Do It Yourself Hell

By William LaMartin, Editor, Tampa PC Users Group

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A very nice two-and-one-half-year old Sony VGN-S560P laptop was destroyed recently by an improperly-performed memory upgrade. So let this story be a warning to all you amateur computer technicians.

The owner of the laptop complained about the increasingly slower performance of the machine, so a friend suggested adding to its memory. Now there are really only two things that the non-technician can do to a laptop—add memory and sometimes replace the hard drive depending on how accessible the drive is. In the case of this particular laptop, the drive is not easily reached. But the friend was only going to add memory, and the slot for that was easily accessed from the bottom of the computer.

Compatible memory was kindly purchased by the friend, who easily installed it, replaced the cover of the memory compartment on the bottom of the computer, and reinserted and tightened the securing screw. Then the repairman and the owner watched expectantly as the power button was pressed, but nothing happened. After several more tries to boot the computer with the power adapter attached and unattached, it was decided to remove the new additional memory. Perhaps it really was not compatible. After the removal, still no boot. The computer appeared to be dead.

Well, it was time to go to a computer shop where, after several days, the report came back—a fried motherboard, probably caused by overheating caused by a dust ball in the computer’s fan. And it would cost $500 or $600 to replace the motherboard.

Now, I suspect the computer store was just trying to make the customers feel good, since I am 90% sure the reason the motherboard got fried is that proper procedure was not followed in installing the additional memory. You must remove the battery from the laptop before working on it. That was not done, and, in my opinion, was the cause of the problem. And, at least as regards the Sony, you are told to do this if you read the owner’s manual supplied as an Acrobat file. Of course, no one reads such things.

So, the laptop ended up with me, to get the data off the hard drive. I got the laptop halfway apart, but there were two or three screws in the middle that I couldn’t get to. They were under the keyboard, and I needed an online video to show me how—Sony certainly provides no information on this. For my Gateway laptop, it was easy to remove the hard drive. This one was quite complicated. The video link, provided by a very helpful person, is

Sony laptop dismanteled

The photo above is the disassembled Sony VGN-S560P (PCG-6H4L) laptop minus the hard drive, which at that time was having its data transferred to one of my USB external drives using an USB hard drive adapter. The drive normally attaches to the right-most ribbon cable in the picture. RIP. u