the edge of the panel. When I put the screen back into its mounting, it barely fit. I had to cut the wires to the bulb, and solder on the ones for my old broken bulb, but when I powered it up, I had my laptop back.

    It was only then that I noticed that the piece of glass that runs behind the LCD was cracked (NOT the LCD panel itself) but the glass that distributes the light emitted from the bulb. All that means is that the upper left corner of the screen has a wavy shadow. I can live with that.

    All told? The drop cost me just under $200 to repair, and the income earned from jury duty wasn't even enough to cover half of it.

    Oh, and the trial I heard? Some guy that was charged with being a male prostitute (ouch!). We found him guilty. I dunno why he even fought the charges - he could make a killing on the inside. The entire time I was in trial, I was thinking of Goatse. Damn you Slashdot.

    Silly faggot, dicks are for chicks!

  • by cdn-programmer (468978) <terr@Nospam.terralogic.net> on Monday January 12, 2004 @05:01PM (#7955656)
    There are two alternative strategies.

    1) plastic welding is a viable repair - you will find that if you contact your local panel banger (autobody repair shop) that they will be able to offer advise how to proceed.

    The laptops are injection moulded plastics - possibly a TPE same as is used in the auto industy so the same techniques may apply.

    2) glue it yourself. Call up your local 3M representative and ask them what structural glues they have for the plastic your lap top is made of. One product that MIGHT work is DP8005.

    Another option is to contact polyurathane supply company. Those people have a nice website with good technical information.

    ------------

    The type of equipment you need to plastic weld is generally an injection hot melt gun - they typically sell for about $5000 bux and are not too difficult to learn how to use. These guns force plastic under pressure into the crack and form a seam that is over 80% as strong as the original. The plastic comes in rods and is available in ABS, TPE, TFE,

    You may want to check your Yellow Pages - look under PLASTIC WELDING equipment - call a supplier of the equipment and ask for a referal to who has the gun. Try to get to know the guy a bit and pay him well - broken plastic parts are a fact of life and these guys can do magic!!!
  • Plastic Welding (Score:5, Informative)

    by MOMOCROME (207697) <momocromeNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday January 12, 2004 @05:01PM (#7955661)
    I used to work in a motorcycles-only body shop. We'd do custom jobs to harley's and bullet bikes. The work on the bullet-bikes ('crotch-rockets' as they are sometimes known) largely involved prepping the fairings and repairing small cracks.

    Since fairings are made out of PVC, it was a simple matter to repair cracks in them with a soldering iron and a strip of raw pvc (or some old bits of fairing laying around). The welds would come out as strong or stronger than the original PVC. The only side effect would be an awful scarring effect, which we would then sand out, fill with bondo and apply primer. Good as new.

    Your laptop bezel is made out of PVC or a similar polymer. It would probably be a simple matter to weld the crack back together, or whatever (hinges, clips &etc).

    The most important part of this technique, however, is to work in a place with good ventilation and *WEAR A GODDAM FACE MASK*. The fumes and smoke of the process are toxic, carcinogenic and easilly filtered by a cheap paper mask over you mouth and nose. You know, like Michael Jackson would wear on the streets of Hong Kong. Eye protection is a good idea, too. This is why I still have lungs and vision.

    I would always do the plastic welding in the paint booth, with the painter's mask and the fans on high. Since you'd only need to do a small amount, the face mask and a kitchen or bathroom fan would probably suffice.

    And remember: this is slashdot. think before you take any advice.
  • My personal choice. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Raven42rac (448205) * on Monday January 12, 2004 @05:07PM (#7955735)
    My personal choice is Ebay. I had an old Gateway Solo 2500 I bought for $150. Catch? Bad keyboard, and bad touchpad. I scope out google, prices are like US$70-80 each! So then I hit up Ebay, got the touchpad for about US$16, and the keyboard for about US$10. On another occasion, I had some guy drop an old Compaq Armada E500, broke off all the plastic on the corner and ripped open the screwholes holding the hinge together. Estimates ran like US$800 for a new screen, which would not even address the dead plastic! So I hit up Ebay yet again, got an "as-is" unit that was only missing a cd-rom drive, floppy drive, battery, and hard drive, all of which were good on my unit with the dead plastic. I buy it for US$160, open it up, swap the good floppy, hdd, cd drive, and battery, works splendidly. So I guess I am 2/2. It honestly depends on what sort of part you are looking for. If it is a relatively simple part like a keyboard or a touchpad, do not expect to get reamed, but if it is like a screen, or processor, seriously consider getting a new laptop. It may just be too much hassle to justify the expense. My advice is to keep checking Ebay, try changing up your search terms, look for "as-is" or "for parts" units. Also, check if your laptop manufacturer sells a "plastics kit" for you particular unit, I have had luck with those before, they have all sorts of plastic doodads that tend to break off. Good luck man!
  • Build a barebones? (Score:3, Informative)

