What Happens When Your Laptop’s Motherboard Goes Bad?

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There is this thing sitting inside your computer that is the one thing every other thing is connected to! It’s called a motherboard. I have no idea why there’s no fatherboard… but yeah. The motherboard is crucial. If it’s not working – good luck using your computer at all. Ian from the PCPitStop community is sad because his Sony Vaio died. His motherboard is now dead, and wonders where he can find an affordable replacement.

Virut won’t corrupt your motherboard – but it will usually lead to having to reformat your system. With that said, if your motherboard is hosed for any reason, you might want to run a few diagnostics if you can. It’s possible it could be a bad power supply, you know? Check everything you possibly can, to determine for sure that it’s a motherboard.

I feel your pain. I’ve heard some not-so-happy things about Sony support in the past. Unfortunately, if it is a motherboard problem – it’s going to cost you. My recommendation is to find a local Geek. Pay them in pizza and cola. They’ll take a look at the computer to assess the problem. Sometimes it’s something small that trips us up, and I certainly hope that’s what is going on with you!

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  1. Hello,

    A computer virus or other malware could, in theory, corrupt a motherboard’s firmware (the special software stored in a chip called the BIOS that initializes the hardware prior to loading an operating system). As a matter of fact, a computer virus called the CIH or Chernobyl virus did this in 1998. However, viruses that kill their hosts do not tend to be very successful since doing so prevents them from replicating.

    While "classic" parasitic, recursively self-replicating file-infecting computer viruses tend to be quite rare these days, as bots, Trojan horses, password stealers and other forms of revenue-generating malware are de rigeur, the Win32/Virut family is such a threat that does show up on a daily basis.

    One of the things about Win32/Virut is that it contains some bugs (i.e., coding errors) that cause it to damage program files during infection by overwriting some fo the orginal program’s instruction code. While this virus can be successfully removed from infected files, damaged program files will remain damaged because there is know what to restore the lost code.

    Ian (Iain?) from the PC Pitstop community might try the following steps to recover his computer:

    Obtain the following:

    Recovery discs for his SONY notebook computer (if he does not already have a set).
    Obtain a replacement 2.5" notebook hard disk drive for the computer. Given the description the system, it likely uses a hard disk drive with a SATA (Serial ATA) interface.
    Obtain an external USB hard disk drive enclosure for a 2.5" SATA hard disk drive.

    Remove the currently-installed hard disk drive from the SONY notebook computer, install the new hard disk drive and boot from the Recovery discs to reinstall the operating system.
    Reinstall any softawre to be used on the computer from their original manufacturers’ CDs or DVDs, including whatever security software Ian (Iain) likes to use.
    Install all of the patches, hot fixes, service packs and other updates for the operating system and software installed on the computer.Do not connect the computer directly to the Internet to do this, as it will likely become infected before the updates finish installing. Connect to the Internet from behind a residential gateway router to perform the updateing, which make take quite a while depending upon the number of files and speed of the Internet connection.When the updates are all finished, Ian (Iain) should have a working and secure computer.
    Install the old infected hard disk drive in the external USB hard disk drive enclosure, connect it to the SONY notebook computer and scan it for malware using the security software manufacturer’s recommended settings (check with their technical support for specific instructions).
    When finished scanning, copy over all of the data files from the external hard disk drive to the new hard disk drive inside the SONY notebook computer and verify they work by opening them.At this point, Ian (Iain) should now have a clean SONY notebook computer with all of his data flies on it.
    Unplug the external hard disk drive and store in a safe place for a while (a few months, perhaps) so that Ian (Iain) can be sure all his valuable data files are on the new hard disk drive. If there is no need to access it after that time period, go ahead and erase it. The external hard disk drive can then be used for additional storage (such as saving backup copies of data files.

    The above are fairly general recovery techniques, but should work well if done properly. If Ian (Iain) is unsure, he can ask the community or a local boffin for further assistance.

    P.S. The term motherboard is used to denote a computer system board in which expansion cards–called daughter cards–are plugged in order to add new functionality or interfaces. Whlie today’s computers are highly integrated and typically do not need to have their expansion slots filled cards, the design and the name have stuck with us.


    Aryeh Goretsky

  2. To address the points in this video:

    The virus didn’t cause this. Virut is a polymorphic file infector with some additional features. It spreads all around the drive and infects even files infected by another virus previously. The only symptoms are a strange HDD activity while infecting, and also unwanted TCP traffic. Virut tries to connect you into an IRC network under the user name “Virtu” and zombify you. Unfortunately, the cleaning of this virus is very difficult or almost impossible.

    This was likely user failure, as that is not a rootkit, and can’t have done what he says it did, which is infect video firmware. It can corrupt drivers, but that won’t cause total system failure. Computers are not magic.

    The GBP is actually down overall versus the USD.

    You spent money on applecare. All manufacturers sell support, and include the same base warranty. You still save money buying the pc.

    Honestly, I’ve been on geeks.pirillo.com for some months, and I have met 2 other people who know what they’re doing inside a computer, the rest are forum lurking blowhards who either don’t do anything, or feel compelled to continuously tell you why you were an imbecile for buying or not buying a mac. I’m tempted to quote atomic dog of t-nation.com, ‘if those of you who sit on the forums all day holding court and haven’t grown an inch in 2 years, spent less time on the forums and more time in the gym, you might get something done.’

    You should really call it fanboys.pirillo.com

  3. My logic board died on my Macbook Pro.

    I have one question: Is a logic board the motherboard, or is it another board for just ports? Because if is a motherboard, Apple replaced mine within a week completely free, no hassle. And I didn’t even buy AppleCare, it was within the first year warranty. I love Apple.

  4. I had an HP laptop that suddenly quit and no cash to have it fixed. So turned it over to a daughter who has access to true geeks (1,000+ miles from me) and said it was hers if she could find someone to fix it.

