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Monitor Meltdown

February 26, 2013

Followed By My Own

So, my computer situation went from bad to worse.  In case you folks don’t remember or haven’t been here to see the shambles of a life I lead, here’s a quick recap:

1) I was living in a huge 4 bedroom house with just myself and my son and daughter.

2) Money got tight, things got shitty, and I invited my ex and her husband and son to move in with me to make the money stretch just a bit more for all of us.

3) My step-son who had moved out of his mom’s (my ex’s) house boomeranged back home (now my home).

4) The Exmil (ex-mother-in-law) joined the party.

5) Now there are 8 of us living in a no longer spacious four bedroom house with only 3 computers to divide usage on.

There.  Now you’re caught up.  For the purposes of this blog, we’ll focus on the computer issues, and not the fact that my “bedroom” is now the computer room couch.  So, yeah, between 8 computer addicts, having only 3 computers is a bit of a drag.  I get my computer access mostly after the kids go to bed, which is also when the ex and her husband usually go to bed.  This leaves me time enough for all my school work, and about four or five hilarious tweets.  Seriously, I’m funny as hell between the hours of 9pm and midnight.  Check out this gem if you don’t believe me:

See? Fuckin' hilarious.

See? Fuckin’ hilarious.

But then… my monitor burned out.

Shit Just Got Real

When I say “my” monitor, I mean MY monitor.  Between the three computers, one belongs to the ex and her husband.  One, which is actually the nicest computer in the house (but has a teeny tiny 15 inch monitor) is the one I prefer the kids use for all their games and nonsense.  And then there’s my computer: the slowest, oldest, shittiest one of the bunch.  But, because I know my way around it like the back of my hand, I can make this sucker do everything I ever need a computer to do.  And it has a huge 24 inch screen which makes drawing things in windows paint much easier (like my spiffy new Twitter avatar up there.  See?  Thought I wasn’t going to mention it, didn’t you!).

When the monitor first went out, I was only a little upset.  The green light stayed on, and I could still hear sounds, but no video, so my initial thought was that my video card had shorted out.  No worry, though, because I have a backup video card.  I shut down the computer, opened the case, and swapped video cards.  On reboot, though, the screen would only blink on for a second, then turn back off again as it cycled through the various display settings during the boot process.  That’s when I knew that my monitor was in fact hosed.

Now, I should probably confess a thing or two here.  First: I’m a computer nerd (in case that last paragraph didn’t make that point abundantly clear).  Second: most computer nerds, no matter their level of nerdome, won’t bother fixing a monitor.  I, however, was going to show all the other computer nerds who the REAL computer nerd was.  I was going to fix that sucker.

So, I knew from experience what was, in fact, wrong with my monitor.  Something had gone wrong with the power inverter for the backlight.  Okay, that was a lot of techie talk in one sentence, so let me explain that a bit.  Your monitor has a light in the back of it – a bunch of cold cathode tubes to be exact – which emits light so you can see what the liquid crystals on your screen are trying to show you.  In order to power those cold cathode tubes, there is a power inverter board which turns the alternating current from your house into direct current for the tubes.  So, because I was only getting flashes of backlight, I knew there was something wrong with at least one capacitor, possibly more, on the power inverter board.

This, then, is my step-by-step guide to fixing your own monitor.  Sort of.

Step 1 – Disassemble the Monitor

What you’re going to need here is a phillips screw driver, a slotted screwdriver, a kitchen knife, and a hammer.  You need the first two for the first ten minutes in which you attempt to carefully disassemble your monitor, and the second two for when you say “SCREW IT!!”  And, trust me, you will eventually say “SCREW IT!!”

After “carefully” disassembling your monitor, you should have something that looks a bit like this:


There.  That wasn’t so hard, now was it?  And, as you can see, everything is pretty easy to follow so reassembly should be a snap when you’re all done.  Now… let’s find the root of the problem!

