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Chapter 16.  Problem Solving and Troubleshooting

Chapter 16.  Problem Solving and Troubleshooting

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BasicTroubleshootingGuidelines

TroubleshootinglaptopandportablePChardwareproblemscan

seemlikeahugechallenge,evenifyou'reexperiencedwith

solvingproblemsondesktopPCs.Somecomponentsthatcan

beeasilyremovedandreplacedondesktopcomputers,suchas

harddisks,floppydrives,opticaldrives,processors,andBIOS

chips,arebuiltintothesystemorusedifferentinterfacesthan

desktopPCs.Sometypesofdiagnosticprocedures,suchas

powersupplytesting,BIOSPOSTcodeanalysis,andothers,

mustbeperformedindifferentwaysbecauseofthedifferences

betweenportableanddesktophardware.

Theproprietarynatureoftypicalportablehardwareisanother

challenge.AlthoughthebasiclayoutofonedesktopPCis

similartoanother,differentbrandsofportablesareoften

extremelydifferentinternally,makingitessentialtoobtain

model-specificinformationbeforeyouopenthesystemormake

repairs.

Althoughthesechallengesmakelaptopandportablecomputer

problemsolvingandtroubleshootingabiggerchallengethanfor

desktopsystems,youcanstillsolvemanyhardwareproblems

yourselfbyapplyingthetechniquescoveredinthischapter.



ModernLaptopComputersMoreComplicated

andMoreReliable

Considerthis:Themodernlaptopcomputerisanincredible

collectionofhardwareandsoftware.Whenyouconsideronly

thehardware,therearetensofmillionsoftransistorsintypical

processorsalone;nearly4.3billiontransistorsina512MBstick

ofRAM;hundredsofmillionsoftransistorsinthemotherboard

chipset,videoprocessor,andvideoRAM;andmillionsmorein



theotheradaptercardsandlogicboardsinthesystem.

Notonlymusteachofthesebillionsofinterconnected

transistorsfunctionproperly,theymustalloperateinanorderly

fashionwithinstrictlyenforcedtimingwindows,someofwhich

aremeasuredinpicoseconds(trillionthsofasecond)!Whenyou

realizethatyourlaptopwilllockuporcrashifanyoneofthese

transistorsfailstooperateproperlyandontime,and/orifany

oneofthebillionsofcircuitpathsandinterconnectionsbetween

thetransistorsordevicescontainingthemfailsinanyway,itis

awonderthatlaptopsworkatall!



Note

AtypicalmobileprocessorsuchastheIntelMobile

Pentium4-Mcontains55milliontransistors,whereas

thelatestmobileprocessorfromIntel,thePentium

M,has77milliontransistors.ThePentiumMisthe

processorcomponentofIntel'sCentrinotechnology,

whichalsoincludesasophisticatedchipset(theIntel

915Express)andtheIntelPRO/Wireless2200Wi-Fi

IEEE802.11b/gwirelessnetworkadapter.

ThelatestmobileprocessorfromAMD,theAthlon

XP-M,contains37.5milliontransistors.Ithasa

512KBL2cacheandusesAMD'sPowerNow!

technologytodynamicallycontroltheprocessor's

powerusage,whichhelpstooptimizethelaptop's

batterylife.



EverytimeIturnononeofmysystemsandwatchitbootup,I

thinkaboutthebillionsuponbillionsofcomponentsandtrillions

upontrillionsofmachine/programstepsandsequencesthat

havetofunctionproperlytogetthere.Asyoucannowsee,



therearemanyopportunitiesforproblemstoarise.

Althoughmodernlaptopcomputersareexponentiallymore

complicatedthantheirpredecessors,fromanotherpointof

view,theyhavealsobecomesimplerandmorereliable.When

youconsiderthecomplexityofthemodernlaptopcomputers,it

isnotsurprisingthatoccasionallyproblemsdoarise.However,

moderndesignandmanufacturingtechniqueshavemadelaptop

computersmorereliableandeasiertoservicedespitetheir

ever-increasinginternalcomplexity.Today'ssystemshavefewer

andfewerreplaceablecomponentsandindividualparts,which

issortofaparadox.Thetruthisthataslaptopcomputershave

becomemorecomplex,theyhavebecomesimplerandeasierto

serviceinmanywaysaswell!



