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iMic
23rd February 2013, 05:48 AM
A little something for the Mac enthusiasts and hardware aficionados today.

A few weeks ago I became the owner of several stacks of Apple notebooks of various ages, along with a bunch of iPod classics and more spare parts than I knew what to do with, but I knew they would eventually be useful.

While most of the machines are PowerBooks, two of the machines stood out as being 2007 model MacBook Pros. I already had spares for various MacBook Pro models around, albeit from 2008 series machines. Despite the differences and many mismatches of part numbers and little information in the way of cross-references I was interested in finding out just how much of the machine can be swapped between the year revisions. I'll touch on this a little later.

First was to find out just how broken these MacBook Pros were. They were missing their Top Cases, Batteries, AirPort Cards, Memory and screws for starters. Attempting to manually start the machines by bridging the power on points on the Logic Board made it apparent that the Logic Boards had their share of issues as well, neither completing the POST and none producing any video or audio output to indicate any life in the machine. Considering the known issues that affected these models, I was positive that the issue lay with the nVidia GeForce 8600M GT graphics processor.

http://img571.imageshack.us/img571/9897/img3232old.jpg

Armed with the knowledge of the condition of each machine, the next step was to extract the broken logic board from each system, strip them of any plastic components and mark them for identification. Each board was rinsed in electrical solvents to remove any residue, thermal material, dust and leftover adhesives.

With the boards cleaned and suspended on metal trays, they were now ready for reflow. The most common type of budget reflow is to use a standard household consumer grade oven. Temperatures and timings are critical, and each board went in for approximately 7.5 minutes at 190C. This time is measured from door closed to door open, and the oven was preheated first. Once removed, each board is left to settle back to room temperature while still suspended on the tray before they're cleaned once more.

I often find it necessary to spray electronic cleaning solvent into the memory slots as the reflow process seems to tarnish the contact pins. It could be directly related to using gas as the heating fuel or the cleanliness of the oven, but the cleaning solvent resolves the issue.

http://img152.imageshack.us/img152/8760/img3142ti.jpg

While the Logic Boards were cooling, it left an opportunity to inspect the rest of the machine thoroughly for any broken connections, frayed cables or excessive chassis flex, bends or dents. While one of the machines was serviceable, the second unit was missing significantly more screws, particularly from the cooling system. I decided to shelve this machine to return to at a later date when I have a greater availability of screws.

As most of the spares I had were from a 2008 model MacBook Pro, I had to check what would and wouldn't fit. On inspection of the electrical connections on each Logic Board, the overall board layout and its connectors are all identical. The Logic Board connected without issue to every component in the 2008 system and many components, including the display, fans and battery connector are confirmed to work fine with the older board.

What makes it difficult to exchange boards between models is in the design of the cooling system.


MacBook Pro cooling systems are manufactured by Fujikura Ltd of Japan. They consist of three contact points attached to two parallel heat pipes that transfer to fin stacks on each side. Between the 2007 and 2008 models, this pipe configuration and contact point positioning doesn't change. The differences are almost entirely in the mounting points to the bottom case and Logic Board, along with clearances against the MacBook Pro's internal structural frame.

Quite simply, you can't install a 2007 model Logic Board into a 2008 model Bottom Case and vice versa - at least not without modification to the heatsink first. If not for the heatsink, I suspect a Logic Board swap would be a direct screw in replacement between the two revisions.

http://img145.imageshack.us/img145/4341/228301114908e2d0bc03o.jpg

( Heatsink Image Source: f2b1610, Flickr. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/abe-bln/2283011149/) )

So I had no choice but to use the bottom case and heatsink that came with the older partially assembled machine, even if the newer model case was in better shape.

Because the nVidia GeForce 8600M GT is known to be plagued with solder issues and is particularly sensitive to heat, I took the opportunity to clean out the fin stacks on the heatsink with a wire brush and polished up the contact points on the heatsink to a reflective finish for better thermal conductivity.

With the Logic Board now mounted back into the bottom case and connected, I was able to complete a successful test run of the repaired board.

http://img841.imageshack.us/img841/5199/img3147zk.jpg

The next step was to fully reassemble the internals of the machine. A newer AirPort card was installed, along with a fresh set of fans from the 2008 model spares. A new hard disk and memory modules were added to the machine. Some of the screws had seen better days and were replaced with fresh ones.

A replacement Top Case and Keyboard were installed to close the machine up.

Because I couldn't use the newer bottom case, I devised a solution to clean up the existing bottom case. The aluminium panels had super glue residue on the base and one of the rubber feet had fallen off. I was able to source a few replacement rubber feet from an old MacBook Pro bottom case that had taken structural damage, taking care of one issue.

Surprisingly, automotive throttle body cleaner and some polishing worked at lifting the super glue from the aluminium surface without leaving any abrasion marks. Despite being formulated to clean aluminium engine parts, I wasn't certain that it wouldn't damage the aluminium finish of the MacBook Pro enclosure. However, it did exactly what I wanted it to this time.

http://img13.imageshack.us/img13/6602/phototnoj.jpg

The outside of the machine was then cleaned and detailed, including all ports and around the keyboard. The screen was buffed with a microfiber cloth and LCD cleaner to remove fingerprints and other small marks.

The machine was then loaded up with a fresh install of Mac OS X Mountain Lion before being left to run Apple's diagnostic tools for several hours. All of the system components are stressed, paying particular attention to the nVidia GPU and Logic Board in the process. The system passed all of its diagnostic loops without issue.


Finished Product

This finished MacBook Pro, once subject to neglect, is the product of several weeks of research, trial and error and effort to achieve a like new restoration from scrap to showroom quality. It has since been used as a mission critical system for data entry and management and continues to work without issue.



