Five ways manufacturers make devices hard to repair

Discussion in 'hardware' started by ronjor, Aug 16, 2012.

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  1. ronjor

    ronjor Global Moderator

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    http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/cr...manufacturers-make-devices-hard-to-repair/788
     
  2. roger_m

    roger_m Registered Member

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    An interesting read. I can't see myself ever owning a phone or notebook without an easily replacable battery.

    Also, one point not covered in the article, is that typically big brand laptops are designed to make them hard to dissasemble. If you want to access anything other than the harddrive or RAM you have to follow a difficult dissasembly procedure which includes removing the keyboard. This makes it really hard for example to access the fan and vents to remove dust when the computer starts overheating. Whereas on ASUS and certain other brands you can just undo a few screws to access the entire underside of the laptop.

    I've followed instructions I've found online for disasembling two different model Toshiba laptops which were overheating. In both cases I gave up part way through as it was too much of a delicate operation, and I was worried I might damage something along the way.
     
  3. Dark Shadow

    Dark Shadow Registered Member

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    It is crazy how any one can work on these things and the need micro size tools to work on them. If you can't do it your self the cost of repair through repair shops can equal the price of a new one.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2012
  4. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    This is something I have been saying about notebooks for years. The drive to make them thinner and lighter with longer battery runtimes - along with NO INDUSTRY STANDARDS :( like the PCs ATX Form Factor Standard, and to make theirs stand out in the crowd of look-alikes means that notebooks are "proprietary" devices using proprietary parts and proprietary assembly techniques.

    Proprietary always means more expensive and less convenient for the consumer.

    Also bad is notebook makers are packing PC power in these tiny cases. Yet full size PC cases are challenged to keep the interior cool - how can a tiny, compact case with very limited fan support do it? It can't - thus the need for mobile CPUs that toggle down in speed (and performance) to reduce heat.

    The designers do not design them to be difficult to disassemble. It is the marketing departments pushing for smaller, more compact designs that forces the designer to go proprietary. If they designed in full case access panels (like the side panel of PC cases) that would add size and weight.
     
  5. tgell

    tgell Registered Member

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    I agree 100%. Desktops, easy to repair or replace components. Notebooks, not so much. Tablets, forget it. This kind of reminds me of the automakers "design for assembly" and forget about how easy it is to repair. I had to replace a complete HVAC console that cost $200 when the only thing wrong with it was a 50 cent switch.
     
  6. philby

    philby Registered Member

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    Yes!
    I mostly help people with Windows issues but am occasionally asked to do something that involves accessing parts other than the HDD/RAM.
    Having irked a couple of people with my fat-fingered attempts to re-assemble their notebook chassis, I now stay away from this kind of job.
    Basically, I don't do it enough to get the light, dextrous touch required to avoid snapping tabs etc.

    philby
     
  7. Dark Shadow

    Dark Shadow Registered Member

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    I recently had to change the front coil pack in my wifes car,a saturn L300 sedan.The coil pack supplies high voltage electrical to the spark plugs for each cylinder for proper fuel burn off.When the coil pack fails it creates a skip or misfire in the cylinders and lose of power and fuel economy.Anyways to replace the coil pack the intake plenum had to be removed along with 6 clamps,to the rubber boots on the plenum to access to the coil pack.From there the coil pack can be removed to access the spark plugs.$ 120.00 for parts and 45 minutes of my time start to finish.

    Repair centers estimated 2 hrs labor and over $ 200.00 in parts at list prices.Thank godness I know how to do automotive repairs as we saved over $300.00.I have a free pass from the dog house with the wife.

    The point is, all that extra removing this and removing that to get to the core of the problems is absurd.
     
  8. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    Which adds time to the repair process the technician cannot afford to absorb, thus making the cost of repair not worth it - and the maker gets to sell you a new one. A clean win for the makers.

    In all fairness, consumers are demanding smaller, faster, better too.
     
  9. Dark Shadow

    Dark Shadow Registered Member

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    Good points,and to be honest I like smaller and faster.When I first seen the Macbook Air,I couldn't believe my eyes how thin it is.I actually thought it was fake at first.LOL
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2012
  10. Noob

    Noob Registered Member

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    Interesting . . . :thumb: :D
     
  11. roger_m

    roger_m Registered Member

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    Yes they do, sadly. For example I've got two 15" laptops, a Compal and a Lenovo. On the Compal you only have to unscrew just two screws to access the laptop's fan. Due to dust, every few months I take off the cover for the fan, and then also remove the fan to to remove the dust accumulated in the vent for the fan. I just looked on YouTube for instructions on accessing the fan on the Thinkpad, and the video I found is 14 minutes long! (Which is a shame as otherwise it's a brilliant laptop).