DesktopandLaptopComponentsCompared

Althoughlaptopandportablecomputersusethesame

operatingsystemsandexternalperipheralsastheirdesktop

siblings,internallytheyaremuchdifferent.Althoughthereare

industrystandardsforprocessors,memory,harddrives,and

othercomponentsinsideatypicallaptopcomputer,theyare

muchdifferentfromthestandardssupportedbyatypical

desktopcomputer,asyoucanseefromTable16.1.

Table16.1.DesktopandLaptopComponentStandards

Component Desktop

Type

Standard



Laptop

Standard



Memory

module



SODIMM(144pin,200-pin);

SORIMM(160pin)



DIMM(168,

184-pin);

RDRAM(184,

232-pin)



Notes



SOstandsforsmall

outline.SODIMMs

andSORIMMsare

physicallysmaller

thandesktop

memorymodules.

Oldersystemsoften

useproprietary

modules.



Harddisk



ATA/IDE(40pin)SerialATA;

3.5-inchform

factor



ATA/IDE(44pin);2.5-inch

formfactoror

proprietary

swappable



Laptopversionsof

ATA/IDEuseasingle

connectorforpower

anddata.Models

thatsupport

swappabledrives

usuallyallowspecial

typesofhard,

floppy,andoptical

drivestobe

swappedinplaceof

eachother.



Processor



Socket478,

Socket754,

Socket775

processors



Mobile

processors



Mobileprocessors

uselowervoltages

andaresometimes

optimizedfor

differentchipsets

thanstandard

processors.



Modem



PCIcardor

integrated



Built-inorMini

PCIcard



TypicalMiniPCI

modemsalso

support10/100

Ethernetnetworks.



10/100

Ethernet



PCIcardor

integratedinto

motherboard



Built-inorMini

PCIcard



TypicalMiniPCI

10/100Ethernet

networkadapters

alsoprovidemodem

functions.



Floppydrive



34-pinfloppy

interface



Proprietaryfixed Differentmodels

orproprietary

fromthesame

swappable

vendormightuse

thesameswappable

floppydrive,but

differentbrandsare

notinterchangeable.



Optical(CD,

DVD,

rewritable)

drive



40-pinATA/IDE Proprietaryfixed Differentmodels

interface

orproprietary

fromthesame

swappable

vendormightuse

thesameswappable

opticaldrive,but

differentbrandsare

notinterchangeable.



Powersupply LPX(12-pin)or Proprietary

ATX(20-pin)



Someoldermodels

havebuilt-inpower

supplies,butmost

useanexternal

"brick"AC/DCpower

converter.



AsyoucanseefromTable16.1,manyofthecomponentsused

innotebookcomputersfollowdifferentstandardsthanthose

usedindesktopcomputers.Asaconsequence,mostparts

cannotbefreelyinterchangedbetweendifferentmodelsand

brandsofnotebookcomputersthewaytheycanbetween

desktopcomputers.However,manyofthepartslistedinTable

16.1,aswellastheCMOSbatteryusedtomaintainBIOS

settings,cannormallyberemovedforupgradesorrepairs.

Devicesthatarenormallynotindustrystandard(andtherefore

notgenericallyreplaceable)includethefollowing:

Motherboard

CPUheatsink/fan

Chassis

Videocard(integratedintothemotherboardchipset,ora

separategraphicschipmightbebuiltintothe

motherboard)

LCDdisplaypanel

Modem(ifnotpartofaMiniPCIcard;itmightbeintegrated

intothemotherboardonsomesystems)



Soundcard(mightbeintegratedintothemotherboard

chipsetormightbeaseparatechipbuiltintothe

motherboard)

Speakers

Keyboard(builtin)

Pointingdevice(TrackPointortouchpad)

