Laptop Flop, Part 2

| Kansas City, KS, USA | Learning | July 6, 2017

(I work for a K-12 school district as on-site technician. Most of my job is actually along the lines of dusting out overhead projectors and replacing their bulbs, and putting laptops back onto the network after the students decide to be lazy brats and use the old “computer doesn’t work” excuse — by making it not work. Given the teachers are usually so busy, I end up supporting their work laptops, too. I am kind of the laptop guru, somehow. Before the big district-wide teacher-laptop upgrade, I have a bunch of clunky ten-year-old Dells to support, a couple Gateways, too, and to say the least, they all have a lot of problems. One such laptop sticks out.)

Teacher: “My laptop keeps shutting itself down. This is not acceptable; I need it for the overhead. I’m lucky if it makes it through first period.”

Me: *turns laptop on, listens* “Sounds like your fan is in overdrive. I’ll dust it out.”

Teacher: “You think it has a lot of dust?”

Me: “These old things can get clogged up with dust and such very easily, and it will impede the function of the cooling fans at high densities, so if it’s been a while since it’s been dusted, it probably needs it.”

Teacher: “Last time was when [Teacher that left four years prior] had it.”

Me: “Yeah, that’s probably it, then. Should be good.”

(The next day…)

Teacher: “My laptop shut itself down again. It was really hot.”

Me: “Possible your laptop fan isn’t working at optimum level any more. I’ll swap it out with a new fan. You have lunch soon, right?”

Teacher: “In an hour.”

Me: “I’ll be down during lunch, then.”

(I go back down with a fan pulled from another old laptop that had already fried, and swap out the fan. Two days later…)

Teacher: “The laptop is really hot. I thought you fixed it?! This is not at all fixed, I can’t even touch it it’s so hot!”

Me: “I’ll come take a look again.”

(I got down there after school’s let out and fiddled with the laptop. The fan turned on and ran. I dusted it out again, and amid dusting it, I picked it up to get under the keyboard and into the inside. The screws for the keyboard were on the bottom. Underneath this laptop was a monstrous stack of letters and papers, envelopes, sheets of stickers… all, of course, extremely hot for paper, stacked high enough to have been squished against the bottom of the laptop. She never did figure out not to do that, despite my repeated warnings, and continued to block the in-flow vent on the bottom and burned through six laptop fans before I quit. My boss would not let me refuse to fix her fan if she continued to break it herself, so I had to keep swapping them out. Wonder how her new-model laptop she was due to get soon after I quit fared… On the bright side, job security?)


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  • J Haul

    I had a user like that when I did tech support for end users (in the bronze age, I think).
    After explanations proved fruitless, I glued four standard (desktop) PC rubber feet to the base of the laptop, giving the poor thing enough air to breathe. Problem solved for the user, the unit and me – instant win!

    • Scott O

      Yup, gluing some sort of lifting device is the key. I’ve used screw off soda caps before, they glue well, they work, and they’re easy to replace.

    • Benny

      I like using the thicker furniture felt feet – a one inch circle over the laptop’s built-in “feet” that props it up just enough for a bit of circulation.

    • Lil Tiger

      I use dice to lift my playstation so as to keep the vents and fans clear. Before, it was running its gerbils to death trying to keep the fan going (seriously, the fan sounded like a panting animal of some sort). Now, you can’t even hear it run.

    • BMK

      That is actually kind of genius! I have a board that I stick under my laptop when I have it on my lap to help prop it up so it’s not sitting directly on my legs getting suffocated by my pants, but it still seems to overheat, especially when I overtax it by running a game or a livestream. I should try that and see if it helps a little.

    • Jane Xemylixa

      I use half a coconut shell for that XD

  • Kitty

    If she does this to electronics at work, what does her home electronics situation look like?

    • Anne

      Probably has none. They keep breaking, so it’s “too expensive” to keep buying them.

  • That teacher doesn’t deserve a computer.

  • I guess OP wasn’t a big fan of that teacher.

  • 9 Iron

    Seriously? You worked on a laptop twice, including opening it up once to replace a fan and never picked it up off the table? I wouldn’t think anyone that lazy would be able to get out of bed in the morning. I’ve never worked on any kind of computer without inspecting it top, bottom, and all sides.

