Getting my geek on
Two weeks ago I curled up into my favorite corner of the couch, pulled the blanket over my legs, reached over to the coffee table to fetch my trusty Macbook, and pressed the power button. The usual happy apple with a bite taken out of it was absent, and replaced by a blue screen of gibberish.
I stared in disbelief for a while. I pushed power buttons, clicked mice, and did obscure CTRL key combinations as if trying to invoke the computer gods. Safe modes were invoked, OS X boot disks dusted off, and all of it led back to a blue screen of gibberish. Finally, with my tail between my legs, I packed up my Mac and headed down to the apple service store.
“Your logic board is toast.”
“Ah. I see. Have one of them handy?”
“Nope, but I can order it. $1500.”
“What? This computer is 4 years old. How much is a new Macbook Pro?”
So, after a brief fit, we came up with a Plan B: If I could find the part cheap on Ebay, he could install it for $300, which translated in my head as, “If I can find it on Ebay, I’ll completely disassemble my laptop on my own and use my mad engineering skills to swap it out.”
You must pause to understand at this juncture that the technical challenge of disassembling, repairing, and reassembling something incredibly complicated is, to an engineer, like a dangling feather on a string to a cat; you simply can’t pass by without taking a swat at it.
The internet is great. You can look up how to do just about anything, including changing out a logic board. To get the board out, it turns out, you must first remove everything else, and I mean everything. Everything is connected via screws, wires, and connectors which would give a neurosurgeon pause. But, one jillion microscopic screws later, and here’s what the emptied case looked like. You can see the fans and memory sitting off to the left, and the optical drive is out of the picture. Those three copper squares are the heatsinks for the GPU and processor, and needed to be cleaned with isopropyl alcohol before having a dot of thermal grease reapplied:
Here’s the new board installed:
And, after putting everything back in and hooking it back up, there was a final moment of truth when I had to push the power button. I considered diving behind the sofa for cover, but was transfixed by the outcome after two hours of work.
And there it was! My old buddy, ready again for countless Farmville-ing and rambling blog posts. The original estimate was $1800, and my final cost was about $300. Plus I got 2 quality hours of engineering catnip to entertain myself with.