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Sell me your broken computer

Fix RAM slot on MBP 2009? ASAP!!

edited May 2012 in General
I am looking to get a cheap macbook pro- I am a student and could really use one (plus, I want one really bad anyways ;) )

This limits my budget a lot- to around $500 max. I am looking to get a 15" late 2008 MBP or above (post-unibody). I have been checking on ebay and found one with a screen backlight issue, but it looks like it is going to go over my price range

I kept on looking and found this model (http://www.ebay.com/itm/Apple-MacBook-Pro-15-4-Laptop-MC118LL-A-June-2009-AS-IS-unibody-/251052454384?pt=Apple_Laptops&hash=item3a73e471f0#ht_500wt_1378)

It is listed as having a defective RAM slot (of course, I should be able to boot with one slot anyways)

I have access to a fine tip soldering iron and a heat gun- does anyone have experience taking this model apart and could tell me if this is possible? I really want the laptop and if that is an feasible fix I would greatly appreciate your help. It seems to me i just need to heat up the slots connector and let it reflow, or get a soldering iron in there and try by hand.

Answers

  • edited May 2012
    Unfortunately it doesn't work that way -- a "bad RAM slot" usually has nothing to do with the slot itself, and is more often related to other parts of the board failing to recognize the RAM when it is in the slot. Therefore by working on the slot itself, you are shooting the messenger, and doing nothing to fix the problem, except probably butchering another part of the machine. Fixing a problem such as this requires advanced engineering knowledge, as well as specific knowledge of the board itself. In addition, the auction is "as-is" and "for parts", and the seller does not adequately describe what is occurring to the extent that anyone should feel confident of the machine's behavior, so you're taking a big risk. It's always a mistake to trust anyone else's analysis of a technical issue, because you are betting they are right, and users are not often right. There certainly is no "easy fix" to a problem such as this one. A computer with a cracked screen or a bad hard drive would be a better investment, but, again, there's always a very real risk that more is wrong than first appears.
  • Ok... Thanks for the answer. What would you suppose this would be- a logic board issue? It seems doubtful as he says it boots up occasionally. I am contacting the seller to get more info. If it turns out to be kernel panics rather than a completely failed boot, what would be my course of action (it then seems like bad ram)? I have heard of this problem in other macs- mainly older Power PCs but a few MBPs of the same generation.

    So at best, I am hoping the seller says it was applecare who diagnosed it, and that it is having kernel panics rather than booting normally. If anything I suppose I can buy it, and if it turns on at least once, I can sell the screen and casing and get most of my money back. I have seen a few dead logic boards to there that go for a couple hundred $$ (who buys them anyways?). Please advice.

    -Thomas
  • edited May 2012
    The way to test for bad slots is to power on with one slot empty, and then power on with the other slot empty. If there's a bad slot, the machine generally won't power on with RAM in that slot. Yes, it's generally a bad board. If it's an intermittent problem (i.e. it does work occasionally), it often has to do with a cracked trace on the board that connects sometimes, but not other times. I've seen dozens of MacBook boards with bad slots, and they generally don't power on with RAM in the bad slot, although sometimes the sleep light will be on. It's not likely it's a kernel panic issue, although if it is, that's no better, as kernel panics often point to bad hardware. Bad RAM is unlikely, especially if it's RAM that has previously worked in the computer.

    Unibody boards verified working are going to cost you upward of $400. You will find cheaper ones, but they are almost all bad, and they are being sold "for parts" so that you are stuck and without recourse in the case that they are bad.

    I wouldn't put any faith in an "Applecare diagnosis" -- they generally do very little or no actual troubleshooting before declaring a board dead, so that's not going to get you much closer to solving the issue.

    If you want to learn repair, then I say go for it, but if your intention is primarily to get yourself a working computer and move on with life, then I'd strongly recommend simply buying a working machine. Most advanced repair technicians do not even repair boards. There is no "easy fix" for logic board issues and you are most likely going to run into a dead end, or at the very least end up spending more money to get this going than a working computer would have cost in the first place. In addition, it's a bad idea to buy problematic machines on eBay, because eBay sellers tend to be more experienced computer users, and chances are they have already tried the basics. CraigsList is better for picking up cheap, broken computers.


