The Toybox

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absinthe the mini now has a working screen
children of dune - leto 1
So I found a new screen for Absinthe the mini on ebay after much stress and googling--we won't speak of how I had to panic when I found out that there could be a diode/LED debate, I can't deal with it. I bid Friday morning at midnight and my screen arrived today.

Let us say, my love for that seller is pure.

Since I'd already disassembled Absinthe last week, I did it from memory this time, because when performing delicate operations like disassembling a mini, of course you want to use this as an opportunity for a pop quiz. I have learned several valuable lessons from this, not least of which is that engineers are fucking sadists, but okay.

Difficulty: medium-easy - easy if you've disassembled it precisely from instructions the first time and you have several screwdrivers to play with.

This isn't a tutorial, more of a breakdown, except at the end, where there is a tutorial on the actual changing of LCD screens. If you're thinking of doing the same thing and want advice or links to places I consulted or just someone to tell "God, wtf, why did they put that wire there?" yeah, I'm totally there for you, I don't know either and I'd like someone to bitch at about it.

The Dell 10V is a very predictable computer in disassembly; the mini is assembled in fairly clear and easy to see layers--keyboard, palm rest, palm bracket, usb board, power cable, system board. Everything is internal and the connectors are fairly logical to work out when and which to remove.

Since I already knew how this worked, I removed the battery then I removed all the screwed from the back initially and kept a hand beneath my keyboard when it leaped for the bed, then flipped it to remove the keyboard and palm rest before removing the hard drive (very easy).

Carefully disconnect the power cable (long, black) and unthread it from its path, then disconnect the USB/card board, then the power light and speaker and bluetooth (if you have it) connectors at the bottom. Then snap off the palm rest bracket (it covers the entire board), then remove the USB/Sim board (one screw, easy) and then the small power connector (just lying there, one connector, weird wiring path to follow, very precise).

You are now at the board. Unconnect the display from the board and check to see if there are any other connections that we've missed. Double check.

The board came off next (two screws), then I removed the black and white wires that connected the display to the wi-fi (no, I don't know why that is, but that's pretty standard in every laptop I've disassembled; I need to look that up some day). This left Absinthe gutted with a display.

Next, I unscrewed the joints that connected the display to the rest of the case and removed the display. Right behind and above the joint covers were two hidden screws--removing the covers, I took those off, then unsnapped the front bezel (that is the thing surrounding your screen) and then unsnapped the joint covers (separate pieces) and had in my hands the back cover with the LCD screen nestled inside.

This is where I discovered this would not be a slide in and slide out; the LCD screen, as advertised, was just the LCD screen. I had to remove the brackets and the camera connection from the old screen and get them onto the new. While looking at two screens somewhat different circuit boards.

This is a short tutorial, since this was new to me as well.

Tutorial: Removing the Old Screen and Installing the New

This would be a good time to mention screen compatibility. Find out what your screen is and the manufacturer and part numbers if possible. And if you have a camera or anything else that hooks up on there. When you get your New LCD, do a quick scan to make sure they look at least marginally alike. Diodes and LED differences came up when I was searching. And even in the same model, later models may use different LCD manufacturers, and then there's the entire Glossy/Matte Truelife HD blah blah blah difference. When in doubt, google. Someone has asked this question somewhere and there will be an answer.

First, unscrew the LCD screen from the display case and remove it, setting the display case aside.

Second: there are brackets on either side of the LCD screen that are connected to the joints that attach to the bottom of the case. There are two screws. Unscrew each one and remove the bracket from the Old LCD, then attach it to the same side of the New LCD.

Third: repeat second.

Fourth: this will vary. Flip your old LCD over and then your new LCD. See if there are any wiring differences, like, one may be missing a wire. For me, this was the camera input in the back, low on the small board. Take that wire and carefully unstick/remove it from the Old LCD back down until you reach the connector. It wants to be free, so slide it out horizontally, raising your force from one to whatever it takes, which shouldn't be much.

Fifth: with your New LCD screen still flipped over, connect the wire to the connector and arrange it up the LCD as close as you can to the original. Mine hung over the top edge an inch or two. To my surprise, it was supposed to do that.

Sixth: Any other wires that are needed, change those over. But also find out what they do if you can. Google if you need to.

Seventh: Discard Old LCD.

Eighth: Flip New LCD over and put it back in the display case. Screw it into place.

Ninth: Plug in grey camera cord.

