Laptop HDD swap and Keyboard replacement

I don’t think I’ve mentioned in any previous posts where I get my spare parts and components for repairs. Generally I’ll use PC World if the customer wants a swift repair, as I can pick parts up when I’m in Leeds or Wakefield the same day. If they’re not in quite as much of a rush then I’ll order it online either using scan, ebuyer or Dabs (though I’ve gone off Dabs after a recent problematic order) and get it delivered, which usually ends up being cheaper. I’ll always provide the receipt too so they can see I haven’t over charged. Very occasionally the customer I’m working for has already gone out of their way to get the replacement parts, which is fantastic for me as it saves me time and effort!

That was the case here. A HP Laptop with a dying hard drive, full of bad sectors, and a keyboard that won’t type certain letters after having tea spilt on it, which is a surprisingly common problem!

Along with having the laptop dropped off to me, I had the spare keyboard and spare SATA hard drive in the same bag.

“Fantastic! This should be easy.” I think to myself.

First of all let’s get the hard drive in place. There are two ports on the back, one for a spare drive (to expand capacity) and one for the system drive. Unscrewing the plate on the back reveals a sata drive in a ‘caddy’; the metal case thingy shown below along with an adapter to connect the SATA drive up.


Old drive removed and new drive ready to be put in caddy.


Now to  slot this back in place and screw the casing back on.


All sorted, now on to the keyboard. As with most modern laptops there’s one screw holding the keyboard in place in the back, then underneath the battery there are six smaller screws that keep the fascia ABOVE the keyboard in place. After unscrewing all of these and putting them somewhere safe (away from my very curious cat) it’s time to flip the laptop over and force off the fascia.

After putting a bit of pressure under it and leavering it upwards the fascia pops off. A little MORE pressure was required than usual, the tea that had been spilt had dried and become exceedingly sticky! Once the fascia was lifted I could undo three more screws that held the keyboard in place.

Time to lift the keyboard out, again a little force was required as the tea had stuck the keyboard to the metal plate underneath. As a quick aside tea is actually quite pleasant to deal with, the worst repair like this I had to do was over Christmas when someone had spilt Baileys liquer all over the keyboard. It had pooled underneath and had hardened like cement!

Anyway, with some effort the keyboard was lifted upwards and the ribbon cable removed from the motherboard.

A good habit I’ve developed when replacing keyboards is to give things a bit of a clean before slotting in the new one. So some cleaning alcohol and a bit of elbow grease later and we’ve gone from this:


to this:


Not perfect but considerably better. Time to slot in the new keyboard.


All in place and time to reverse the above process. I put the three screws back in to lock the keyboard in place, pushed the fascia down, and screwed it back on. The locking screw for the keyboard was the last part. Done!

Now to check the keyboard works and the hard drive have been picked up. I turned on the laptop and switched to the bios screen, the keyboard worked fine and a quick gander through the bios screens showed the hard drive had been picked up.

“This is going well.” I thought to myself, which is always the kiss of death.

The customer had given me recovery discs, which they’d made when the laptop was set up. I inserted the recovery disc, the process started and then stalled.

“This PC is not supported by the system recovery discs”

No matter what I tried I got the same message each time, and I must confess I’ve never come across this with all the pcs I’ve repaired. I did a bit of research on the Internet and it seems it’s something specific to HP computers. I’ll try to explain it;

OEM Window installs with HP are associated with a particular PC. This is to prevent you using the discs from one install on another computer and getting a ‘free’ copy of Windows on it. The association is done by “Tattooing” the motherboard. It sounds painful but it isn’t, what it IS is a pain in the bum. Essentially the tattoo information is made up of the serial number, the product name and a few other random bits and pieces.

This -does- prevent you using the discs on another machine, however should you try swapping out components (new motherboard or hard drive) the recovery discs will believe your genuine HP laptop/desktop is a different computer and refuse to work. The only way you can get it to work is to take the machine BACK to HP themselves and they’ll re-tattoo the motherboard with the correct data. And charge you a nominal fee of course.

I managed to track down a copy of the tools used and gave them a go, they’re supposed to be super-secret but the internet is a wonderful, if slightly lawless resource. It seems not only had the hard drive changed but the motherboard had lost it’s tattoo’d data completely. I suspect this happened when the bios was updated (probably on a previous repair). So even if the original hard drive was still in the machine, the recovery discs wouldn’t work, I tested this to make sure and confirmed my theory.

I contacted the customer and gave them the bad news; if they wanted Vista back on they’d have to take it back to HP. The other option was just to put Windows 7 on the laptop and have done with it. I got the thumbs up to do a fresh Windows 7 install and set about it.

“Clear sailing from here” I thought to myself, clearly not learning my lesson from last time. Bad luck struck once again, or rather, HP struck once again.

It turns out that despite the laptop being only 2 years old, HP don’t support it. Meaning they won’t update the drivers for use on Windows 7. Fortunately by visiting the various manufaturer websites for the laptop components (nvidia graphics card and motherboard, etc) I was able to update all the drivers I needed. Windows 7 is pretty good at picking them up out of the box anyway so I didn’t have too much of a problem.

All that remained now was to make sure everything was secure (AVG, Windows Firewall) and that the basics were all installed. For this I can’t recommend enough. It’s a fantastic program/website, you tick all the programs you want to install then and it’ll do the setup for you, installing everything in to the right location, with the right options and using the most up to date versions.

And there we have it, one PC repaired and my faith in HP shattered, definitely won’t be recommending them in future.

My Fee: £20
Parts: Supplied

Total: £20

(Though the customer paid me £30 which was greatly appreciated!)

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