  • edited May 2012
    Ok- ill wait for an answer from the seller, and see what turns up.

    I think though, If it is not bid up much by the end, It might be worth a shot. If it fails on me, I can sell the bad board for around $100 probably, the screen for $150, top case for $100, and should break around even if it doesnt work. Those prices sound about right?
    Edit: Or I could sell it to you! ;)

    I would like to learn repair, and there is one model on there with what I believe to be the microfuse issue- which would not be hard to fix. I've looked through upgrading RAM and HD, and fixing screen issues but one day I hope to do this on the side and get a few $$.

    The way it will probably work out though, is as you said, a dead or dying logic board.
    Hehe- craigslist doesnt work in a small town. Best deal you are going to get is for a working newish one ($900), or a broken PBG4 ($125)
  • Also- what would you say about macs that have worked fine but suddenly will not start or turn on? There seems to be a lot of them- are they mostly logic board failures?
  • That sounds like a good plan. Like I always say, the #1 rule is to never pay more for it than you can sell it for broken. Always assume the worst case scenario, even if the ad makes it sound great. If you do sell it again, I'd recommend selling it in one piece, both because you'll get more, and also because you'll save time. It's very hard to guarantee parts are good, and people always forget that items on eBay sit there for months before selling, so for a whole slew of reasons it's just better to sell it as a complete computer.

    You might want to check out ifixit.com/answers if you haven't already. Also, apple.com/store at the bottom has a refurb section which sells new-quality machines for about 20% off, so that's a good place to go if you do end up wanting to purchase a working machine.

    Good luck!
  • Thank you so much for your help- I will be sure to check back and tell you what I got. If it is to be sold, I would probably take out the screen and top and sell it as 2 parts- the screens seem to be going for around $150 pulled from a working machine. I'd sell it like this because personally, If I were in repair, I would look for a working screen before looking to buy a whole machine.. Maybe. I dont know yet, but I'll think about it at least, and your advice is great. Ifixit is great, but so far, I LOVE this forum. Finally, some people who are willing to fix it themselves instead of paying $800 to get told the board is bad :) You guys make it great for a mac lover/diy guy.

    I have looked at the refurbs but this is just a laptop to get me through before I can save up enough to get my dream mac (Maxed out 17 inch MBP)
  • edited May 2012
    Thanks, and I appreciate the kind words! I don't mean to be discouraging...it's just that a lot of people don't know what they are getting into, and I hate to see them lose money. But you seem to have a good grasp of the concepts and know what you're in for.

    I agree that the screen assembly is probably the most valuable component and it could be sold separately. The one thing selling it as a complete machine does do though, is give the buyer proof that the screen works, if for example the screen does light up when powered on. And intact machines really do sell ten times faster than parts. But either way, if you buy it for the current price, I'm sure you can easily get your money back. Also, I generally strip the hard drive, AC, one of the RAM modules, and batteries from non-unibodies, just leaving in the minimum amount of parts required for testing. That way you're stocking up on good components that you can use the next time around, and if you've bought it for the right price, you can generally still make money selling it, even with the stripped parts out of the picture.

  • Ok- here goes:
    Got an answer back from the seller on the startup process
    he quotes
    "Hi,
    Usually it would make 3 beeps and show the apple logo, then show a black screen. this happened pretty much every time i tried to boot. Some veeeeery rare occasions, i was able to boot it and recover some data, about this mac showed it ran on only one ram chip.
    Right now though i don't know how it would behave since i wiped my personnal data off the hard drive.

    I brought it to my local apple certified repair center and they diagnosed the problem.

    Hope it awnsers your questions,"

    So it seems that applecare sucks and did not even think it could be booted on 1 stick of RAM. So I am stuck with either
    a. Bad or unseated RAM. I have a 2gb stick here that works so I can test if I do buy it
    or b.- The slot or logic board is malfunctioning

    More likely B. I think I'm gonna go for it it all else fails.. My main laptop I am looking at (http://www.ebay.com/itm/130689746421?ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1438.l2649#ht_667wt_1413) ends an hour before so I have 2 chances. Hardest part for me is waiting it out :)

    And I still have not figured out why people are not more DIY! I mean, if I can save $1200 on a macbook for fixing 1 fuse, then why are we so few? Anyways, just a personal peeve, but hey, makes it easy to get broken stuff cause no one wants to try fixing it... Many a dead hard drive :(

    Also- I checked on craigslist near our area- Found a 2.53ghz core i5 mac. Checking it out, but it seems a bit like a scam. Its actually about 200mi away, but I might be able to convince him/her to put it up on ebay...