    • Aimee M

      Maybe the other times they worked on it the person had brought it to them or had it in a bag/ in a normal spot. I know I use my laptop in about 50 different spots, that’s why you get a laptop instead of a desktop.

    • Rob Tonka

      “You worked on a laptop twice, including opening it up once to replace a fan and never picked it up off the table?”

      How did you come to that conclusion? The fact that he replaced the fan is enough to know that is untrue. I’ve never seen a laptop that can be opened up enough to replace internal parts without having to access screws on the underside.

      • Alvar Lind

        opening a laptop and replacing internal parts without accessing the screws is easy, its getting it back togheter afterwards thats the difficult part 🙂 i can prove it, give me your laptop, ill borow a crowbar or something from my brother.

        • Odd Duck 42

          This reminds me that I need to dismantle my old laptop to get the internal memory out before I toss the brick.

          The last one had an internal screw in a very odd place and I couldn’t take it apart properly, ended up having to pry it apart to get the memory and hard drive out.

          • Alvar Lind

            wan’t to borrow the crowbar after i’m done with it? XD

      • Miksoko

        Because the story is an absolute mess and only just readable. He wrote a paragraph for what I can only assume was “She put it on a stack of papers.”
        I don’t blame anyone for being confused by this post.

    • Kendra R.

      The first few times, she’d moved the laptop onto her main desk in a corner, which was spotless. It took a few go arounds before she finally had left it where she normally uses it for the overhead at. Given it was apparently so hot she couldn’t touch it that time, it makes sense that was when she finally left it there.

      (And quite frankly, anyone able to change a laptop fan without picking it up deserves a dang medal, because that’s the epitome of effin boss.)

  • Lord Circe

    My roommate did that. Burned out his laptop by leaving it laying on his bedspread while using it. It sunk in, the intake was covered, an hour or so went by, and *foomp* no more laptop. Luckily, it didn’t actually catch fire and damage the apartment.

    • Kendra R.

      That’s good, whew, that would have been terrible.
      My friend’s sister used to use her laptop on a pillow in her lap. I ain’t sayin’ it ticked me off, but… -universal what is this idiot doing gesture-

  • Rob Tonka

    “She never did figure out not to do that, despite my repeated warnings, and continued to block the in-flow vent on the bottom and burned through six laptop fans before I quit. My boss would not let me refuse to fix her fan if she continued to break it herself”

    Then your boss was as dumb as her. This definitely calls for a talk with her supervisor to explain that his employee is repeatedly destroying school property and costing the school money in un-necessary repairs.

    • Kendra R.

      Sadly, because these were very old computers that were long out of warranty, the supers really didn’t care. It wasn’t costing the district any money at all, just already dead laptop parts. And a lot of time because these were lazy teachers that refused to learn how to take care of their equipment (my boss’s fault, incidentally, he was over-eager in his early days and spoiled them).

      Even after the laptops were replaced, it probably didn’t change anything, they had a deal with HP where if anything at all went wrong with a computer, HP fixed it, no questions, no costs, and Google Fiber had just come and given them free internet, so they actually had more money than before, anyway.

  • Cathrope

    I did that as a student in highschool. Replaced a teacher’s so called coffee cup holder three times before it sunk into her brain that it’s a CD-ROM not a coffee cup holder.

  • Bobismeisbob

    A new model might fix things if it has different intake and exhaust positions (eg both on the side).

  • Cuth

    “the old “computer doesn’t work” excuse — by making it not work.”

    OK, the fact that I have never heard of this “old trick” just adds to how old I feel.

    • Kendra R.

      They’d just reach behind the computer, if it was a desktop, and pull the Ethernet cable out, or disconnect it from the school WiFi if it was a laptop and then log off. This would make it stop logging into the school network, thus it’d never get past the login screen.

  • Douglas Freer

    I’m not IT but I’ve got some tech stories.
    I’ve seen teachers prop their laptops up with TE’s, student books and novels when I’ve been to the campuses. Also some like to leave their projectors on all the time, ‘turning it off’ by covering the projecting part. You can guess what happens to those projectors. We’re at the point that we’re running out of usable projectors but the IT department hasn’t bought new ones yet. Heck we had to get rid of a bunch about three years ago because of a flood.