Where Culinary Meets Computing
In the past I had read articles claiming that, dependent upon the problem, a motherboard from a computer could be fixed by baking it in the oven. The idea seemed ludicrous to me, at first. Certainly the components on the board would be damaged when thrust into such extreme heat for over five minutes I surmised. With that, I ignored the thought of ever putting a printed circuit board in the oven and carried on with my life . . .
. . . Until one wonderful Saturday, my parents called me on the phone complaining about their laptop. Apparently it was totally inoperable. The fan would kick on and the LEDs above the keyboard would flash but the screen remained blank. After about twenty seconds, the computer would shut down and restart and the process would repeat itself. Being in the field of electronics, I understand components and the issues caused by their failures, however, my electronics experience does not include an extensive knowledge of the inner workings of laptops. My parents (bless their hearts) consider me to be a computer guru and turn to me for advice regularly. I didn’t want to destroy this false identity that they had bestowed upon me so I thought how am I going to fix this?
After taking a look at the device, I could see that no components were visibly damaged. That didn’t mean some bold capacitor hadn’t failed but at least there weren’t scorch marks or busted pieces lying around inside. To me, it seemed that some solder joint had gone bad and intermittent contact was being made by some critical component. Taking ohm and voltage readings of the billion objects on the boards seemed impractical. What was a man going to do, what with it almost being lunch time?
It was at that point that I revisited that old idea of baking a printed circuit board (PCB) in the oven. After following an online tutorial for taking apart the laptop (which might be more difficult than dismantling an automobile,) I was left with a pile of plastic, small screws that were quickly being batted around by my cat, and a wildly articulate PCB. Per my own inclinations and endorsed by the advice of others, I removed the processor, the battery, and two wires (note: not traces!) that were external to the board. This left only the board, the relatively inexpensive components, copper traces, and solder on the board.
Times and temperatures online varied but the average seemed to point towards pre-heating the oven to 385 degrees Fahrenheit and, once ready, placing the motherboard inside of the oven on a cookie sheet, isolated using screws in the corners, for approximately seven minutes. I had already accumulated a pile of rubble that was once a laptop so I figured ‘no guts, no glory.’ That and I was fairly certain my father was en route to purchase a new laptop, regardless.
I preheated the oven to 385, made a sandwich, relocated most of the screws my cat had knocked under the couch, and then hand-twisted some wood screws a quarter of the way into the four mounting holes on the corners of the motherboard. In the vein of a Food Network star, I tossed the board onto a cookie sheet, chucked it in the oven, smacked my hands together, and tried to convince myself I wasn’t about to burn down the house.
A few minutes in, I definitely could smell the board cooking. If you ever took part in lighting action figures on fire as a child, you can appreciate the smell of melting plastic. The board hadn’t been in the oven for quite seven minutes and I wasn’t certain if the solder had had enough time to liquefy and make good connections. I threw caution to the wind and allowed the board to remain in the oven the full time (though I did grab a fan and open all the windows.)
Once the seven minutes were up, I turned off the oven and let the board cool down inside for about an hour. After the PCB cooled down, I pulled it out of the oven, reseated the processor, popped in the battery and began work putting the laptop back together. Without getting too far ahead of myself, I powered up the device before the whole assembly was one piece, the assumption being that the laptop would have to be ripped apart and troubleshooting would have to recommence.
Holding my breath, I plugged the power supply into the socket and pressed the power button. LEDs flashed. The fan whirred with delight. Anticipation grew. Finally, after what seemed like a slightly slower start-up, the display lit up with the PC vendor’s logo in full glory. Baking the motherboard had worked!
The laptop has been in operating condition for well over eighteen months now with nary an issue. In fact, baking the motherboard even took care of a secondary issue that involved the wireless card on the laptop not working. The product was like brand new – direct from the factory with the only hitch being that it seems to run a smidge slower than previously. Oh, the sacrifices we accept for luxury.
Is this an isolated incident? Did I just happen to luck out? There is no way of answering this with much confidence since the internet is filled with dynamic results of baking motherboards. Some computers last a week and crash again, some last as long as mine has, and others don’t recover at all after having been baked. It all depends on the issue, the severity of the solder break (if that is the issue, in the first place,) and, like any concern in life, a plethora of other factors.
What I can attest to is that the oven-bake-your-board approach not only fixed my parent’s laptop but also fixed my desktop PC after the screen began turning a bluish-greenish hue. The cable to my monitor was fine as was the monitor itself. It appeared as though a pesky solder joint had broken, taking away the R in my RGB and leaving the image of Chief Wahoo on my desktop as an amorphous black hole (you would be surprised how difficult solitaire is when the color red is removed and every card looks black.) Seven minutes in the oven and bang – Technicolor™!!!
In summation, baking a motherboard is not guaranteed to work but it can do the trick. This article isn’t intended to describe why ‘reflowing’ the board works or to even tell anyone else to try this trick. There is certainly a safety concern when baking polysynthetic materials and I would suggest letting the little ones play in the backyard while attempting to fix a motherboard this way. Keep a fire extinguisher handy, just in case, and make sure the house is well ventilated. As a disclaimer, you attempt baking your motherboard at your own risk and are liable for any damage to the board, your oven, or your property (including yourself.)
