History | Last updated by Ben Buckley, 6 years ago

Process

Intake

Record Laptop Specification

Leave everything that came in the laptop with the laptop until it reaches teardown... seriously. Lost case flaps and drive caddies turn pefectly fixable computers into doorstops that we have to pay to recycle.

  1. Put the laptop in a two-gallon bag.
  2. Add a Laptop Intake Form
  3. Record make, model name, and model number.
    Make is the the company who sells the machine. Model Name is the marketing name for the machine. (NB: This frequently includes a number... This is *not* the Model Number, but part of the Model Name). Make and model are usually printed somewhere on the lid and/or keyboard bezel. Model Number is the manufacturer's designation for this machine; it is usually printed on the manufacturer's label on the bottom of the laptop. Examples:
MakeModelModel Number
DellInspiron 1100PP07
IBMThinkPad R512888 (Listed as Type on the bottom label)
AcerAspireOneKAVB60
  1. Record the laptop's serial number. It is usually on the bottom label, near the model number. If you can't find it, Google "<make> <model name> serial number".
  2. Record the laptop's screen size in the appropriate field.
    • Screen size is measured in inches, diagonally from corner to corner across the viewable part of the screen. Common screen sizes include 7", 9", 10", 12", 13", and 17". If you're unsure, measure it.
  3. Is there a power supply? Check the appropriate box and record the power supply's power output (or laptop's power input) on the sheet.
  4. Does it power on?
    • NO:
      1. Google the laptop's make, model, and model number to fill the fields under Specifications
      2. Write "Does not power on" under What's broken? in the Repair section of the form.
      3. Does the laptop meet the Minimum Laptop Specs??
    • YES:
  5. Does it have a built-in network card?
    • YES:
      1. Connect network cable
      2. Reboot laptop
      3. Is there a boot-menu key on startup?
        • YES:
          • Select booting from the network
        • NO:
          1. Enter BIOS
          2. Go to the boot device priority list
          3. Move the on-board network card to the top of the list
          4. Save settings and exit
    • NO:
      1. Boot the laptop and enter the BIOS
      2. Enter as much of the information under Specifications as you can find in BIOS.
        • You should definitely be able to find the amount of RAM and the size of the HDD in the BIOS. You might also find the processor speed.
      3. If you can't fill in all of the fields under Specifications from the BIOS:
        1. Insert the Universal Boot CD into the optical drive
        2. Reboot the laptop
        3. Use the boot menu or the BIOS to set the laptop to boot from the optical drive
  6. Enter the menu and boot NSSI (Is this the best tool for the job?)
  7. Fill in fields under the Specifications section of the Intake Form
  8. Unplug the laptop. Did it shut down?
    • YES:
      • Mark "Battery dead" under the What's it Need section under Refurbish
    • NO:

Determine the Laptop's Next Destination

  1. Does the laptop meet the Minimum Laptop Specs?
    • NO:
      1. Can it be brought up to spec with by adding RAM and/or replacing the Hard Drive?
        • ADVANCED: Can it be brought up to spec by replacing the processor?
          • YES:
            1. Record "Upgrade processor" in the What's Broken field under Repair
            2. Send the laptop to Repair
          • NO:
        • NO:
          1. Send the laptop to Teardown
        • YES:
          1. Record "Upgrade to Spec" and the what needs to be upgraded and by how much in the What's it Need field under Refurbish
          2. Send the laptop to Refurbish -- Upgrade
    • YES:

Refurbish

  1. Grab a Laptop Refurbishing Form and copy the laptop's "Identification" information from the Intake Sheet.

Upgrade

If the laptop already meets the Minimum Laptop Specs?, the following steps are optional.

