A 24″ iMac that wouldn’t start up came in for repair. Pressing the power button got the fan to briefly run then shut off. It never reached the point where there was a happy (or sad) chime. The owner’s first inclination was to toss the computer after we wiped the hard disk but I told him we could probably get it running for the cost of a new power supply (around $75).
Using the always great disassembly instructions at ifixit.com, I got the front bezel off the iMac and checked the logic board diagnostic LEDs. LED 1 was on and LED 2 came on briefly when I tried to start the computer, indicating that the logic board was probably fine and the problem was with the power supply.
Several disassembly steps later I had the power supply board out of the iMac. From a quick visual inspection, I could see that some of the 2200 µF capacitors were leaking a bit and one had developed a considerable bulge at the base. Maybe we could do a cheap repair here?
I clipped the four suspicious caps out (to get an accurate measurement) and checked them with my Fluke 179 multimeter–quick side story: this DMM is so rugged that it survived a total loss house fire with only minor cosmetic damage. All the capacitors were out of spec but interestingly the one that looked the worst actually measured closest to good.
Easy peasy fix, right? LOL, not exactly. This board uses lead free solder, which is a total pain to remove. Even with my trusty Hako soldering iron cranked up to 800º, the PCB’s heavy copper traces made it a challenge to keep the solder molten long enough to suck it up with a desoldering tool. An hour of determined effort and cussing later I had the old caps out and the through holes cleaned out. (I needed to ream most of the holes to get the last bits of lead free solder out). Four new shiny black capacitors installed without any drama.
I reinstalled the power supply module and the iMac started normally with 4 LEDs lit on the logic board. I also installed a new button battery while the iMac was open. Total cost of repair: under $2 🙂
If I were to attempt a similar repair again I wouldn’t bother with trying to remove any components from the circuit board because of the lead free solder. The job wouldn’t look as pretty, but it would be a lot easier to just leave the old leads in place and solder new parts onto them.