    There is simply no good reason why Lenovo, Toshiba, Samsung and other manufactures make it so hard to access the internals of their laptops.

    A few years back a friend was having major issues with his Toshiba laptop with the vent for the fan being heavily clogged with dust, meaning that the laptop would overheat and shutdown after only a short period of use. I started taking the laptop apart, following instructions I found on the internet. However, I ended up giving up as I worried I might break something, so my friend had to take it to a computer shop and pay them to do it. On a better designed laptop I could have solved the problem in less than 5 minutes.
     
  12. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    No they don't! You are suggesting designers WITH INTENT, spend manhours (company profits) designing IN features that make disassembly by the user more difficult!

    That would not make any business sense. The examples you cite simply illustrate one difference between a poor design, and a better design.

    The good design shows the designers thought of after sales service.

    The poor design simply shows that, a poor design. It does not suggest anything intentional, other than cut costs. And "planning" to make things harder does not cut costs.

    I agree 100%. But I'm not sure we are in the majority. Most notebook buyers seek and demand thinner, lighter, more powerful, longer lasting, etc. They do not demand (many don't even think of) easy access for proper cleaning, though I wish they would. Most just think of them as big smart-phones, never needing internal cleaning. :(
     
  13. Noob

    Noob Registered Member

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    I also hate internal batteries . . . :rolleyes:
     
  14. Dark Shadow

    Dark Shadow Registered Member

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    Yea like macbook Air batterys that are not all that simple of a operation.Unlike a PC laptop and netbooks that slide right out,replace and go in seconds.
     
  15. DOSawaits

    DOSawaits Registered Member

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    Designing products to be easily repairable is bad for the economic model. Better to have the customers buying a new product instead. Sad reality.
     
  16. roger_m

    roger_m Registered Member

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    That's not what I'm saying. My point is that it would make little difference to buliding a laptop as whether the internal components are easy or difficult to access. With that in mind, it would seem that manufactures have specifiaclly chosen to make it hard to access the internals. If I was to be cynical, it would seem that they have done that, so that if you want to clean the fan, or change the wireless card or similar, you need to take it to a computer shop or send it away for repair to get address the problem, unless you are prepared to go to the trouble of following involved dissasembly procedures.

    Aside from that, it seems to be the case that once you've purchased a computer, the manufacturer does not want you get as long a life as possible out of it, but rather wants you replace it with a newer model as soon as possible. A good example is that typically after around 6 months, they stop updating the downloads section of their website for that model - providing no more driver and BIOS updates or updates to the manufacturer's own inccluded software (e.g. power management software for laptops).

    I can understand this from a business point of view, as they want to make as much money as they can, and they can't do that if people aren't buying new computers. But, from a user's point of view I feel no need to upgrade to the latest in technology any time soon. My main laptop I use is nearly 6 years old, but runs Windows 7 without any problems, and I'm sure that will be the case for Windows 8 as well. I think replacing it with a brand new laptop would just be pointless waste of money.
     
  17. TheWindBringeth

    TheWindBringeth Registered Member

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    Related...

    The 'sealed-box' Mac: Cutting-edge design or planned obsolescence?
    http://www.computerworld.com/s/arti...ned_obsolescence_?taxonomyId=163&pageNumber=1

    The other day I took a quick look at some Dell computers for a friend. Relative to the last time I looked at them, I noticed that the ability to customize some machines had been significantly reduced. Although not the same as the 'sealed-box' scenario described in the linked to article, I do feel both may fall into a common broader trend.
     
  18. guest

    guest Guest

    ""You are suggesting designers WITH INTENT, spend manhours (company profits) designing IN features that make disassembly by the user more difficult!""

    HELL YES, you know they are!!!:mad:
     
  19. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    Come on Roger! You said the same thing I did. :( "Specifically chosen to make it hard" means the exact same thing as "WITH INTENT, made it more difficult".

    No. You are looking at it from a design standpoint and that is wrong - I wish it were right, but it is wrong!

