More laptop repair

Following on my previous post, this last weekend I did a little more laptop repair.  I was successful again, but this time it was much easier.

This time my task was to fix up an old laptop for my son.  After a month off, it's time for him to get back to doing some school work.  He functions better when he has a regular schedule and the whole learning-from-home coronavirus pandemic thing really threw him for a loop.  So it will do him good to get back to a little Reflex math and Lexia reading, in addition to doing some writing on the computer.  (He hates writing, but seems to tolerate it better when he can type rather than print.  Plus he likes the "learn to type" program he was using.)

Well, to do that he needs a computer.  He was using the school laptop that he used in the classroom (you know, back when kids were allowed to go into the school - we still don't know for sure if that'll be a possibility for the fall), but we had to return that at the end of the year.  And since neither I nor my wife wanted to sacrifice our laptop to the cause, we decided the easiest solution would be to fix up the old MacBook Pro I had sitting on a shelf.  It's a 2010 model that we hadn't used in several years, but it was still functional.  It also had the benefit of being a retired web development laptop, so it had a decent amount of horsepower.  This may serve us well if he has to do distance-learning from home in the fall, because the school laptop he was issued was hideously slow.  It basically had the memory to run Windows 10, whatever central management software the school had installed on it, and just barely enough left to run one actual user application.  Any more than that and it started thrashing like crazy and ground to a halt.  And don't even think about letting it go more than a day without a reboot.

Anyway, shortly after setting about this task, I realized this laptop would need some hardware work.  There were actually two things wrong.  The first I already knew about: the trackpad was broken.  It tracked finger movement, but it wouldn't click, which made it fairly useless.  You could sort of work with it by turning on the "tap to click" setting, but that was highly limited and painful at best.  However, I figured that problem would be solved with a USB mouse.

The second problem was more immediate.  While creating an account and figuring out what to do software-wise, I realized that the bottom of the Macbook wasn't flat.  In fact, one side of the bottom panel wasn't even flush with the rest of the case.  At first, I figured maybe a screw had come loose, or that I'd opened it up for some reason and put the panel back on crooked.  But no.  It was the battery.

Bulging Macbook battery

That's the battery that I took out of the Macbook.  In case you can't see in the image, it's bulging to the point that the external plastic casing has started to break open.  It was actually putting so much pressure on the case that it was forcing it open.  So that had to be replaced too.

Fortunately, this was a much less involved operation than the Dell repair.  I don't know about the current models, but the 2010 Macbook Pros are built to be pretty easy to service.  No annoying plastic clips or other weird tricks needed to open the case - just take out the screws on the bottom.  I'm sure replacing the keyboard would be more difficult, but the battery and trackpad were pretty easy.  In fact, I was just able to follow the video below.

The only hard part was getting the trackpad out.  That's because one of the screws was hopelessly stuck and I managed to strip the head trying to get it out.  I eventually had to leave that screw in, remove the screws that fixed the support bracket to the case, and bend the bracket to get the trackpad out.  Then, after some struggle, I was able to work the stripped screw out with some pliers and a little WD-40.  I didn't have any other screws of the proper size, so I had to put the stripped screw back in the new trackpad using the pliers, which was a pain, but less difficult than getting it out.

All in all, it was a pretty painless repair.  The next part was just cleaning it up the software on the system.  The first thing was to upgrade OSX.  Since I hadn't used that laptop in years, it was still running Mavericks (OSX version 10.9), so I updated it to High Sierra (version 10.13), which is the newest one that supports the Mid-2010 hardware.  It's still two releases out of date (current is Catalina, v10.15), but it's better than nothing.  

The next step was removing all the old (and in some cases no-longer-working) software and upgrading the things that my son might actually need.  The two big ones were, of course, Chrome and Microsoft Office.  I also set up KeePassXC along with the Chrome plugin and created a password database for him to use.  He might only be seven, but it doesn't hurt to start instilling some basic security awareness.  Last but not least, I got a copy of MSP360 (formerly Cloudberry) Backup for Mac and set that up like the instances on our other laptops, so that he's all backed up.

So for an investment of a few hours time and about $110 in parts and software, my kid has a nice, working laptop.  I walked him through logging in, what applications are available, using KeePassXC, and the other things he needs to know for now.  It'll take a little practice for him to get used to it, since there's a lot there and he's never used a Mac before, but he took to it pretty well.  Hopefully this will be the beginning of a good educational experience for him.

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