Short circuit

About a month ago, I (JM) thought our Apple laptop was toast. It’s five years old, a pretty venerable age in computer years. It suddenly decided not to power up, but only turned on showing a black screen with the cooling fan running in the background. This may have had something to do with my dropping the computer last year, but it had been working fine since then with only occasional blackouts.

This problem was pretty serious. I used another computer to google the symptoms, and sure enough, "The Black Fan of Death" was a common problem for other iBook G4 users. To my delight, a website offered a do-it-yourself solution to this problem, professing to save you the $500 asked for by Apple retailers for the fix.

Too good to be true? This website (coreyarnold.org) has 500 testimonials from other users. So, I thought, what’s to lose? I can’t really find much in the way of authorized Apple support in China anyway.

Nerve-wrackingly I followed the instructions on his site, opening my laptop up for the first time ever. This is what the back of an iBook looks like without its case on:

The fix involved shimming a loose microchip that everyone was having the same problem with. You can see my cut-up blue credit card sitting with a piece of chopstick over it, placed under the black power cable.

I fixed it in place with some tape, and voila! With the computer cover back in place, the shim puts enough pressure on the circuit board to fix whatever the problem was with that chip. The computer has worked with no problem for over a month now!

I should mention that the original chopstick piece in these pictures was too big- I whittled it down lengthwise so it is now only half as thick as it looks. I didn’t want the board underneath to crack from too much pressure!

I wonder what else MacGyver would have done with a chopstick and a credit card?

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1 Response to “Short circuit”


  1. 1 mjfalk December 1, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Got it!!! One chopstick, whittled down to the correct circumference, one square of credit card affixed to the loose chip, plus the hunk of duct tape to hold all in place—-I have these items in my purse now—-but am switching from a large purse to an over-the-chest converted backpack carrier—Following the Boy Scout (and Girl Scout) motto—Be Prepared.
    The photos accompanying the directions are key—-although the chopstick looks more like an eggroll —all together they look like air views of a site for the manufacture of WMDs. Are these copyrighted yet?


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