Althoughmanyofthesecomponentsmaynotbeindustry

standard,theycanoccasionallyberepairedorreplaced

(dependingonthespecificmake,model,andimplementationof

thecomponent).Fromahardwaretroubleshooting/repair

perspective,anyoneofthesecomponentscouldbeeither

improperlyinstalled(configured)ordefective.Ifimproperly

installedorconfigured,thecomponentcanbe"repaired"by

merelyreinstallingorconfiguringitproperly.Iftrulydefective,

thecomponentcanbereplaced.WhenanylaptopordesktopPC

isbrokendownintoitsbasicreplaceableparts,youcanseethat

itreallyisn'ttoocomplicated,whichiswhyI'vespentmycareer

helpingpeopleeasilyperformtheirownrepairsandupgrades,

andevenbuildentiresystemsfromscratch.



ReinstallorReplace?

Whenyouaredealingwithhardwareproblems,thefirstsimple

truthtounderstandisthatyoudonotnormallyrepairanything;

youreinstallorreplaceitinstead.Reinstallcomesfromthefact

thatthemanylaptophardwareproblemsareduetoaparticular

componentbeingimproperlyinstalledorconfigured.I

rememberhearingfromIBMmanyyearsagothatithadfound

60%ormoreoftheproblemshandledbytheirservice

technicianswereduetoimproperinstallationorconfiguration,

meaningthehardwarewasnotactuallydefective.Thiswasin



factthemajorimpetusbehindthePlugandPlayrevolution,

whichhaseliminatedtheneedtomanuallyconfigurejumpers

andswitchesonmosthardwaredevices,minimizingthe

expertiseneededtoinstallhardwareproperly,andthusalso

minimizinginstallation,configuration,andresource-conflict

problems.Still,PlugandPlayhassometimesbeencalled"Plug

andPray,"becauseitdoesnotalwaysworkperfectly,

sometimesrequiringmanualinterventiontogetthingstowork

properly.Althoughmostlaptophardwareisbuiltintothe

systemorattachestohot-swappableconnectionssuchasPC

CardorCardBusslots,USBportsorIEEE1394a(FireWire400,

i.LINK)ports,problemswithBIOSconfiguration,Windows

configuration,orimproperinternalconnectionscanstillcause

laptophardwaretofail.

Replacecomesfromtheeconomicsofthesituationwith

computerhardware.Thebottomlineisthatitfinanciallyis

muchcheapertoreplaceafailedcomponentwithanewone

thantorepairit.Modernboardsusesurface-mountedchipsthat

havepinspacingmeasuredinhundredthsofaninch,requiring

sophisticatedandexpensiveequipmenttoattachandsolderthe

chip.Evenifyoucouldfigureoutwhichchiphadfailedandhad

theequipmenttoreplaceit,thechipsthemselvesareusually

soldinquantitiesofthousands,andobsoletechipsarenormally

notavailable.Theneteffectofallthisisthatthereplaceable

componentsinyourlaptophavebecomedisposabletechnology,

includingdrivesandLCDpanels.Evenacomponentas

comprehensiveasthemotherboardisreplacedratherthan

repaired.



SourcesforLaptopComputerParts

Obtainingknown-workingcomponentsforusewithdesktop

computersisfairlysimplebecausemostcomponentscanbe

swappedbetweendifferentbrandsandmodelsofPCs.However,

thisisamorechallengingtaskwhenyouaresupportinglaptop



andportablecomputers.Herearesomewaystomakepartsswappingeasier:

Buyidenticallaptopcomputerswheneverpossible.As

IdiscussinChapter17,"PortableResourceGuide,"different

linesoflaptopcomputersfromthesamevendorcanvary

greatlybecausemostlaptopcomputersareproducedby

oneofseveraloffshore(primarilyTaiwanese)OEMvendors.

Ifyoubuymultipleunitsofthesamemodel,youcanuse

oneasapartssourceforothers.Ifyoucannotaffordtobuy

identicalmodels,trytobuymodelsinthesameproduct

familytoimprovetheoddsofinterchangingparts.

