Today I found myself in the position of needing to re-solder a video connector to a laptop motherboard to resurrect the machine. Without the connector, the display couldn’t be connected properly and the laptop would have otherwise been a paperweight. I dug up a tutorial on SMD soldering I discovered a while back and decided to give it a shot. After all, with a broken video connector on the motherboard, things could only get better.
As the name states, surface mount devices attach only to the surface of the circuit board but do not have pins that pass through it, making soldering them much more complex. With today’s increasingly complex electronics and multi-level circuit boards, SMD electronics are a necessity, but aren’t quite tinkerer-friendly.
Written by Andy Green, one of the original Xbox hackers and Xbox-Linux members, the tutorial details a clever way to solder surface mount components to a board, however it requires a little faith. Soldering each pin individually on a surface mount chip would be a nightmare, especially considering the hair thin spaces between them. But by completely drowning the pins in solder and removing the excess, a solid electrical connection can be formed. Normally, a short between two or more pins is a very bad thing, but Andy’s tutorial shows how to carefully remove the unneeded solder and leave only what’s required to make the connection. It looks risky — almost hopeless at times — but it can be done. After trying it myself, I had great success.