. . . and yes, I have been asked by my buddies at work when and if I will be baking a glazed Xbox or a DVD Upside Down Cake. Everybody is a comedian.
- Simple Diagnostics for Electronic Devices
If you enjoyed this literary masterpiece, venture a trip into some more of my proud nonsense. In this edition I look into simple troubleshooting tips for faulty electronic devices (aside from baking them.)
- How to Reflow a Laptop Motherboard in a Household Oven | Computer Repair Tips
Step by step repair guide to reflow a laptop motherboard, laptop baking tutorial, and video. A nice tutorial that is close to what I did last year.
Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on June 12, 2020:
Hi dude, I do not know to dismantle a laptop. Otherwise, I would have attemp it, for my laptop screen is blank nuts. Thanks for sharing.
Kyler J Falk from Corona, CA on March 26, 2020:
This had me cracking up, I'm surprised you got the method to work twice, let alone once.
Followthewad on June 17, 2018:
For an LG television:
samirpk on May 12, 2018:
Bri on November 27, 2017:
Thanks for the laughs, I can see my husband baking our old laptops soon...
Rbxii3 on October 08, 2017:
I honestly thought this was click bait initially until I read through it. Do you have before/after images of this?
Girish on February 15, 2016:
Hi... mine was a 2011 LG 47 LE 8500.. couple of months back it stopped recognizing all I/Os HDMI, USB, Components antenna... as the main board was not available anywhere i decided to purchase a new TV and finally as a last resort as nothing left to loos i wanted to try this option . preheated at 350 degrees and then kept the main board for 10 minutes in the oven.. and then let it cool for 30 minutes and connected back... TV worked like magic.. unbelievable but true.. being a Electronic engineer i did not believe to begin with but nothing happened to the board, components or plugs... TV is back in action.....
Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on July 20, 2015:
Wild! Not something I would attempt, but this made for an interesting read, certainly. Voted up and interesting.
RTalloni on July 20, 2015:
Everybody may be a comedian, but some not as good as others. Thanks for a fun read and interesting info.
Aloke Gupta from India on September 26, 2014:
Awesome Article. Thanks for sharing.
Cyril279 on September 22, 2014:
I tried this today, hopeful, but not convinced that it would work (understanding that the problem could have been way beyond any re-flow repair). But it DID! Massive thanks for posting this, it's a great guide.
I believe the cause of the failure was plugging an IDE cable into a poorly supported section of the motherboard, which initially led me to believe that the device was faulty.
For others interested, I baked an Asrock g41m-s3 at 385 for nine minutes.
There was definitely the smell of warm plastic, but there were no melted or mis-shapen connectors, no discoloration, even a couple decals that I didn't bother to remove remained legible
Mr-Mediocre (author) on May 25, 2014:
Tomix89 - valid questions. First let me start by saying that many printed circuit board manufacturers utilize a soldering method called reflow soldering. In this method of manufacturing, the surface mount components are placed on the board with a solder paste that keeps them in place prior to the entire board being subjected to a reflow oven. In essence, the entire board is heated in a controlled environment, sort of like what I am discussing in this article (the 'controlled' part is subjective.) The process that manufacturers use is much more precise and definitely less reckless but nonetheless the two are similar.
The connectors are some sort of polymer and I don't have the answers at hand but these materials usually have a high enough material transition point to survive (sort of like a melting point but without being liquefied.) Some polymers can resist up to 500 deg. C which far exceeds what we're talking about here. As for your question about the capacitors, most manufactures validate their products using accelerated life testing. Basically, the capacitors are subjected to temperatures beyond their ratings, at full load, for roughly three months (potentially more or less.) The curve for capacitor life vs. temperature is not linear but nonetheless we're talking eight minutes here at a relatively low temperature (without the capacitor having a voltage applied to it.) Again, components are subjected to these temperatures in reflow soldering anyway but I thought I'd give you some side information on it as well.
Either way, remember to remove the processor and CMOS battery because those items CAN be damaged by the heat. Thanks for reading.
Tomix89 on May 09, 2014:
I vould like to ask that the connectors on the board were not melted at all ? I have a graphics card wich has propably the same lead free soldering issue, and I want to try the "baking" method, but I'm wondering if the plastic connectors (and the capacitors) will survive ?
Aloke Gupta from India on April 30, 2014:
4timesAdad on June 02, 2013:
I've baked my HP dv6785se board 3 times already and about to bake it again. Worked each time. Had the same problem with the display. :)
tmbridgeland from Small Town, Illinois on November 09, 2012:
Okay, this was great. I have fixed a circuit board by re-soldering, but that was point by point, not all at once in an oven. Mine was from inside the guts on my car. It would start sometimes, and not, sometimes. The internet did not lie, application of a soldering iron to ceertain points did indeed get my '98 T&C running. Not sure if I have the courage to try this inside the house. Would require spousal approval, not likely.