    Bye for now- should see you in 3 days if all goes well. If you want pics from a repair too, I would be happy to videotape or take pics and send them to you.

    -Thomas
  • Again, we only have his words to go by, but based on what he's saying, it does sound like at least one bad slot. Three beeps indicate no RAM, or a failure to address the RAM. Do you know if he has tried removing the RAM from the slot that is not showing up? If he hasn't, there's a chance the computer will work more reliably when that RAM is removed. You might not want to tell him that though, because it might solve the problem for him and he might decide to keep the computer if it runs reliably on one memory module. :-)

    Another possibility is that one slot is 100% dead, and the other is flaky and on the verge of going out as well. In this case, there really is no resolution.

    In either case, you have a board that is at least partially damaged. The one hope is that it is reliable with one stick of RAM removed. I would say it's most likely that between the owner and Apple, they have tried it with one stick removed...most likely it's the second scenario, and you're probably not going to end up with a good machine.

    Relative to other possibilities, it's very rare for the RAM modules themselves to be bad, so I would not count on that as being the problem.

    DIY is awesome, but it takes a lot of time and it tends to become a major part of a person's life (for better or worse), which is why a lot of people choose to avoid it and keep their situations simple.

    Anyway, good luck, and let me know how it goes!
  • I doubt he has done the ram thing himself, but maybe at applecare he might have, who knows what he has done?

    Lol, and look what I found scoping other computers :)
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/170831082162?ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1438.l2649
  • Oh gosh, I'm back again (you just cant get rid of me!)

    Found a strange listing on ebay, deep in the PC side.... The guy had posted a blurred, tiny shot of what looked like an acer laptop, and listed it as an apple. I put it on the watch list and asked a few questions. Looks like the guy has a late 2008 2.4ghz 15" model on his hands (he finally posted pictures too).
    (http://www.ebay.com/itm/330725928222?ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1438.l2649#ht_500wt_1156)
    It looks like the screen is bad (according to him)- it is either screen or logic board here.. If it is just the screen and HDD, all it would take to fix this is around $120... The guy has a good seller rating and has sold laptops before.

    What are your thoughts on this? I shall ask him what it does at startup in terms of sounds/fan.
  • You might get it cheap because the guy obviously doesn't know how to list something properly or describe it well (or even post a picture of the machine itself), but on the other hand there's always the risk that it's worse than he's describing. I would just decide on a price that works for you, and avoid buying it if it goes over that price. If you get it for $150 or less, you can probably re-sell it and get your money back if necessary.
  • Haha, $150 was the price point I thought of too. If anything the airport in a friends laptop is starting to go on the fritz so I might be able to fix it.. Thanks :)
  • edited May 2012
    I think $450 is a lot to pay for a machine that is already confirmed to have erratic issues. There are no typical liquid damage machines -- there are a zillion different ways a machine can have liquid damage. The best you can do with that type of machine is scrub the board with 91% alcohol, let it dry, and cross your fingers. I didn't see any liquid damage in the pictures, so there isn't any obvious corrosion that could be cleaned off. Ideally you want to see an obvious problem, because there's always a chance that when you clean it, the problem gets better. If he's unable to show corrosion, most likely he's already cleaned it himself and it didn't help. Again, anything is worthwhile at the right price, and that one is $250 more than I would personally be willing to pay to take the risk.
  • Why? Why must ebay be so fickle?? Everything is increasingly more broken. Like this (http://www.ebay.com/itm/320900200063?ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1438.l2649#ht_500wt_1413) which will need a new display (and/or) LDVS cable, airport cable, and possibly new hinge. Grr.
  • From the dents it looks like there is some sort of creature inside trying to get out...who knows what kind of damage it's caused kicking around in there. I say "avoid".
  • I say agree :) Probably needs a new HDD as well. Finally found one posted in a completely wrong section that has no bids. $500 post 2009 MBP.
  • Ok, lost the bids on that, but today I finally got something. I managed to score this (http://www.ebay.com/itm/Apple-MacBook-Pro-15-Unibody-Laptop-A1286-Damaged-Screen-for-Parts-or-Repair-/200754543657?pt=Apple_Laptops&hash=item2ebde73c29#ht_4025wt_1182) Early 2009 2.66gHz model, without a top assembly. I found a mid-2009 display, which should work, as well as a top case for it. Its gonna be a longish restore process, but as far as I can tell, all the parts I need are supplied except the display glass (isight x2, airport, bluetooth x 2, hinges, clutch cover, screws..)