Determinethe"real"OEMmanufacturerofthe

laptop(s)yousupport.ReviewsourcessuchasPC

Magazinesometimesidentifytheactualmakerofa

particularlaptop.InChapter17,Iprovidethenamesand

websitesforthemajorOEMmakersoflaptops.This

informationmightenableyoutocontactthevendordirectly

forpartsoratleastdeterminewhichotherbrands/models

mightbesimilartoyours.Anothermethodofdetermining

thisinformationistheFCCIDSearchPageat

https://gullfoss2.fcc.gov/prod/oet/cf/eas/reports/GenericSearch.cfm

EntertheFCCIDfromthecomputertodetermineits

manufacturer.

Keepbroken/defectivelaptopsforparts.Evenifa

laptophassufferedacatastrophicfailuresuchasabroken

LCDpanelormotherboard,itcanstillprovidereplacements

forkeyboard,drive,powersupply,andothermodulesfor

identicalorsimilarmodels.

Savepartsremovedduringupgradesforusein

testingorasspares.Ifyouupgradememory,drives,or

batteriesandthecomponentsyoureplacedstillwork,keep

themforuseasreplacementsforidenticalorsimilar



models.

Asanalternativetocontactingthevendorforreplacementparts

usingthecontactinformationinChapter17,youmightwantto

contactthird-partyvendorsthatspecializeinnotebook

componentseitherOEMorequivalents.Someofthesevendors

(listedinalphabeticalorder)includethefollowing:

AdvancedComputerServicesSellsnew,used,andpulled

partsforIBM,Compaq,andToshibadesktopandlaptop

computersaswellascomputersandothertypesofparts.

www.partsandsystems.com

2262SouthArlingtonRoad,Akron,OH44319

Phone:330-785-5500

Fax:330-785-5501

AltechSellsnew,used,andrefurbishednotebookpartsas

wellasothertypesofcomputercomponents.

www.altechco.com

10612BHempstead,Houston,TX77092

Phone:713-680-9323

Fax:713-680-3519

ChhabraEnterprises,LLCSellsused,refurbished,and

newlaptop/notebookbatteries,drives,andother

componentsformajorbrandsoflaptopcomputerstoend

users.

www.betterdealcomputers.com



344FeeFeeRoad,MarylandHeights,MO63043

Phone:314-770-1070

Fax:314-770-0935

Serviceshopsandstorescanorderfromthesister

company,LaptopUniverse.com(samestreetaddressand

phonenumber).

ComputerPartsUnlimitedDistributespartsformajor

brand-namenotebookcomputers.

www.cpumart.com

3949HeritageOakCourt,SimiValley,CA93063

Phone:800-644-4494

Fax:805-306-2599

ExpressTechnologyIncorporatedDistributespartsfor

Compaq,Dell,IBM,andothermajornotebookanddesktop

computerandperipheralvendors.Offersamodel-specific

lookupsystemforsomebrands.

www.etiexpress.com

410SouthPerryLane,Suite2,Tempe,AZ85281

Phone:480-921-2888

Fax:480-921-0454

IDParts,Inc.SpecializesinreplacementLCDdisplaysfor

mostrecentlaptopcomputers.AlsoreplacesdefectiveLCD

displaysandrepairslaptops.



www.idparts.com

Corporateoffice:

1009OmeidePark,Greensburg,PA15601-8608

Phone:724-838-9588

Fax:724-838-9589

Wisconsinlocation:

2000O'NeilRoad,Suite200,Hudson,WI54016-8167

Phone:715-531-0393

Fax:715-531-0394

Seethewebsitetodeterminewhichlocationtocontactfor

yourspecificcomputermodel.

SourceOneComputerProducts,Inc.Sellslaptopparts

formostmajorbrands.Alsoperformsrepairs.

www.sourceonecomputer.com

8343NorthStevenRoad,Milwaukee,WI53223

Phone:414-355-9448

Fax:414-355-9778



TroubleshootingbyReplacingParts

Thereareseveralwaystotroubleshootalaptop,butintheend

itoftencomesdowntosimplyreinstallingorreplacingparts.

Thisprocessismoreeffectivewithdesktopsystemsbecause



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