New Motherboard for Laptop

Not longer after talking about my laptop's dodgy power connection on Tuesday I got the old screwdrivers out and took it to pieces. This is a lot less daunting than you might think. Dell have step-by-step instructions for dismantling the Inspiron 4100, which are reasonably easy to follow.

Once in pieces I was hoping to see some way of repairing an obviously loose connection. However, the "motherboard" is a sealed unit and so I had no choice to buy a new one off eBay - cost £150. It arrived this morning and is in the pink bag in the shot below:


Being a good geek I have an earthing wristband, which I wore throughout. Assembling the laptop is as simple as following the instructions in reverse (Unless you're cleverer than me and can remember where all the screws go).


I have to admit I'm surprised it worked. Especially after having to bend a leg back in to position on the processor, which I prized out with a screwdriver. There's just so much that could have gone wrong. Luckily it didn't and it's now as-new.

And my point is? That you can do this. I'd always thought taking laptops apart was best left to the professionals. This of course is prohibitively expensive with an old laptop (mine is 4 years old). It also means having to send it off for repair and wait weeks for its return. The best thing is buy the part and DIY. As you can see there aren't that many parts to them.

The one thing I did notice is that dust and crumbs get absolutely everywhere inside.


  1. I used to work for Mastercare, the warranty repair workshop of the Dixons Stores Group.

    I repaired about 10 to 15 laptops a day, usually involving stripping the unit down to the mainboard.

    It's simple. It really is. It's just a case of remembering which screw goes where. This is vital, even a 1mm difference in screw size can shatter a mainboard or display unit.

    If/when I get a laptop, I will take it apart (not to the extent of stripping down to mainboard, but at least remove the cooling fans) and give it a good clean.

    Laptops love to suck in the air immediatly around it. And if you eat, drink or smoke nearby, it gets clogged up fast. Even dirty fingers and dead skin quickly block the usually small heatsinks, fans, and exhaust slats.

    • avatar
    • Colin Williams
    • Sat 13 Aug 2005 02:50

    The two thinkpads I have here are ex work machines that died outsite of warranty and were repaired by me (after being gifted by the company)...I've not gone as far as buying replacement parts - instead I store dead machines and swap components between common units to get 'em going.

    On my partners thinkpad, I've had to resolder power connectors on the motherboard twice to keep it going.

    All good fun and extremely satisfying!

    • avatar
    • Marcin
    • Sun 14 Aug 2005 05:19 PM

    You could now eBay the old motherboard and someone wants a go at fixing the connector can get it and you can recoup some of your costs! :)

    People will buy anything, there was something in the paper this week about people bidding on an air guitar...

  2. Time to auction of my 386 and 486 mobos?

    (they still work for all I know)

    If you don't mind, Jake, whats the processor speed on that model and whats the max ram?

    • avatar
    • Jake
    • Wed 17 Aug 2005 15:23

    Good idea Marcin. I think I might just do that. One man's rubbish is another's treausure. Or something like that.

    Jerry. It was a 766MHz processor but the board supported up to 1.3GHz. Max ram was 768 (I think).

    • avatar
    • pedro
    • Mon 22 Aug 2005 06:25

    i got the same dam problem with thepower connection.they got burned,it must be the power unit inside the laptop that is notworking well,them if this power unit is attached to the moderborad iam lost becouse a motherbord will need to be replaced,and iam broke

    anyway good luck

    • avatar
    • dawn
    • Tue 1 Nov 2005 05:17 PM

    question...or info needed...

    I am currently experiencing problems with sound on my toshiba satillite laptop. I can power up and the sound is on..then it goes crackly and distorted at some point ..and then the sound is gone until i either reboot or install the sound driver when i loose sound that session. I was told at best buy that i will probably need a new mother board...any ideas?

    I do have the best buy extended warranty. so that will help if i need a mother board.

  3. Do you still have the old motherboard and/or thought about getting a 1GHz PIII-m/512kb CPU for the board. I have a spare CPU that not currently being used.

  4. I need the instructions for disassembling the Inspiron 4100 that Jake was talking about in his article. Does anyone know EXACTLY where to find them? I can't find them on the Dell website that his link sends me to.