    Thank you for all of your help and replies!
  • Actually- do you happen to know for sure wether the displays are compatible? Ive heard both ways on it...
    Thanks
    -Thomas
  • Wow, interesting machine! I'm not sure whether the displays are compatible...I believe they switched display technologies somewhere in the unibody line, so I'd be careful. That might be a good question for ifixit.com/answers, where someone with more unibody experience could tell you.

    The first thing I would do before ordering parts is remove the bottom and see what kind of damage it has sustained in the hinges, and also make sure the video socket on the board is intact (hopefully it hasn't been ripped out due to the accident). I got an Air a while back that had a similar situation, but unfortunately it wasn't fully repairable due to the physical damage, although it did power on and seem to work.
  • Thanks for the reply (unfortunately I forgot to check back and ordered the screen today)

    Apart from ordering the parts I have been in contact with the seller. He states the the display got fractured and was run without glass for a while. Eventually the display support in the lid broke, along with the video connector (I assume LDVS) on the LCD. The laptop was then given to the seller. Seller states he took the entire top casing off of the laptop, and tried with a new LCD (where he was able to see, but had no backlight) and decided to put it up for auction.

    Overall it seems that it has not gone through much stress, apart from being torn apart to remove the display manually.

    I know apple switched the magnet placement in the mid 2009 model, but that should not be much of a problem. They did, however, switch to "60% better color gamut" displays. According to iFixit, the LDVS cables are the same part. I have asked on ifixit and on macrumors and am waiting on replies, but in searching I found at least 3 cases of the display being compatible.

    Both parts got shipped today and should be here around saturday for the chassis and tuesday for the screen.
  • I got the laptop today (in fact, I am writing this on it)

    Turned it on, started, everything works fine. Then I started typing.... And the keys stick. Strong evidence of liquid damage on all keys right of P. All the keys work, superdrive works.... What else could be wrong??? I'm a bit ticked off at it...
  • Here goes it so far....

    Took screen and plugged it in. Booted up, and I have apple logo but no backlight. Fine by me. Took computer completely apart (cleaned keyboard keyboard backlight). Aligned it wrong, so will have to fix that.... Screwed in display, hinges work, camera works, everything works. (Yay!) Display catches a little on chassis due to a dent, but thats all cosmetic. Will be tearing it down to fix keyboard/tint backlight (Red, unless I can find blue), and will check on backlight fuse since I have to remove the logic board to get to the keyboard. Oh yeah, and check out superdrive cause it is funky at ejecting...
  • Sorry for the delay -- I've been away. Yeah, it's very hard to get rid of sticky keys once liquid damage has occurred. I don't think I've witnessed one recovering fully. Have you tested the fuse (by bridging both sides of it with tweezers and powering on) to see if that restores the backlight?

    The keyboard illumination is always tricky to get right. Sometimes I just remove it or leave it disconnected because I get annoyed with how bad it looks.
  • -Sticky keys have been almost perfect- just had to loosen up the keyboard I guess. The backlight I took apart ~4 times, and now it looks ok (acceptable by me). Tinted it blue- it looks SUPER cool, and I also colored the sleep light. I'll email pics if you want, just post me an email :)

    Tried to repair backlight fuse..... and got it on.... and nothing. I am still checking if it is the fuse blowing out again, or if I am going to have to test the entire WLED driver... Probably the latter. Right now I am ticked that it doesnt work all the way yet, but I'm willing to spend the time on it now that I am on summer break. I am really hoping its a resistor or cap blown, I am not sure I can get in a 20 pin chip..
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