  1. Use Google to look up the maximum RAM for this laptop. Does this laptop have less than the maximum?
    • YES:
      • Is there a good stock of compatible RAM in larger sizes?
        • YES:
          1. Upgrade the laptop's RAM, balancing our stock against building a machine with a higher resale price.
          2. Return tested good RAM to the stock
        • NO:
    • NO:
  2. Does the laptop have a wireless card?
    • NO:
      • Does the laptop have an empty miniPCI slot?
        • YES:
          1. Install a miniPCI wireless NIC
          2. Write "Needs an antenna installed" under the What's Broken? field under Repair
          3. Continue with upgrades.
        • NO:
    • YES:
  3. Is the hard-drive close to the minimum listed at the Minimum Laptop Specs??
    • YES:
      • Is there a good stock of larger hard drives?
        • YES:
          1. Install a larger hard drive, balancing our stock against building a machine with a higher resale value.
          2. Return the drive you replaced to the stock
        • NO:
    • NO:
  4. Record any upgrades you made to the laptop under the Upgrades section of the Refurbishing Form

Prepare the Laptop for Refurbishing

Check off each box under Refurbish and Install on the Laptop Refurbishing Form as you go. This is the record of your work and the way we guarantee that the same work doesn't get done twice.

  1. Boot the laptop from the network
  2. Select DBAN form the network boot menu
  3. Wipe the hard drive. Did the wipe finish without errors?
    • NO:
      1. Replace the hard drive with the smallest known-good hard drive in the stock.
      2. Re-run DBAN. Did it finish without errors this time?
        • NO:
          • The motherboard has something wrong with it, probably in the drive controller.
          1. Record this in the What's Broken field under Repair
          2. Send the laptop to Repair
        • YES:
          1. Replace the tester drive with an appropriate known-good drive. Upgrade to a larger hard drive if it makes sense given the laptop's spec and our stock.
    • YES:
  4. Select memtest+ from the network boot menu
  5. Wait for three passes with no errors.
    1. Did you get any errors?
      • YES:
        1. Remove the RAM and set it aside.
        2. Replace the RAM from the stock of known-good RAM modules
        3. Re-run memtest
        4. Were there errors this time around?
          • YES:
            • The motherboard's RAM slots are bad
            1. Write this in the What's Broken? section under Repair
            2. Send the laptop to Repair
          • NO:
            1. Replace the RAM. Upgrade to the maximum amount avalaible from the stock while you're at it.
            2. Put the bad RAM in the PCB Recycling bin.
      • NO:
  6. Reboot from the network

Install Ubuntu

We do *not* do this for Apple computers built around PowerPC processors. If you've gotten this far with a PowerPC Apple laptop, it's done. If you don't know what this means, ask somebody.

  1. Reboot from the network
  2. Select Ubuntu installer
  3. Follow the steps in the Ubuntu installer. More information on installing Ubuntu is at WHERE IS IT, ANYWAY?
  4. Reboot the laptop
  5. Enter the BIOS to make sure the boot device priority list is correct. CD-ROM is usually first, followed by Hard Drive. You may want to add other removable devices to the list at your own discretion.
  6. Boot the laptop from the hard drive.
  7. Test the install to make sure everything works as expected
    • The laptop boots from POST to the GDM login screen.
    • The user can login as expected
    • The wireless card can connect to the FreeGeek Chicago wireless network using the Ubuntu network manager applet
    • The usb ports work properly
    • Ubuntu recognizes an external monitor connected to the laptop
    • Laptop specific "hot keys" all work as expected
    • Video resolution is maxed out
    • The battery monitor applet is displayed and correctly shows the battery's status and capacity
    • PCMCIA cards are recognized and function correctly
  8. Resolve as many of the configuration issues you've identified as you can. Work with other volunteers and staff to fix the problems.
  9. Are there any un-resolved issues?
    • YES:
      • Will these remaining issues keep the laptop from being useful to a customer?
        • YES:
          1. Document these issues in as much detail as possible.
          2. Check with a staff person to see if these are issues that may be fixed by future software updates. Does this seem likely?
          • YES:
            1. Write "Waiting for software updates that will resolve the issue with whatever is wrong with this laptop," in the What's Broken? field under the Repair section of the sheet.
            2. Send the laptop to Repair.
          • NO:
        • NO:
          • Make an explicit record of these issues in the Notes section of the Refurbishing form.
  10. Is there anything written in What's Broken that hasn't been taken care of yet?
    • YES:
    • NO:
      1. This laptop is complete and ready for sale. Have a member of staff price it.
      2. Put this laptop with the other finishined laptops.
      3. Pat yourself on the back! You just finished refurbishing a laptop!

