Replacing a MacBook Logic-board

Posted: January 17, 2009 in Apple, computers
Tags: , ,

Always one to enjoy a challenge, when i had the opportunity to dissect a MacBook that stopped working due to a logic-board failure, i anxiously jumped at the chance.  Besides, i figured, its already broke, what more could i do?  haha.

So the MacBook in question stopped working and was diagnosed as having a “bad” ( never liked that expression, “bad”- makes it sound like its either gone off, or has done something it shouldn’t have and needs a good finger-wagging ) or “dead” logic-board, which unfortunately is a somewhat common occurrence.  I’m not one to say that Apple is not allowed to make mistakes, but from what i’ve read, it seems there have been quite a few logic-board failures, more than there should have been IMHO.  It’s fine if you bought AppleCare to extend the warranty of your MacBook, but if not this is a very expensive fix, unless of course you can do it yourself, or happen to know someone who doesn’t mind tearing a laptop apart completely to replace the heart of the beast.  If you can’t do the work yourself, you may as well just buy a brand new laptop, since the cost of the parts and labour is going to cause you to dig deep, very deep, and end up within a C note of the cost of buying brand new.

Now, getting back to me and what i was doing… i took some precautions that i would highly recommend to anyone attempting this.  First – make sure you have ALL the tools you need, ALL the components you need, various sizes of philips screwdrivers, something plastic to pry open the top-case if your fingers are not adept enough, the manual on how to disassemble your laptop, and patience.  Lots and lots of patience.  Everyone does ths kinds of electronic surgery differently, i prefer to get a large piece of blank white paper, 24″x36″, and tape it down to a desk as my work surface.  That way as i remove each piece i can place them on the paper with a number next to it chronicling the steps with small cryptic notes, which, if like my experience, comes in handy when you don’t get to reassemble the MacBook right away.  D’oh!  But i’m jumping ahead…

The logic-board was purchased from PowerBookMedic, who also happen to have a very good manual on how to replace yours, as well as other manuals for most of the components they sell.  I say very good because there are a few small items not covered very well, so if you are not used to working inside small spaces and thinking for yourself, this is a good time to put down all the tools, the broken laptop and just quietly walk away.  Still with me, okay, good, lets begin.  READ THE MANUAL.  At least once, then slowly and carefully follow the instructions to remove the battery, L bracket, hard drive and memory – if all does not go well you may be selling these on Ebay shortly.  After the initial components are removed, it’s time to start removing screws, a lot of them.  Keep them all separate and labelled because later it may be difficult to figure out the difference between a 2mm and a 3mm screw, or which were full threaded screws and which were partially threaded when it comes to putting it all back together.  Removing the “top-case” is the first part of the process, after that, you will see all the work much more clearing, and have a better idea of what you are getting yourself into.  The logic-board is basically the entire motherboard of the laptop, and is buried underneath a lot of components, some of which you can move out of the way, others have to be actually disconnected and removed as you can see from the various pics below…

Once you have all the parts removed, you can carefully remove the logic-board from the case, move the battery from the back of the old board to the new one (as detailed in the manual, and shown in the pic below) and then begin the task of reassembly.  If you have made little notes and scribbles like i did and been methodical in your dissecting you should find this task fairly easy.  Remember to make sure you follow the same steps in reverse order to the dismantling, you may be tempted to jump ahead, but that is how mistakes can occur so stay calm and true to your course and you’ll be fine.  Ensure you push all the connections down onto the board fully, and make sure all screws are tight – but not too tight.  You don’t want to strip one of these tiny little screws and not be able to remove it in case you have to redo parts of the dismantling process again.  I know, i know, you are saying “Nope. never again” but hey take it from me, i had to go back and find the loose connection after i had it all together, so i know it happens.

I had a bit of glitch in my replacement, the battery connector was not the “energy star” type needed for the replacement board, but a call to my friendly neighbourhood Apple retailer solved that issue and cost very little in the grand scope of things ($30 +/-).  So after waiting a couple of days for the part to arrive, i installed it and finished the reassembly.  Now came the moment of truth.  Pushing the power button and voila!  The friendly and familiar mac start-up noise! which unfortunately was followed by a flash on the screen and then black.  Uh oh.  what the…?  Okay, don’t panic, must be a loose connection, so again, remove all the simple components, take off the top-case and sure enough there was the culprit, a loose top-case connector, which if you are familiar with MacBooks, also houses the power button.  I pushed it down good and snug, and put it all back together again.  Moment of truth, and yes indeed – Voila, for real this time.

Total time taken, approx. 3-1/2 hours, but i am overly cautious and did have to open the case the extra time to re-seat the top-case connection, but all in all, a successful repair to a very good machine.  I’m a big fan of the MacBooks, all models of it, in fact its what i do all of my work on (when i’m not forced to use a windows machine at work i mean) and am glad we were able to save this one from the dumpster, or actually, i guess save it from being sold for parts on Ebay.


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  6. Justin says:

    Just read this because I recently bought a MacBook that has a broken/dead logic board, at least that’s what the guy said. I love to buy things that have problems and fix them, it gives me a sense of accomplishment I guess. So, this will be my first MacBook, I did an HP Pavilion dv9000 several months ago because the motherboard fried because the fan stopped working. So, I will follow you guidelines, and be VERY VERY patient. Thanks for being so thourough and helpful. I will hopefully get it working and then I may come back to share the good news of what I have done.

    Thanks once again!


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  17. Jane H says:

    This may be obvious, but is all memory lost when the logic board is damaged. Also, how does the logic board become damaged?
    Thanks much!


    • tcg says:

      No, there will be no memory loss due to the logic board replacement, all of your information is stored on your harddrive so unless the logic board failure damaged your harddrive (its very rare) you should be fine. The only change will be PRAM settings being changed back to their defaults due to the logic board replacement.
      As to why it happens, that is not known. It seems like a manufacturing flaw but obviously not one common enough to make Apple take ownership of it as a defective part like they did with the MacBook top-case. The top-case in case you didn’t know is covered for 3 years from date of purchase if it cracks. i’ve had mine replaced twice under warranty now.
      Thanks for reading, and i hope your install goes well.


  18. Jane H says:

    Thank you so so much! You’ve made my day! I’ve also had my top-case replaced twice and it needs it again! Love your site!


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  21. Very usefull post can i have your permision to translate into Dutch for our sites visitors? Thanks


    • tcg says:

      As long as you provide a link to the original post on my site, and give credit, then yes, you have my permission to translate this post into Dutch.
      thank you (or should i say “dank u”) for your interest and your comment,


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