(Note: The Old LCD for me also had a neat thin plastic cover over the board; I absconded with that and used that on the new one.)

Tenth: You have successfully changed LCD screens.

End Tutorial, Back to Breakdown

Now slowly reverse everything you did, watching for any wires that hang from the display so they don't get caught up (mine had to come out very precisely in the small openings in the plastic joint covers; that took a couple of tries to get that right). Thread the black and white cords back to the wifi and snap them into place on the back of the board, turn it over, and set it in place. Check that your black and white wires are almost entirely hidden underneath it; if not, go back and find a way for them to do that. Set the board into place; this may take sliding it slightly so the usb and external VGA now go into their correct slots in the case.

When you are happy, screw it down, then put the power connector into place, thread the wire along the designated path (I love designated paths) and connect. Ease the USB board into place; it's weird and you may not get it right the first time. I don't know why. Then it will suddenly go into place and you screw it down fast because that was weird. Connect your USB connector. Then take the wide connector for the LCD and slot it into place. Go down to the bottom and reconnect your speaker and touchpad (and bluetooth if you have it). Screw in as required. And then hard drive, palm rest, keyboard, flip over, screw in, done.

It didn't take nearly as long as I expected, and reassembly went quickly enough (only one extra screw this time; IDEK) and I powered up with a working screen, a working camera, and working speakers. So we will call this one a win.

Dell has a passion for things that snap together, so that's some low grade panic the first time you try to snap something on and off--too firm? too gentle? too, what, mean?--but after that, body memory will remind you of the pressure to use with everything else. The wiring is laid very precisely, and in some cases, you will not be able to get it like they did, and honestly, you won't know how the fuck they pulled it off. Don't panic. There's some room for error, and nothing will fit right if you don't get in that margin, so the chances are low you will have a non-working computer when you're done. If the wires don't let you lay the hard drive back in place, just go back and move them again until it lets you.

Don't be afraid of your laptop. A lot of people come at laptops even when they're comfortable with a desktop with the idea that the laptop is a lot harder because there's so much less space. Yes, there's not as much of a margin for error, but if you're comfortable with working with your desktop, you're already working well inside that margin of error. Yes, it is easy to break it, but not easy in the sense that breathing will hurt it. A laptop is negative space--everything in your desktop compressed and made smaller. It's different in configuration, but not in essentials. All you're doing is working in a smaller area with some smaller parts. Sometimes where they go make no sense. That's what I mean about sadism.

Repeat: it's not hard. It's scary, and it's stressing, but it's not hard, and after the first time you stare down at your board with the feeling of god-like invulnerability, you will realize, yeah, not a big deal at all. The trick is the first time, do it like breathing will break it (it won't--seriously, I've done a disassembly on a computer still running to run hard drive diagnostics and confirming on the monitor; I do most of my repairs while it's sitting on a hard surface on my lap in bed and a pillow with carefully chosen indents to hold different screws), and start value the force you use at like, zero, then move up until you find teh right amount (hint: more than you think, less than you think it should be). Have several sizes phillips and flat head screwdrivers (I have three sizes of each) because sometimes, for no reason at all, the tiny one works better than the one that fits and the flathead can be used for the snapping out and to push tiny things around. Have your manual either on a second computer ready or printed and ready for reading.

A lot of laptop upgrade and disassembly is a common sense approach and not getting impatient, because they are made to be able to take apart, and they kind of want to do that for you; they aren't going to fight you. Computers have a pattern to them in building and disassembly, and once you recognize the pattern, it's fairly easy to figure out what to do next. Doing it in order, and watching where your wires go, and using the least amount of force possible at first then working your way up until you find the right amount of force to use will pretty much do the trick in getting through it with very minimal trauma. Following that method, it's actually pretty goddamn difficult to do unfixable or expensive damage, and even then, it's not easy to do unfixable damage either unless a really cataclysmic mistake (again, being slow and methodical will eliminate most of that potential) or like, a lightning storm and you're not properly grounded.

Absinthe now has a working screen and now has a USB mobile device; I now can access the internet everywhere--or okay, in Austin and Chicago and some other places that have G3 and G4 access. And apparently the 10v mini can be upgraded to 2G of RAM. Life is good.

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I sincerely wish I could fix my laptop screen, but it's a tablet convertible which means that the screen is attached by a motherfucking swivel hinge and that is just too much for me. D:

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