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A Laptop Motherboard's Reflowing Process

This article explains how to fix a broken graphics chip on a laptop motherboard using a reflow method that can be done at home in a regular domestic oven.

What exactly is a reflow?

The term'reflow' refers to the process of melting (reflowing) solder on an electrical circuit board, in this case a laptop motherboard, for a short period of time.

On a laptop motherboard, why would you execute a Reflow?

Over time, the solder used in laptop motherboards degrades, becoming brittle and weak. It can transform from a solid block of solder to a honeycomb-like structure. This weaker solder bond can break, resulting in small damaged circuit connections that are not visible to the human eye. The principle behind reflowing is that it melts the solder, allowing it to solidify again and reconnect the electrical circuit.

When do you think you'd use a Reflow?

There are several situations in which a reflow can be successful. A typical example is a laptop motherboard that receives power and lights up to prove it, but it refuses to turn on. A critical connection may have been damaged due to weakened solder.

Another common example is a laptop that appears to turn on but has no graphics output to the LCD panel or an external display. There is most likely a broken solder joint around the graphics chip in this situation (GPU).

Please keep in mind that reflowing is a last-ditch repair option. To put it another way, you'd only try this on a laptop motherboard that was so badly damaged that it needed to be replaced. A reflow can further damage your motherboard if done wrong. However, if the motherboard is already faulty and would normally be discarded and replaced, conducting a reflow will not make the situation worse.

Certain laptop models and manufacturers appear to be more susceptible to GPU issues than others. It appears to be most widespread in NVIDIA processors used in various HP laptops, specifically the Pavillion dv2000, dv6000, dv9000, dv9500, dv9600, dv9700, and Compaq Presario V3000, V6000.

How do you go about doing a Reflow?

Baking your laptop motherboard in an oven may sound strange, but if done correctly, it can achieve the same end effect, rebuilding any solder connections that may have been destroyed.

Before attempting this technique, make sure the motherboard is completely stripped down. Remove the CPU, heatsink, and fan, RAM, BIOS batteries, wiring, speakers, stickers, plastic sticky guards, foam spacers, and everything else from the motherboard that can be removed.

Then preheat your oven to around 200°C (385°F) in your home. If your oven doesn't have a digital temperature display, use an internal oven thermometer to ensure it's set to the correct temperature.

Roll some kitchen foil into balls that are half an inch to an inch in diameter and lay them on a baking tray. Place your motherboard on top of the foil balls, CPU socket and GPU facing up. Wrap more foil around the more delicate sections of the motherboard, such as the capacitors and the CPU socket.

If the reflow is being done due to a malfunctioning graphics processor (GPU), consider wrapping the remainder of the motherboard with foil to protect it, leaving only the GPU exposed on both the top and bottom.

Then, in the preheated oven, place the baking tray with the laptop motherboard on it.

At this point, make sure your kitchen is thoroughly aired by turning on the extractor fan and/or opening an exterior door and windows. This will assist in the removal of any fumes. If possible, exit the kitchen while the fumes are still present.

Check the oven door (without opening it) a number of times during the procedure to make sure there is no smoke or flames evident. This is improbable, however it is possible if stickers are left on the motherboard.

Turn the oven off and open the oven door after 8 minutes. At this point, do not remove the motherboard from the oven; it may be quite hot, and it is best to let it cool down gradually. Avoid inhaling any possible fumes.

Remove the cool motherboard from the oven after 20 to 30 minutes and start putting your laptop back together. It will boot up and the problem will be resolved if everything has gone well.

If the problem persists, repeat the method, this time leaving it in the oven for a few more minutes or at a higher temperature.

After completing a reflow in an oven, I recommend fully cleaning it before turning it on and allowing any smells to be entirely gone.

This is very crucial before reusing the oven to prepare food.

How long does it take to fix a Reflowed laptop motherboard?

It's impossible to say how long a laptop motherboard that has been repaired will last. There's no way to predict if it'll be a few weeks or a year. The solder fracturing issue does, however, tend to resurface over time. This method, on the other hand, may allow you to get your laptop up and running again for a short period of time, possibly long enough to save money for a new laptop.

Important Note:

Using a household oven to repair a laptop motherboard is risky and should only be used as a last resort. Although many individuals have had success with this approach of executing a reflow, it may not work in every situation. We will not be held liable for any direct or indirect damage you make to your motherboard, oven, or anyone or anything else as a result of attempting this technique.