MacBook Pro (15-inch 2.4/2.2GHz)

- Intel Core 2 Duo Processor @ 2.2GHz
- 4GB DDR2 667MHz Amicroe Memory
- 320GB 5400rpm Hitachi Travelstar HDD
- nVidia GeForce 8600M GT (128MB) Graphics
- 15-inch 1440 x 900 Glossy Widescreen Display
- 802.11n Wireless Networking + 10/100/1000 Ethernet
- Backlit Keyboard

http://img708.imageshack.us/img708/2103/img3222g.jpg

http://img152.imageshack.us/img152/7972/img3224s.jpg


Repairing this MacBook Pro from the condition I acquired it in to its present state was actually quite an enjoyable experience. It was frustrating on many occasions, and the heatsink issue proved to be a challenge, but one worth documenting should the question of logic board exchanges come up in the future. I often restore machines as it puts another serviceable machine back into the hands of someone that needs it with every one I successfully repair. My shelves are currently stacked with machines that were at one point considered written off, many of them needing more in-depth repairs than even this Pro needed.

During the day I'm an Apple Certified Mac Technician, so I already had prior experience in tearing down systems and rebuilding them, which does make quite a difference on a repair of this magnitude. Attempting something like I did in this thread probably isn't something you want to do with a machine you can't otherwise afford to lose.

Now, on to the next project, whatever that may be. I still haven't decided. :)


Cheers,

~ Michael.

Devil
23rd February 2013, 07:10 AM
Awesome! I wish I lived next door to you :)

Orestes
24th February 2013, 09:03 PM
Nice work... I suspect my old 2008 Unibody MacBook is now floating around somewhere as parts in other laptops like this one having sent it back to Apple. Otherwise functioning except for one dead key, they couldn't find a top case for it at the time so replaced the entire machine.

Oldmacs
24th February 2013, 09:38 PM
Out of interest- How does Mountain Lion perform on that Machine? :)

Erwin
24th February 2013, 10:14 PM
Respect. :) thanks for sharing.

OldSapper
24th February 2013, 10:31 PM
I have a 2.5Ghz 17" early 2008 MBP that I upgraded a few weeks ago by creating a Fusion Drive. Replaced the 750Gb WD Scorpio Black that I put in there a little while back after the warranty ran out, with a 240Gb OWC SSD and put the Black in the Opti-Bay. Ran the magic in Terminal and have a 985Gb Fusion Drive. Boot time is down to 23secs and Apps open in a flash, no pun intended. Boot time before was around 2.5 mins+. Added some new RAM as well and have a Mac that screams for just over $550. Luckily the model I have was not affected by the faulty video card.

iMic
24th February 2013, 11:05 PM
I'm not sure what Apple does with machines that are returned to them. Perhaps they part them out, refurbish the parts and stick them back in the service parts stockpile? Difficult to say.

Oldmacs: It's not bad. The machines I'm used to now are fitted with SSDs, so I'm used to Mountain Lion being really quite fast. However, I believe this is just as fast as any hard drive equipped machine running Mountain Lion. The Core 2 Duo is really quite a fast chip, and with enough memory and a good drive it can be a solid machine, and when it's running correctly, the 8600M GT isn't too bad as far as graphics chips go.

I'm looking to build some other machines too. I have a MacBook (Mid 2007) that had been sat on still floating around here. It works, it's fairly rough though, but if I found some decent spare parts for it I could probably build it into a decent machine to gift to someone.

I wouldn't mind documenting these builds either and running some kind of site for it, but I'm not sure what kind of interest group there is for new and old Mac restorations, mods and projects since MacMod.com folded.

Orestes
25th February 2013, 07:02 AM
I'm not sure what Apple does with machines that are returned to them. Perhaps they part them out, refurbish the parts and stick them back in the service parts stockpile? Difficult to say.

I'm not quite sure either, just a guess as to what you would do with an otherwise functioning machine with 1 dead keyboard key requiring a new top case. In the end after a bit over 2 weeks delay Apple caved and gave me a new machine, so I'm not complaining.

You are right about one thing, Core 2 machines are fast, I have found my Core i5 machine to be effortless though, there's pretty much nothing I can't throw at it this side of it running out of RAM that will load it up without doing something silly like opening up a Photoshop file thats a couple hundred gigabyte in size.

I almost did buy one of these machines when I bought my original unibody, tossing up between it and a refurb 15" for the same price, it seems I escaped the plague of 8600m video cards that get dry solder problems.

NinjaCatfish
26th February 2013, 09:56 PM
I've got very little constructive comment because this is just a massive step above any computer building I have done, but gosh darn, awesome post!

iMic
2nd March 2013, 01:38 PM
Thanks for the positive comments! Glad to know there's a few people out there that find this kind of thing interesting. :D

Pleased to say the MacBook Pro is still working as a workhorse machine. It may become my primary machine soon while my MacBook Air (Mid 2012) is in for repairs and modifications.

Next up, I have a MacBook (Mid 2007) that was crushed. I have just received a MacBook (Early 2008) donor body that I should be able to use with some interchanging of parts. Perhaps I'll document that one from start to finish and give everyone an inside look at what's involved in doing one of these.

iMic
5th March 2013, 12:43 AM
Taking this one back into the workshop as the nVidia GeForce 8600M GT unfortunately let go once again this morning. I'll swap in one of my spare 2.2GHz Logic Boards over the next couple of days and likely convert it back to a matte display as the glossy display is currently on my other 2.5GHz MacBook Pro.