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I have a Clevo p150hm based laptop (Kobalt), which accidentally got too much wattage it would seem, from a universal charger, that might've had too high settings. There was definitely smoke, and now the laptop won't start at all.

Is all hope lost, or would it be possible for me to identify the short circuit components and possibly replace them?

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migrated from Jun 14 '12 at 20:20

This question came from our site for electronics and electrical engineering professionals, students, and enthusiasts.

Universal power adapters do NOT force more wattage into a device than it is designed to draw. This is why Universal Power adapters are able to be sold and why they work. If a laptop only requires 65 watts, and you use a 90 watt Universal Adapter to power it, the laptop will only draw 65 watts from the adapter. Now, if you used the wrong tip on the Universal Adapter, or the power adapter port on the laptop was broken and caused a short, or reversed the polarity... THAT could cause a problem that would involve sparks and smoke etc. Unless your "universal charger" wasn't made for laptops. – Bon Gart Jun 14 '12 at 20:24
Okay, "too much wattage" might not be the correct description of the problem. It did say that it had short-circuit protection on the adapter, but none the less, after 10 seconds of it plugged it, sparks, and smoke came out the rear. – Dynde Jun 14 '12 at 21:13
This was a Universal Laptop power adapter, or something similar to one of those Radio Shack Universal DC adapters that is made to be used with everything that requires DC power? You were supposed to put the correct tip on the end of the cable, and the tip had to be put on the correct way for that device? – Bon Gart Jun 14 '12 at 22:19

Too little information here to give a reliable answer. If you aren't a skilled computer technician, you'll have to be very careful--it's quite easy to destroy a laptop by opening and disassembling it, even if it starts in perfect condition.

Where was the smoke coming from, anyway? The motherboard? The battery? The power supply? If it's something you can swap easily (for instance, the hard drive), try removing that and see if it will start.

In fact, if I were asked to look at a laptop that smoked out, I would remove everything removable: the hard drive, any optical drive, the power supply, all expansion cards, the battery. Now replace the battery and see if it will start. If not, remove the battery and replace the power supply, and try again. Does it start up?

If that doesn't work you'd need to open the case and inspect visually for fried components. Also, replacing the whole system is probably easier and cheaper than replacing the internal components of a modern laptop, unless you enjoy tinkering.

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I'm not a professional hardware repair guy, but I've built hundreds of computers, tinkered a lot, fixed a lot of different things, and am a professional software developer, so I have the basics down. The smoke came out the back, so it's difficult to say what component it was. I'm gonna try and disassemble it (I believe this at least will be trivial for me), and then see if anything obvious is gone. I was hoping for a clue as to how best identify the broken parts, if not immediately apparent upon examining it. Like a rule of thumb, or best place to put a Multimeter or something – Dynde Jun 14 '12 at 21:16
Yeah, you certainly sound qualified. If you don't see obvious smoke traces on anything, look for a capacitor on one of the boards that has melted and leaked. Melted solder is also a possibility. With a meter, the first thing I would check would be the voltages coming out of the power supply. – CarlF Jun 15 '12 at 12:33

I have done a few repairs to power receptacles of laptops and they aren't too tricky. If you "let the smoke out" it should be obvious where it came from... likely a component (capacitor or resistor) will have burnt out and there will be a stain on the board.

If it is a simple component that you fix, you can get that replaced then double and triple check everything before reconnecting the same power pack to the laptop. And do verify the polarity of the pin and shell of both the laptop and power pack before reconnecting. If you're not sure, people with soldering experience will probably be a great help.

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