Step 2 – Identifying a Blown Capacitor

Now you need to locate the capacitor or capacitors which caused this mess to begin with.  What you’re looking for here is one of those things on the board which look like a tiny soda can with a popped up top.  There may even be some goo leaking out of it.

Blown Capacitor

The milky goo coming out of it is pure electrolytes, which (as we all know) is the stuff plants crave.  When done repairing your monitor, feel free to discard your blown capacitor(s) in your garden.  The plants will thank you.  Next, it’s time to determine the best way to repair the situation.  I mean the monitor situation, not The Situation from Jersey Shore (nothing can repair him).

Step 3 – Determining a Repair Method

There are two ways to go about repairing the board in question.  Method one: buy a new capacitor and solder it into place on the board.  Method 2: replace the entire board.  Let’s take a look at how to navigate each possible repair plan.

Method 1: In order to make this sort of repair, you will need a fine point soldering iron, some small gauge solder, and replacement capacitors for any blown ones on the board.  You need to use the hot soldering gun on the back of the board to release the blown capacitor, then insert the new capacitor and solder it into place on the board.  In the case of my capacitor, the total cost of parts needed would be about $40.  The worry with this method is that, after doing all that work, there might be a flaw on the inverter board which caused the capacitor to blow, which will lead your new capacitor to suffer the same fate.

Method 2: By looking for a series of letters and numbers on the inverter board, you can enter those into Google and usually find a replacement board.  In the case of my monitor, a replacement board would cost about $40 (plus shipping), and was on back-order.  Which meant… hmm…

Step 4 – Screw It.  Go to a Thrift Store Instead

Yeah, so at this point in the process, I ended up shopping some local thrift stores and I found a nice 19 inch monitor for only $20.  I know, I know, I totally copped out on this one.  But, I do have the order placed for my inverter board, which should be here any month now.  (Apparently small children in China are assembling my board from discarded cell phone parts?  I think?)  Here’s a real pro tip for buying a thrift store monitor: shop around.  Seriously.  Often you’ll find that there is no rhyme or reason to the pricing of electronics in thrift stores, because the person pricing them has no idea what they’ve really got.  I went to three such stores, and found my monitor at a Goodwill store.  They had a 15 inch monitor for $18, a 17 inch monitor for $40, and the nicer, newer 19 inch model I bought for only $20.  Does it make any sense?  No, it does not.  Did I complain?  No, I did not.

So, there you have it.  If and when my new inverter board arrives, I’ll totally write an update and show you all how my monitor looks after the repair is complete.  Though, considering my use of kitchen knife and hammer, it might be something like this:



From → Blogs

  1. My condolences on your loss. Poor 24 inch … he was so young … ish …

    • It was sad. Then again, 24 inch was made by Hyundai, so maybe I should have seen this coming. I’m not sure exactly how many miles he had on him, but he’s been around the block a few times (if ya know what I mean… heh heh… which I hope you do because this whole monitor/car metaphor has me completely baffled at this point).

  2. I’m so sorry… I just had the same thing kind of happen. I was sharing my computer with the kids, my mother in law and my husband. My MIL is computer illiterate and caught every virus known to man.

    Seriously… There’s no way that woman doesn’t have herpes.

    We finally got a new laptop. No one is allowed to touch it except Eddie and me. No one has stopped complaining about this.


    Hugs to you! Glad to have ya back!


    • UGH! What is it with mother-in-laws and computer herpes?!?! Seriously, the Exmil is constantly giving our computers gonorrsyphilitis or something. She only plays online slot machines and solitaire games! HOW are these the gateways to pure virulent hell?

      Tell the MIL that HER computer is the one in the corner shivering and saying “so cold… so very cold.”

  3. Isn’t it incredible how cheap computer parts are now? It’s almost difficult to justify fixing them- except then you don’t get the MacGyver cred :p

    • Oh. My. God. I was SO close to making either a MacGyver reference or a Mythbusters reference in this post, but decided to steer clear of any blurry copyright lines. In the end, I kinda wish I had included the awesome MacGyver graphic I made…

  4. May his soul Rest In Peace!

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