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How to Disassemble a Laptop - Removing "External" Components

written by: Jesma•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 6/3/2009

Now that we've discussed the needed tools as well as important safety tips for yourself and your laptop, it's time to break out the screwdriver and pry tool and get to work. The first step is removing all of the external "fluff".

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    Obviously, it would be impossible for me to give a detailed guide on how to disassemble every laptop ever created. Don't kid yourself - this is not a "if you've done one you've done them all" kind of situation. Laptops are all completely different from each other, with different quirks, hidden screws and fasteners, and things that make you want to rip your hair out and write a hateful email to the company begging for an explanation of why they incorporated such a seemingly moronic design.

    The best I can do is give you tips on how to proceed, gleaned from breaking down around 400 laptops in all.

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    Where to Begin...

    So you are staring at your unplugged, powered off laptop (which is resting on a anti-static mat with the battery removed), thinking about how itchy your wristband is, and also about where in the world to begin this disassembly adventure.

    Screw Removal

    Step one to disassembling a laptop is always removing drives, screws, and other components. To begin, flip the laptop over and remove every screw on the bottom. If you don't think you'll remember where to put them back, then draw a picture and make notes. I recommend doing this even if you are fairly convinced you'll remember. Three hours from now it will not be as easy.

    Most laptops have little hatches, of sorts, on the bottom that provide easy access to things like the Memory, Wireless Card, and sometimes the Hard Drive. Open all of these hatches and remove the components inside of them, being sure to place anything removed onto the anti-static mat. Laptop Memory 

    To remove memory (in the large majority of machines) gently pull on the metal tabs on each side of the stick until it releases. This will cause the module to pop up at an angle. Gently grip it by the edges and pull to remove.

    If there is a Wireless card under one of your hatches, you will know because two wires (usually black and white) will be running to it. The card usually removes in similar fashion to the memory. To dislodge the wires, slip your finger or pry tool under them and gently lift up. You shouldn't have to mess with the metal fastener at all.

    Hard Drives that are installed under hatches are usually screwed into some kind of thin metal frame, which is then screwed to the laptop. You'll likely need to unscrew it, and then slide it at least a quarter of an inch before it will disconnect and you can lift it out. Occasionally, in very poorly designed machines, large components will be have screws in the bottom as well as on the opposite side, underneath the keyboard. If you are unable to remove the hard drive, wait until we've removed the keyboard and see if you can find another screw that is holding it in.

    hdd Many Hard Drives are installed on the edge of the laptop for much simpler removal. On most Dell laptops, only two short screws are holding it in place, and you can use a prying tool to slide the hard drive out. Other brands may vary, but this is a very common design, particularly in laptop models designed for business, where hard drive swapping can be a common task.

    CD/DVD Rom Drives may not always be removable prior to removing the keyboard. On many Dells, and several other brands, these drives have a plastic tab on them that a person can press allowing the drive to be pulled out without any trouble. Sometimes drives like this will be locked into place by a screw in the bottom of the laptop. On other models there will be no tab present, but there will be an area on the bottom of the laptop where a prying tool can be used to "push" the drive out. If you don't see any indication of this, then there is a good chance that drive is staying put until further notice.

    Up Next, The Screen: The Keyboard and More

Do It Yourself: Disassemble a Laptop

You may have many reasons for wanting to take apart your laptop - perhaps its just for fun, perhaps you want to replace a part yourself, or maybe you're just piecing it out to sell on ebay. Whatever it is, this multi-part series on how to properly disassemble a laptop will help you be successful.
  1. How to Disassemble a Laptop - The Basics
  2. How to Disassemble a Laptop - Removing "External" Components
  3. How to Disassemble a Laptop - Removing and Taking Apart the LCD