Should I attempt simple DIY repair on my VAIO laptop?
July 10, 2007 2:07 PM   Subscribe

The headphone jack in my Sony VAIO laptop is broken. Should I try to fix it myself?

Near as I can figure, I've just jostled the headphone plug around too hard while they're plugged in. It acts as though it's not quite making the connection, until I wiggle it about to establish a full connection and then don't touch it.
I've fixed the same problem on electric basses and guitars (just bending the connector further in), and feel reasonably confident opening up other appliances to tinker with them (usually with success). But I've never opened up a laptop before. Go for it, or leave it to a pro?
posted by Martin E. to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Which Vaio and is it out of warranty?

Google can provide guides on how to take it apart
posted by A189Nut at 2:41 PM on July 10, 2007

A 3.5mm stereo headphone jack is an order of magnitude smaller and fussier than a 1/4" phone jack. Also they're pretty tight tolerance and they have little lattitude for overextension, so if the jack was walloped, it's most likely that the jack broke loose from the PC board, or the jack itself is broken. you won't find stuff to "bend".

Also, laptops can be a bugger to open up. it's not always obvious what panel has to come off first, or which screws to remove.

So, if you are competent with soldering enough to resolder or replace the headphone jack, you'd probably also be able to successfully dismantle and reassemble the laptop. otherwise, I recommend getting it serviced.
posted by Artful Codger at 3:09 PM on July 10, 2007

Another problem you might run into is that many laptops use a high-temperature solder. It's much harder for amateurs to work with.

Why not get a USB sound card? Since you seem to be a musician of sorts, you might appreciate the better quality that some of the USB sound cards have.

Froogle search for "USB sound card"
posted by lockle at 3:25 PM on July 10, 2007

You may have luck with a dental pick if the jack module isn't completely sealed, since this won't really work from the outside. There are two tabs in there that contact the tip/middle portion of the plug. Pulling these towards center will do it, but only if you can reach them from the top/sides of the module. Be careful, wear a grounding strap and good luck.
posted by IronLizard at 3:36 PM on July 10, 2007

I thought about trying something like that when the same thing happened to an old mac laptop. But on mine the headphone jack shared a circuit board with the power cord jack and a few other things, and it was going to be a pain to get out. I opted for the $100 USB soundcard box (which was also nice because it gave better quality input/output that the onboard sound).
posted by p3t3 at 3:54 PM on July 10, 2007

Also if you consider a 3rd party soundcard, but don't want the extra hardware of a USB box, there are a few compact pcmcia soundcards out there too.
posted by p3t3 at 4:01 PM on July 10, 2007

Find and download the service manual for your laptop (if you don't already have it). This tells a technician the process for things like disassembling the laptop to replace the motherboard, and seeing the process explained and photographed in advance will give you the confidence to do it yourself.

I'd do it myself, but I've replaced or upgraded every component in my laptop over the last few years, so I've become pretty familiar with the insides. I'd never taken a laptop apart before that though.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:36 PM on July 10, 2007

I've had a number of Vaio laptops open, and I would only attempt this if you are very very comfortable doing finely detailed soldering and soldering. If you can't control your solder within 0.5 mm then you risk screwing something up much worse.

However I would open it up to see what you've got. (follow the links above to figure out how. There's almost always an important screw under the keyboard and it's a trick to pop it out without causing damage.) Quite a few Vaio laptops have a simple daughter card that has the audio in/out on it. It can be swapped out very easily with a couple screws and unplugging a ribbon cable and probably doesn't cost more than $40. (Depending on your model.)
posted by Ookseer at 5:27 PM on July 10, 2007

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