You know something about computers, don’t you?

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The rhetorical question was asked “You know something about computers, don’t you?” and then the rest was history…

Read on to find out how I diagnosed a Toshiba laptop fault, remedied its issue, carried out extra maintenance and returned it to its happy owner.

You know something about computers, dont you?Image by John Labkowsky (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The problem:
The owner of the laptop informed me that they had stopped using their laptop because it would shutdown unexpectedly after it was turned on for a while. Knowing that I knew a little bit about technology, they asked if I could have a look at the laptop and let them know if it could be fixed and what would be needed to fix it.

Finding the fault:
I plugged one end of the Toshiba power adapter into a wall power outlet and then plugged the other end of the adapter into the laptop. Then I turned on the wall switch.

When I turned on the Toshiba laptop, I smelt ozone almost immediately. For me, the smell of ozone irritates my nose and is easy to smell having worked over the years with electronic equipment. Smelling ozone can indicate a fault with an electronic device.

I carried out four tests to determine what caused the smell:

    1. running the laptop with both the power adapter and battery plugged in
    2. running the laptop with only the power adapter plugged in
    3. running the laptop with the battery alone and finally
    4. turning on the laptop adapter without being plugged into the laptop.

From the tests, I found that the smell of ozone stayed during tests one, two and four, but not when the laptop was running with the battery alone. The third test eliminated both the laptop and the battery as being the problem because the laptop worked properly and the smell was not there.  Tests one and two were inconclusive as either the computer or power adapter or both could cause the problem.  However, the fourth test combined with the third test strongly suggested that the power adapter was at fault.
Mark the faulty Toshiba laptop power adpater. To make sure it does not get used again and as a reminder to recycle it.
The remedy:
Now that the problem was known to be the power adapter, there appeared to be two options available. That is, to either repair the adapter or purchase a new one. Since the adapter appeared to be heat sealed, I was reluctant to open the casing and work on the unit. As a result, I called the owner and let them know the price to replace it. The owner appreciated that buying the new parts would be cheaper than buying a new laptop, so the adapter was bought.

Installation, testing and closure:
Once the adapter arrived, I connected the charger to the wall power outlet, turned the adapter on and waited to see if it would overheat or smell. Fortunately, neither issue appeared. As a result, I plugged the other end of the adapter into the Toshiba laptop and turned the laptop on. I then tested the laptop by opening and closing various Windows-based programs, connecting the laptop to a network, installing a number of Windows updates and searching Internet sites. Before I closed down the laptop, I noticed that the power adapter felt hot. So, I shutdown the laptop to cool off the adapter and waited till the following day to run further tests.

The next day, I noticed that the power adapter was in front of the laptop fan exhaust vent and wondered if the heat from the laptop contributed to the adapter being relatively hot. So, I moved the adapter to the other side of the Toshiba laptop and ran similar tests over the following eight hours. In addition I viewed the power consumption using the Toshiba power monitoring software and saw that the power consumption peaked around 45 Watts while the laptop was busy and around ten Watts when it was idle. I considered that these amounts were satisfactory, as the adapter power was rated up to 75 Watts and the adapter did not get hot during the testing.

At this point, the laptop was closed, the owner was notified and the laptop was picked-up. A follow-up two days later confirmed that the laptop was being used and working well.

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