    • avatar
    • Bruce
    • Wed 3 May 2006 01:24 AM

    Hi All!

    I use a flat piece of styrofoam or corrugated cardboard and place the screws I take out by poking or screwing them in the soft material, placing them in the relative positions they came from. If there seems like there will be confusion later, I'll draw reference points like port covers or labels and stickers to make sure I will know which hole each screw came from. Makes for a much better holder too! than a coffee can.

    Happy DIY to everyone!

    • avatar
    • Ben Simmons
    • Thu 4 May 2006 02:00 AM

    Mark Edwards,

    Goto Dell's website

    Goto support area.

    quick link here


    Then look for the documentation link (they keep changing their website so hard to actually say where to go)

    Then just enter Inspiron 4100 as the computer or you computers Tag code.

    It'll be there as an .exe and so you can keep it locally.

    • avatar
    • birdie
    • Tue 4 Jul 2006 04:31 PM

    Here goes... if anyone can help... I had some laptops given to me Inspiron 5000 and Inspiron 7500 ... Dell... don't know the passwords to get into the BIOS... Dell tried giving me about 20 passwords and not one did the trick! I have worked on Desktops... but never have I taken a laptop apart. I was hoping to give them to some teenagers that have unfortunately or fortunately (depends on how you look at... and is that too much information ... lol) been placed in a home under State care. If anyone has any suggestions on what or how (PLEASE DETAIL INSTRUCTIONS... LOL) to go about this... I would appreciate any help!

    • avatar
    • jason
    • Sun 28 Oct 2007 10:30 PM

    hey guys, you get alot responses on here so i thought i'd ask a question that google hadn't found a response to. ca the video card come off the mother board and be swapped for a better one or higher powered one, which ever they are called? miine is a 32m but i would like t o move upto 128 or so.

    thanks guys


    • avatar
    • Steve
    • Wed 30 Jul 2008 10:08 AM

    Hi all

    My Dell Inspiron 4100 is coming apart with help from the elusive Dell page at


    We have many older laptops come into our repair shop, mostly Dell, that have the wandering mouse cursor problem. It is usually not financially viable to repair so the lads in the department tell me.

    So I'm going to have a go myself on an old machine. My experience is with desktops so I'll have to put away the hammer and chisel, and get a magnifying glass!

    Watch this space for progress reports.

    • avatar
    • Steve
    • Wed 30 Jul 2008 10:34 AM

    Incidentally, I got to the page at Dell by typing

    "dismantle dell inspiron 4100 laptop"

    into Google. (no quotes)

    The first result was the right one headed 'Documentation'

    I know this is an old blog but....

    Jason, I don't think the graphics are upgradable.

    • avatar
    • Steve
    • Wed 30 Jul 2008 02:02 PM

    OK, fixed the wandering mouse.

    The cause was obvious when I got the case apart. Rough handling and very heavy pounding on the touchpad had detatched the touchpad from its frame (the palmrest). The aluminium plate that stiffens the back of the palmrest and holds the touchpad in place was battered and bent completely out of shape, pressing on the back of the touchpad. (Ah Hah!)

    Very careful application of epoxy glue to the edges of the pad inside the case, along with reshaping the aluminium plate was the first job.

    Bad treatment had caused further damage to the case in general, ie detatched screw bosses (more epoxy), cracked and split reinforcing points (epoxy again) and a couple of missing screws.

    So after reassembly all is working. This laptop is now worth about £150 - £180 in our shop

    Work took 2.5 hours, would be quicker with practise. This machine was simple to work on, with good documentation available on the net. I suspect other makes/models could be a nightmare. If I get another one at the shop I feel confident in attempting a fix.

    Nice blog Jake. See what you've got me in to!

    • avatar
    • Maggie
    • Sun 12 Oct 2008 09:14 PM

    The single USP port on my old Inspiron 4100 died this summer. Now it seems the power cord/adapter have failed. (Battery became very weak several years ago.)

    My question: How complicated is it to replace the USB port myself? Or is it connected to the motherboard?

    If it's worth replacing/repairing the USB port, then I would spring $30 for a replacement power cord.

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Written by Jake Howlett on Fri 12 Aug 2005

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