    She did – it was only a 1-GB stick of memory I had added and which had worked fine for about a year. When her friend removed that bad memory the laptop ran fine on the 512 of memory installed by HP in out-of-reach location. There’s a second slot which allowed for upgrade, which I had done with the Crucial.

    We got a new 1 GB stick (different brand) from Newegg, she installed it and “her” laptop is still running since about a year ago. My loss, her gain. And just in time since her desktop had died just couple of months before and she couldn’t afford a new one. I’ve lived long but still learning.

  5. Theoretically, a virus could cause a bad flash of a BIOS and muck up the hardware that way. I recall a rare case where a virus fried an EEPROM chip by sending the chip into a steady write cycle, possibly with overvoltage turned on. You don’t have this though – Virut, as mentioned above, carries no hardware damaging payload.

    @Kitty: Blame the points system :p I hope I’m ‘other’ people!

  6. One thing not mentioned yet is the CMOS memory battery. Pretty cheap to replace,and I’ve had systems that wouldn’t boot because the battery was dead.

    You didn’t say how you determined that the graphics chip was bad. Like Chris said, I’d get a second opinion on it before I read the Laptop it’s last rights.

    One more thing. If you have been using the laptop without good ventilation (on your lap on a down comforter, for example) and it’s been running hot for long periods, this can cause damage to your system as well.

  7. 1nteresting:

    I am unsure of what a “logic board” is, but the Motherboard is the main board in a computer on which the CPU (Intel, AMD, or whatever) is mounted and to which peripheral cards are mounted via connection slots (ISA, PCI, PCIe, RAM Sticks, etc.) and to which connectors are connected leading to various input ports (USB, Firewire, Parallel ports, Serial Ports, eSATA, etc.). It is generally the largest printed circuit board in the computer.

    In a laptop, chipsets for the various peripherals, such as video, audio, Ethernet, etc., are generally installed directly on to the motherboard to save space. Some of the specialty functions might come on cards for insertion into external slots like PCMCIA or, more recently, eSATA.

    Of course, anything that is “upgradable,” like RAM and hard drives, is kept separate and removable/replaceable. Unlike days gone by, it is virtually impossible to repair or upgrade a modern motherboard at the component level. They are manufactured in multiple layers, with solid state circuitry contained between the layers, just as in a semiconductor chip. The parts that ARE exposed are so tiny as to be impossible to desolder/solder/and otherwise manipulate, and usually so close to each other that such processes would be impossible without damage to neighboring components.

    I have recently repaired a circuit board in a hard drive, and that was hard enough, but I got my information off of that hard drive and backed up elsewhere, and now I use that drive for experimentation, to the point that it fails.

  8. I did have to replace a sony laptop motherboard, once and only. Those things can be a pain to disassemble, I had to replace the motherboard, because heat didn’t transfer as normal on the cpu. It had a wave on it. Why? Years of dust on the heat sink……. #1 on my priority list of maintenance of laptops. (and i’m just a regular guy, not certification or anything). Heat and dust, the laptop killers. Just give it a try, open your laptop, remove the heat sink and give it a good clean to it (not just blast air into it, you will compact it), and apply a good thermal paste to it. You will feel the difference on it.

  9. Sony would have to be the last computer company on earth before I bought another computer from them. I had a Vaio some years ago. The left mouse button broke. I asked a computer mechanic to fix it, and he told me that not only would Sony not sell the part, they insisted that I send the entire computer in so that they (Sony) could run a software diagnostic on it. Such proprietary attitudes make my blood boil and cause me to keep my wallet in my pocket. I advise all of you to do the same.

    Cheers, Bruce

  10. I guess if a hacker wanted to take the time to find out what video chipset you had & then wrote a modded bios/Firmware update along with a batch file that set the modded update to run @ reboot then why not? Much like what Vlad & Igor, The Dangerous Brothers do with the Firmware updates for DVDRW Drives,except this modded update would corrupt a particular video bios !
    I mean it could be done!

    Yes in My opinion a virus can fry your mobo cpu or any other part of your PC by working it to death & not allowing it adequate cooling & with the various tools & scripts in the wild it doesn’t take any imagination at all to see it.

    It’s common knowledge that a hacker can work your PC both remotely or with various tools, just as if sitting at your desktop.
    We also know there are tools that can both monitor & shut down the fan on your PC.

    So say the hacker decides he wants to fry PC’s for some strange reason, so he puts a small file on your PC that loads before your OS or your AV(they are out there) & by doing so some how disables the thermal security monitoring program within your bios.

    So now your laptops been told to ignore all temp warnings & to just keep rite on running(you’ve seen this setting)
    Or better yet now days there are thermal diodes that respond to various programs allowing one to adjust the fan & ram settings from within thee OS upon reboot.

    Say the hacker placed a small program on your PC(1 file in size) it tells your CPU Fan to shut down & stay shut down!
    Then your laptop starts getting hot!
    Way too hot like 82C or 180F !

    Needless to say you wouldn’t get to boot into too many of these environments before you would jack the various diodes, capacitors & other components on your mobo, not to mention the cpu & ram (Heat the Great Destroyer).


  11. Along with cleaning the computer inside and out… I highly suggest using a laptop cooling pad / notebook stand. The heat difference is amazing, the laptop runs quiet, more enjoyable and comfortable to work on and less of a chance of dust built up or something going wrong due to internal overheating.

  12. I’m just wondering why everybody is talking about motherboard, not CPU. Nowadays many many functions are integrated into one chip, the CPU. If you are trying to find a DC regulator on the motherboard, forget it. There is a big chance that It is in the CPU itself. So the motherboard could be still good and the CPU could be bad. Think twice before you try to replace the motherboard.