Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to get anything repaired. If you’re lucky, it’ll be under warranty, and you can send it away for several weeks and receive it back – maybe fixed, maybe not. What happened to local repair shops, charging reasonable prices, and staffed by people who actually knew what they were doing?
To make things worse, electronics these days are made so cheaply that they can’t stand up to normal wear and tear. But if you’re experiencing one of these common problems with your laptop, iPod, or expensive headphones, never fear – if you’re brave enough, you can fix or improve it yourself.
Bear in mind that, especially in the first two cases, doing these things will void your warranty. If you’re in warranty, try your darnedest to get the thing fixed through the proper channels first.
1. My laptop won’t charge. I tried getting a new A/C adapter, and it worked for a while, but now my computer won’t recognize it anymore. My battery is slowly dying, and I’m out of warranty. What can I do?
The problem is not the adapter – it’s the connector inside the laptop. The connector is soldered to the motherboard, and over time, the solder can begin to come loose, and the connection decays to the point where the battery can’t charge anymore. Your job is to remove the existing solder, secure the connector back in with some superglue, and re-solder it properly.
While not the most difficult of electrical tasks, soldering can be tricky. For this job, you’ll need both a soldering iron and a soldering vacuum to clean off the melted solder; these can be found in most hardware stores and cheaply on eBay. The good news is this: if you screw it up completely, and need to pay to have it repaired, you probably won’t end up paying any more than you would have – to replace a power connector, most services will replace the entire motherboard. No matter how badly this project goes, you probably won’t be losing anything.
Solder and desolder carefully, making sure to clean up all the melted solder. If you’ve never done it before, this guide, while geared towards a specific laptop, gives you a pretty good idea of what to do. As mentioned on the page, you can use superglue to secure the connector in place before soldering the pins, which should prevent it from jarring loose again.
2. My iPod keeps having disc errors. I get all the different little sad icons at various times; sometimes, by whacking it against something, I can make it work again. It often freezes in the middle of playing a song. What can I do?
Luckily, this is a quick, simple fix. The iPod is designed without a cooling system, which means it can overheat, which means the casing of the hard drive gets warped. This is precisely why your computer has a fan – so things like this don’t happen. Your iPod doesn’t, so you have to help it.
The problem you’re having is that your hard drive won’t spin up because it’s not making contact with its casing. All you have to do is put constant pressure on the housing to give the hard drive the strength it needs.
Pry your iPod open. This will be hard the first time, but once it snaps open, it will become a lot easier. I recommend using the box-opener portion of a box knife – it’s thin enough not to damage the iPod but thick enough not to bend under pressure. Don’t try to lift the back entirely off; open the iPod more like a book, because there is a thin cable that connects two components, and can sometimes be difficult to reconnect.
Now you need to fold something like a playing card into fourths or so. A small piece of cardstock will work too, or maybe a business card. Place this flush against the hard drive. You’ll find a short cable connecting the battery, a large black square, to the iPod innards. Disconnect, then reconnect this to reboot the iPod. Snap the iPod shut, making sure that the card stays in place. The iPod should feel pretty stuffed. You might have to connect the iPod to your computer and restore it, but it will almost certainly work.
If it doesn’t, you’ll need to buy a new hard drive off of a place like eBay. This page, which also contains instructions for the above fix with pictures, gives more details on this procedure. Bear in mind that these pictures feature a 5th generation iPod, which varies slightly from the older ones.
3. My headphones go in and out and get staticky. One ear, in particular, will go out from time to time. I’ve also noticed that the part where the cable connects to the jack has started to crack a little, and when I fiddle with it, I can make the sound go out or come back. What can I do?
This is not a permanent fix. The little perforated neck of the headphones is the primary point of failure, so you’re going to had to budget for new headphones. However, you can get a few more months out of it, primarily if you treat it gently. What you need to do is create a splint for the weak little broken neck, which should keep the wires from jiggling out of place…for now.
You’ll need electrical tape and something to create a splint. I broke the pocket clips off a bunch of cheap ballpoint pens, since let’s face it, they never work to clip the pens without the lids falling off. You could try using toothpicks or something similar. Line them up around the perimeter of the neck, then wrap it securely with electrical tape. The headphones should work better in the meantime.