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How we brought Amy the Inspiron back from the hospital

Updated on June 6, 2012

Poor Amy

Amy is a Dell Inspiron netbook. Small, light, cute, sweet, and rather fragile.

She was pounced by a large cat named Lucifur. Lucifur jumped up and landed on top of her while she was closed. When Sarah, Amy's owner, tried to open her up again, pieces of plastic fell out. Yet neither the top nor bottom seemed terribly damaged. Sarah feared the damage was internal, and permanent.

I promised Sarah I would fix Amy. Sarah couldn't afford a new netbook or laptop. She needed Amy for work; her online writing assignments would be far harder to do from a loaned computer or at the library.

When Sarah brought Amy to me, Amy had a broken left hinge, and her power adapter no longer reliably charged her up. The power socket had broken off from it's anchor inside her shell; Sarah had jammed a pen into the case to get the power connector to stay connected. Amy was sick, and we were concerned that soon, Amy would no longer take a charge, or even turn on.

Amy still had her markings identifying her as a Dell Inspiron 11z. With a little searching on Google and the Dell web site, it was easy to find the service manual for her.

Important data was backed up to the web before I opened the case. I followed the procedure spelled out in the service manual for replacing the power connector, but stopped before changing anything related to the wireless board.

Now I could see the extent of the damage. I gathered the tools I would need to finish fixing Amy.

Amy ready for surgery

Ready to begin repair work.
Ready to begin repair work.

Anchoring the power connector

I did not follow the procedure for removing the connector. Instead, I glued the connector down using a silicone adhesive. I used Clear Silicone Adhesive Sealant made by Loctite. I cleaned the surfaces with a cotton swab on which I had poured rubbing alcohol. Then, I cut off the end of the swab at a sharp angle. Using the end of the stick that remained, I pushed adhesive around the area where the connector was seated. Then I put some pressure on the top of the connector to make sure it was held down securely. An hour later, I removed the weight, and the adhesive had set up. This is what it looked like.

The sloppy glue does not matter. Once the case is closed, no one sees it. I spent no time or effort cleaning up the rough edges.
The sloppy glue does not matter. Once the case is closed, no one sees it. I spent no time or effort cleaning up the rough edges.

Fixing the keyboard

While Amy's keyboard was out, I took the opportunity to clean out the cat hair and breadcrumbs all keyboards gather from people who love their computers and their cats. Repeated blasts with compressed air, in between the keys, forced the debris out of the mechanism.

Underside of keyboard
Underside of keyboard

Repairing the left hinge.

First, I unscrewed and removed the metal hinge, and set it aside. Next, I fashioned a strip of leather into what would become the new hinge.

The wires going to the display were no longer held in place because the plastic in that area had cracked and crumbled. So, using the same silicone adhesive, I glued down the wires.

Wires glued in place, and leather strap screwed down.
Wires glued in place, and leather strap screwed down.

Getting Amy back together

Now it was time to reassemble the computer. I went by the guide in the Dell manual. This lead me to reverse the procedure I had followed earlier. It is important to account for every screw so that no loose screws are left inside the case. A wandering screw could short out something and ruin the computer.

I glued the leather strip to the outer case and inner bezel. The C Clamp was used to hold it in place. Note the use of a scrap of leather in between the clamp and the case. This prevented the case from being scratched by the clamp.

Leather strap glued to lid, and clamped.
Leather strap glued to lid, and clamped.

The glue was allowed to dry for twenty-four hours, strictly following the directions on the package.

After the glue was completely dry, a short piece of clear mailing tape was wrapped around that corner, to hold the LCD bezel to the case.

All Amy needed now was a bit of cleaning up and a good charge.

All Done!

I cleaned her up. Sarah charged her up. When Sarah tested her, she found all the keys were working, and none of them were sticking.

Two weeks later, that new left hinge is working fine. Amy takes and keeps a charge.

All we spent on this repair was a few hours during a weekend, some glue, a couple of screws from the junkbox and a strip of leather.

Tell us what you think!

Do you believe you can repair your own computer?

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