    by msimm (580077) on Monday January 12, 2004 @05:09PM (#7955764) Homepage
    Forgive me, I just started doing a little research when I read your story. Of course I started with 'open notebook' and related searches, but I didn't find anything. Anyone know of any industry group trying to create and open standard there?

    Anyhow, I'm interested in your problem for selfish reasons, family and friends have been asking me about building/upgrading existing/fixing their notebooks for years. I've dodged them this whole time because I couldn't afford one myself, but this is finally starting to change.

    So, anyhow, if I where going to buy a computer today I'd look seriously at building a 'barebones' notebooks. A few familiar companies seem to be building barebones notebooks, which is basically a motherboard and graphics card wrapped up with a keyboard, LCD screen and a case. ASUS, ECS, AOpen, Arima (??) and FIC seem to sell them. I couldn't guarantee it, but I bet you'd have much better luck getting a replacement part from someone like ECS or ASUS, plus you get to pick out or upgrade things like your CPU, hard/cd/dvd drive and memory.

    Here are a couple of quick links to product pages for a few of the manufacturers:

    Aopen [aopen.com.tw]
    ECS [ecs.com.tw]
    ASUS [asus.com]
    Arima [arima.com.tw]
    FIC [fica.com]

    Most of these links came from this [it4profit.com] site, which seems to specialize in mobile computing bare bone systems and hardware. Man, is it lunch time yet?
  • by lionchild (581331) on Monday January 12, 2004 @05:16PM (#7955854) Journal
    While this isn't something everyone can do, it's good to know some hardware repair geeks. This is exactly why.

    Repairing laptops is getting harder and harder these days, because the manufacturers, in general, are getting very picky about what is in and out of warranty. It used to be that you could get by with everything under the sun short of a cracked screen. That's all changed with all the big manufacturers.

    And more than that, often you have to mail your laptop in, rather than take it to someplace local. When you do that, the manufacturer cuts you off from your equipment, and the tech off from your plea as to why this wasn't a case of "misuse."

    It's been my experience that what you need to do is to just plain know someone who does warranty repairs on the type of laptop you own. I mean know the technician by his first name. This is the part where you need a friend, badly.

    Those horror stories about the $75 hinges and $56 for four hinge screws...they're true, because there's markup in there! A company has to make money at repairing things, and service is where companies get margin. Usually that margin on 'little' stuff like this is in the neighborhood of 100% or more. Cut that $75 and $56 in half, and isn't that more reasonable?

    The trouble is, the company has to make a profit on the item, plus they likely had a 'shipping and handling and administrative fee' for having their folks order the parts for you, recieve them, etc.

    If you're in a big company, surely you have in-house folks, or people on-staff from then manufacturer (or who come around on a regular basis.) Get to know them, they can be your best of friends right now. Ply them with a lunch, and a soda now and again! You'd be surprised how far a good Tech will go if you feed him once in a while. ;-)

    And the average tech isn't deaf to your pleas. They understand how badly it sucks to have a broken laptop that you depend on day in and day out, at home and at work. Usually if you treat them well, they'll work to take care of you when you really need it.
  • Small Dogs (Score:3, Informative)

    by immel (699491) on Monday January 12, 2004 @05:29PM (#7956007)
    There is a company called Small Dog Electronics (http://www.smalldog.com) based in Waitsfield, USA. My physics prof broke a part on his laptop (I'm not sure if he called it the bezel or not, but it did have something to do with holding the LCD in place). He took it to Smalldog because the manufacturer's parts were hard to find, and they fixed it. Probably saved him a lot of money over what the manufacturer would have charged him. The lesson here: these guys deal in factory refurbished goods, so they are likely to have some spare parts lying around, even from slightly older models.

I judge a religion as being good or bad based on whether its adherents become better people as a result of practicing it. - Joe Mullally, computer salesman

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