Thursday, August 10, 2006

It's Alive (A Tutorial in Laptop Powercord Repair)

Some Background
I have a wonderful Presario 705us that I got way back when when XP first came out. In fact, it was one of the first Compaq laptops that shipped with XP preinstalled. DVD/CDRW combo drive, 16meg AGP S3 video card, Athlon4 1ghz proc, it was sweet. That was over 4 years ago, and up until about a month-and-a-half ago the only problem I had with it was the powercord (ignoring the dead/almost dead CD-Rom, floppy drive that eats floppies, dead battery, and a design flaw that creates cracks in the bezel). Years of abuse took it's toll on the poor powercord, and it finally ripped apart just above the ferrite choke. I put up with it, twisting and contorting it to the point where all of the wires inside the internal strand ripped apart themselves.

At that point, my laptop died. My wife and I are considering new laptops, but looking online made me miss my laptop. I decided to take action, figuring that it wouldn't be that hard to replace.

I am sorry but there are no pictures. My camera was out of batteries.

The Procedure

  • Radio Shack sells replacement ends for cheap. How cheap? Just a few dollars. I would suggest picking one up, but in a pinch (or if you're a horrible cheap bastard like me), there is a chance you can reuse your existing end. If you use your existing end, you will need to remove the plastic outside around the cord end. This can be very tricky, which is why I suggest just buying a new end. If you cannot, or desperately need the laptop now, a sharp knife is your new best friend.

  • Snip the wire below the rip/damaged part of the cord, and strip off about 1-1.5 inches of the outer sheilding. The wire is four layers deep - the outer shielding, a braided shield, another layer of shielding, and the wire strand in the middle. Now is the time to put the heatstrink of the outer portion of your new end onto the existing cable. If you don't do it now, you're going to repeat this process.

  • Twist the braided shield together into one strand. Strip off part of the inner shielding to expose the inner wire strand.

  • The new tip for the power cord will have a center tab and an outer tab. Solder the inner wire strand to the center tab on the new tip. I'm paranoid about shorts, so I wrap the newly soldered wire in electrical tape, just to be safe. Then solder the braided shielding to the outer tab.

  • Move the outer portion of the new end up and secure it (it will probably just snap into place), or heat the heatshrink around the new end, and you should be all done.

Not terribly hard, especially if the price of a new powercord is large for your laptop. I could get a new one on eBay for about $10-20, but again, I'm a horrible cheap bastard.

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