What in the world were they thinking when they made this???

Since late yesterday morning I have been working on a Sony Vaio VGN-SZ laptop computer. The problem is a minor one: the cooling fan has seized up (a common occurrence with computers of any make and model) which caused it to overheat and switch off within a minute after having been switched on. So the cooling fan either needed to be serviced or replaced. Which I set out to do. Little did I know. Ye gods, what a job.

First off, one would expect a component that is as notoriously susceptible to wear, tear and a need for service as a cooling fan to be more or less accessible to a service technician, so that it can be removed and replaced without taking the entire computer apart.

One would be wrong.

The fan is mounted inside a cut-out in the mainboard, which in turn is located between the bottom shell of the case (which is a single molded part with maintenance covers for the heat sink and memory modules only) and a central chassis plate, on which the rest of the machine has been mounted. In short, you have to strip apart the entire machine right down to the last part before reaching the fan. Literally. The only exception is that you don't have to take the lid apart (which holds the display) but you do have to remove it, of course. And the whole thing has been built with the precision of a switch watch: there are half-millimeter wires running from the WiFi module at the bottom to the WiFi antenna's in the top, and those wires run through grooves in the main chassis plate because otherwise there wouldn't be room for them. That's how compact it is.

So. The main steps to get to the cooling fan are, among other things, as follows:

Remove the battery; unscrew, disconnect and remove the keyboard; unscrew the memory cover and remove the memory modules; unscrew the heat sink cover and remove the heat sink assembly (consisting of a heat pipe, a copper die screwed onto the CPU, and a packet of cooling ribs making up the heat sink); unscrew and remove the switch and LED cover; unscrew the palm rest, disconnect the touch pad and fingerprint sensor, and remove the palm rest assembly;  unscrew the LCD grounding lug; remove the IFX board; disconnect the various LCD cables; dismount the WiFi card and remove the antenna wires; unscrew and detach the LCD screen (a.k.a. laptop lid); remove the memory stick adapter; undo all the screws in the central chassis plate the covers the mainboard; unscrew and detach the switch / LED board and speakers; unscrew and remove the plastic rear section from the case's back shell; unscrew, disconnect and remove the hard drive; unscrew, disconnect and remove the optical drive; remove some copper tape from the mainboard and undo the screws underneath; unscrew and remove various auxiliary PC boards; disconnect the CMOS battery; disconnect the PCMCIA card slot's ribbon cable; disconnect the memory adapter ribbon cable; disconnect the docking station ribbon cable; disconnect the audio and serial connectors ribbon cable (and a handful of other ribbon cables with varying degrees of inaccessibility - you get the idea); remove the screws securing the mainboard to the back shell; unscrew and remove the heat sink top cover; remove the main board and turn it over; disconnect and unscrew the fan, undo the copper tape on its side (which won't stick afterward) and break it loose from the three plastic pins molded into the base plate (meaning you'll have to glue it back later.)

I've left out a few things here and there (this is a copy-and-paste from my notes) but this is the bulk of it.

Once you have done all this, then you can start servicing or replacing the fan.

The next step is of course to put the whole Chinese puzzle back together again. Assembly is the reverse of disassembly. Except it's more difficult and involves lots of pieces of tape that won't stick anymore, and comes with a shoebox full of screws that you now have to puzzle back into the right holes - which is not all that easy even if you kept them in the positions and order in which you took them out (which I did, having been there before.) And if you forget a step, you'll have to go all the way back through the disassembly process to get to that one connector or screw that you forgot about... Ain't it fun?

So at this point I have two questions for Sony. First and foremost, obviously, is "What the f... were you thinking when you designed this????" The second one, though, is just as important: "Why, in the name of all that's holy, did you have to ship a $2000 laptop computer with a $0.20 fan????"

I mean, really... This is ridiculous to the point of almost being insulting.

I'm sure that other laptop manufacturers are more or less guilty of the same thing... but I, for one, will forever steer clear of buying a Sony laptop.

Less than halfway through disassembly, and the parts already fill most of the desk.

After almost three hours of tinkering, there's your problem: a cheap fan with the usual seized up bushing...


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