Repair

  1. Grab a Laptop Repair Form and copy the laptop's identifying information from the Intake Sheet
  2. Replicate the Problem: Take a look what's written in the What's Broken? section of the Intake Form. Make the problem occur. If it's a physical problem, like a broken screen, this doesn't take much. No matter what the issue, make it occur again and describe it in as much fine detail as possible. Record your observations in the Symptoms section of the Repair.
  3. Brainstorm: What are all the possible reasons the problem might be happening? List each of them separately in the Diagnostics section of Repair Form.
  4. Pursue the problem: Go through your list of possible diagnoses. Try fixes for each possibility until you can either rule it out or you discover what you need to fix the problem.
  5. Did you find a fix?
    • NO:
      1. On the Intake Form, check Teardown -- Y and sign your initials and the date.
      2. Send the laptop to Teardown
    • YES:
      1. Perform the repair:
        1. Does the laptop need parts to be repaired?
          • YES:
            1. Do we have the part available?
              • NO:
                1. Find the part on-line
                2. Record the price and source for the part in the Notes section of Repair Form
                3. Determine the possible sales price of the laptop. Subtract the price of the needed parts from the sales price. Will we still make money on the laptop?
                • YES:
                  1. Find an open slot in the Repairs in Progress shelves in the Repair room. Record the letter and number of the slot uner Repair Bay on the Repair form.
                  2. Have a staff member order the part. Make sure the record of the purchase lists the Identification information and the letter and number of the laptop's Repair Bay so it can be matched up when the part comes in.
                  3. Put the laptop away in its place in Repairs in Progress and go on to another project
                • NO:
                  1. On the Intake Form, check Teardown -- Y and sign your initials and the date.
                  2. Send the laptop to Teardown
              • YES:
          • NO:
    1. Fix it!
  6. Send the laptop to Refurbish

Teardown

This is almost identical to teardown for desktop PCs. However, there's a longer list of things we want to salvage. Also, because laptops frequently have very model-specific parts, we need to track where a lot of these parts came from. So, instead of an ordered set of steps, below is a set of general guidelines for tearing down laptops.

What to Salvage

It's a given that we only want to save it if it's working. If you can't tell (for instance, because a laptop won't power on) make sure the pulled part is marked Unknown Condition:

  • RAM
  • Hard Drive
    • We only keep those with capacity equal to or larger than the spec listed at the Minimum Laptop Specs?, but All hard drives must be wiped!!'''
  • miniPCI card
    • NICs and Wireless NICs ONLY. Recycle modems
  • Keyboard
    • Model-specific -- document the make, model, and model number of the source
  • Touchpad
    • Model-specific -- document the make, model, and model number of the source
  • Battery
    • Model-specific -- document the make, model, and model number of the source
    • If the battery is confirmed dead, put it in the Dead Batteries box.
  • LCD
    • Model-specific -- document the make, model, and model number of the source
    • If the lid and hinges are intact, leave the whole assembly together
    • Use Google to determine the graphics standard, size, and resolution--and make and model, if you can find it-- of the LCD. Record this.
  • Lid hinges
    • If the lid and hinges are intact, leave the whole assembly together
    • Model-specific -- document the make, model, and model number of the source
  • Heatsink Assembly
    • Model-specific -- document the make, model, and model number of the source
  • WiFi Antenna
    • Don't take apart the lid around a working LCD to salvage an antenna.

Other Guidelines

  • If the LCD is broken (or really, really old [specs?: year or resolution]), take the entire lid apart; if the lid has a camera or an antenna built into it, save these. Document the make, model, and model-number for the camera. Put the LCD in LCD bin.
  • Laptops need to be torn down very thoroughly. There are frequently thin sheets of plastic or metal attached to the various plates of a laptop's case. Remove these and sort them for recycling appropriately.
  • The bottom plate from almost any laptop case will have brass screw posts set into the plastic. Don't worry about removing these.
  • Save all the screws in the big plastic bin of screws.
  • When the laptop is completely torn down (Feels great, dunnit?) and all the salvaged parts are sorted appropriately for storage, do not throw away the paper work. Put it into the folder marked Torn Down and return the plastic bag to the stock in Intake.

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History | Last updated by Ben Buckley, 6 years ago