About two years ago, we bought ourselves a fancy new computer monitor. It wasn’t incredibly state of the art, but we got a great deal on it, and it was still a really awesome monitor: a Samsung SyncMaster T220HD, a 22″ widescreen, high-definition monitor/HDTV beauty. The monitor was a huge step up from the little CRT we had been using for a long time. We were very pleased.
But then, a month or two ago, the monitor started acting funny. We would try to turn it on in the morning, and the power light would flash — “message received, I’m turning on now” — but then nothing would happen. A person would have to sit there for 5-10 minutes or so, hitting the power button about every 5-6 seconds before one of the signals eventually got all the way through and the monitor powered up. After that, until you turned it off again, the monitor would be right as rain.
Eventually we opted never to turn the monitor off, which isn’t exactly great for the environment and sure as heck ain’t good for the monitor.
I didn’t really know what might be wrong with it, so we talked about taking it in for repairs. We were pretty confident, though, that just getting a technician to diagnose it would probably run close to $100, and then you’d add on the cost of the repair itself. As Black Friday was nearing and we started to see the dropping prices in computer monitors, we could see that it didn’t make any sense to repair the monitor: we could probably get a brand-new one for the cost it would take to repair the old one.
At the same time, it was hard to swallow paying a couple of hundred dollars to replace a monitor that surely could be repaired — plus it was hard to imagine putting the old beast in the landfill.
So I decided I’d repair it myself.
It didn’t take too much GoogFu to determine that one possible culprit was a bad capacitor. Motherboard caps have a reputation for going bad anyway, so this seemed a good enough lead for me to crack open the monitor and check mine out.
Opening the Samsung SyncMaster T220HD is no simple task. Samsung gives no instructions on the matter, and there are no obvious screws or the like on the case itself. What they do give you, however, is a big old warning on the back:
CAUTION: NO CUSTOMER MAINTAINABLE PARTS INSIDE!
Yeah, right. I’ll be the judge of that, Samsung.
(This does seem, however, like a suitable place to give the standard caveats to anyone who tries something like this at home: results not guaranteed, all liabilities are yours, no blame is mine, etc.)
After a bit of contemplating, I figured out that to open the monitor case you need to pop the monitor stand off. This will expose two screws. Now set the monitor down on its face (on something that won’t scratch the screen, of course).
[EDITED TO ADD (6 Dec 2011):
A few folks have asked me about how to remove the monitor's stand in order to access the screws. There are various unofficial instructions on how to get this kind of stand off (Samsung says you can't do it), including these. In my case, I just grabbed the stand firmly -- always ensuring that the monitor surface was secure and safe -- and rocked it from side to side while pulling out. Be strong without being silly and that should do the trick. For what it's worth, I found it useful to set my monitor upside down in a cushy chair to do this: that way I could push down on the monitor a bit while pulling up on the stand, and I knew that when the stand popped loose the monitor wasn't going to fall or slide anywhere and get scratched since it was safely in the chair.]
Take out the screws, and then use a screwdriver to start wedging apart the clamshell. Eventually, the whole back half of the monitor case will come free with a pop.
Groovy. Now you’ll need to start taking things apart — remembering where it all goes — in order to access the motherboard, which sits in a metal tray on the back of the monitor. I found it easier to unscrew the speakers rather than to unplug them, though at least one ribbon line had to be pulled to enable me to flip over the tray.
Once the tray was flipped, I could see two silicon boards. I took a guess about which one was liable to have the capacitors — it was a 50-50 shot anyway — and carefully unscrewed the board and then unplugged the connections to it.
Turning over the board at last, I could see that I’d guessed right on all accounts: the capacitors were there, and one of them was clearly toasted:
In this picture, the bad capacitor is the cylinder at the bottom of the board. Here’s a close-up shot of it:
As you can see, the top of the capacitor is slightly “domed” or “popped.” Like the many other capacitors in the picture, it should be perfectly flat. I didn’t know for sure if this was the cause of my problems, but I new it wasn’t a good thing regardless.
When replacing capacitors, always try to get the exact match for what you’re taking off, with the one exception that you can get one with a higher voltage capacity. In my case, this bad capacitor is a 2200uF (micro-farads), 10V, 105-degree polarized radial-line capacitor. (I’m not brilliant; this is all pretty much printed on the capacitor). A brief trip to Wholesale Industrial Electronics here in Charleston netted me a 2200uF (micro-farads), 16V, 105-degree polarized radial-line capacitor.
With tax, it cost me $2.15.
You can see the replacement capacitor sitting on the back of the monitor on my table in the following picture, along with a soldering iron all plugged in and ready to go:
So now it was soldering time.
I looked up a bunch of instructions on how to take the old capacitor off and put the new one on — I’m not exactly a circuit-board builder in my spare-time — and there was a lot of variability in how folks suggested you do this. I did what seemed most sensible to me, but by no means am I an authority. Ye’ve been warned.
To remove the old capacitor, I flipped the board and heated up the points where the bad cap’s pins came through. They’re the two pins sticking through the circle diagram in the middle of this picture:
It’s a simple process of carefully heating those points — it’s a steady hand operation, as you don’t want to heat anything else on the board — while pulling on the capacitor on the other side. Eventually the solder holding it in will liquefy and you can pull the old boy out:
Now it’s pretty much a reverse of everything. If the old solder closed up the openings in the board, you’ll need to heat them while pushing the pins of the new capacitor into place. They should go through pretty quickly.
Keep in mind that your soldering iron will always be on the “back” side of the board, away from the capacitor and all the other chips and what-not on the front.
Anyway, now you need to solder the pins into place very carefully. This took a bit of time for me, as I’m not exactly an expert solder-er.
Voila. Now all I needed to do was snip the excess pins and then put it all back together, hoping I could find all the screws and remember where everything plugged in.
I’m pleased — and perhaps a little shocked — to report that the monitor fired up perfectly the first time I plugged it in.
Cost of repair: $2.15 plus a couple hours of time (with trip to store, research, etc.).
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