    CLEARLY, it would be simple to design a notebook where the whole bottom came off (without tools!) for easy access and cleaning. But that needs to be designed in, it would increase the number parts, time and complexity of assembly, AND it would affect the weight and dimensions of the notebook - all highly competitive (read: "marketable") features.

    People do NOT buy notebooks because they are easy to clean or update. They buy them to lug around in their travels. Understand, BY FAR, the largest group of notebook buyers are road warriors and students. Not people who do not mind cleaning the interiors of their electronics.

    No. Again, it takes money to design in features. And they are not going to waste money on that when the vast majority of notebook users could care less anyway.

    The problems is, there are not enough notebook consumers complaining about internal access. And with the drive still on to get thinner and lighter, there won't be.

    @TheWindBringeth - As a technician, I fully understand that MacBook. Surface mount devices don't fall out. They have no CPU or RAM sockets to collect dust and dander and oils that affect connectivity. Suface mount devices greatly reduces production costs and increases reliability. When it comes to portable devices, surface mounted devices make the device MUCH more rugged, able to withstand the bumps and knocks of being lugged about.

    But they come at a cost - you cannot upgrade them.

    If you want a machine you can upgrade and maintain yourself, get a PC. I don't like it either, but that's the way it is. Smartphones, TVs, radios and game consoles are not user friendly, in terms of internal access and upgrades either. Notebooks are NOT desktop replacements (in spite of what the marketing weenies would like us to believe), so we need to stop expecting PC features from them.
     
  20. TheWindBringeth

    TheWindBringeth Registered Member

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    I used to design boards and systems so I appreciate what you are trying to say. However, I think this discussion encompasses some design choices which cannot be justified solely on the basis of ruggedness and/or resilience to the operating environment. If one brings other things such as form factor, weight, manufacturing costs, etc into the debate then things get more complicated and also more subjective. Approach X may appear to be justified because it reduces the size of the device or lowers manufacturing costs. However, those justifications must in turn be justified if we are talking about things from a consumer's point of view. It is easy to think that people will choose a smaller device over a larger one, but in reality you would have to actually assess that to know (say test market two devices which are identical except one is a tiny bit larger because it has a removable battery). Many consumers focus only on up front costs (which are somewhat related to manufacturing costs) and the lower the better, however there are also many consumers who focus on costs over time and/or factor in other things.

    Having said that, though, I do think it is reasonable to consider how such factors may have affected the design. I try to do so. Sometimes I see something I think is reasonable, sometimes I don't.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2012
  21. Dark Shadow

    Dark Shadow Registered Member

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    I just picked up a late 2009 macbook,at the bottom there are 8 screws to remove from the bottom lid and thats it to access the battery,ram,HDD etc.Sure there is still things to remove like to replace the battery that just dont slide out like most windows laptops but its still accessible quickly for cleaning or replacing.However, my gateway netbooks I would probably break them before getting them apart.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2012
  22. roger_m

    roger_m Registered Member

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    It actually won't affect the weight or dimensions at all. Already on pretty much all laptops there are covers for the harddrive and RAM which are just held in place with a few screws. It is a simple matter to do the same for the fan, but most manufacturers choose not to do so.

    If you visit this link: http://www.notebookreview.com/default.asp?newsID=3060
    near the bottom of the page is a photo of the bottom of a HEL80 laptop. In the photo you will clearly see the cover for the fan. If you visit this link, near the top of the page is another example: http://www.notebookreview.com/default.asp?newsID=3794
     
  23. guest

    guest Guest

    I am sticking to what I said!!!
     
  24. Bill_Bright

    Bill_Bright Registered Member

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    That depends on how it is designed, right? Which is exactly my point. A one piece molded case takes up less space and has fewer parts to design, manufacture, inventory, and assemble. All that take more time and money - and all of that cuts into and takes away from the bottom line: profit.

    @Roger. Again, you are simply illustrating good vs bad design.

    Okay. Then show us reports that show where manufactures INTENTIONALLY design and manufacture IN features that are designed specifically to thwart users from doing self maintenance.

    Again guys - I am on your side. As a technician, I find it very frustrating. As a consumer, I feel I am being cheated. But as a business owner, I understand it completely.
     
  25. TheWindBringeth

    TheWindBringeth Registered Member

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    I'd say "tamper resistant" and/or otherwise unique screws would be one of the more typical and clearer cut cases. The manufacturer could of course argue that it is done for liability user safety reasons. What reason if any did Apple give for the pentalobes?
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2012
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