Fixing my daughter’s laptop (HPR Show 2081)

Dave Morriss


Table of Contents

The Problem

My daughter is a student at university and uses her laptop with a headset most of the time. She shares a flat with a friend and they are both studying, so they don’t want to annoy each other with noise.

The headset my daughter uses has a very long cable and earlier this year she tripped over it. The microphone jack was OK, but the headphone jack snapped off at the first ring and the remaining piece was left in the socket1.

Here’s the “before” picture:

Unbroken jack plugs
1. Unbroken jack plugs

She actually managed to get it working a little by using ‘white tack’ to hold the plug in contact with the broken bit. You can see the remnants on the broken plug.

Broken jack plug
2. Broken jack plug

She bought a new headset, and the problem of the unusable socket was circumvented by buying a USB DAC (as recommended by Jon Kulp, see Links), which did the job just fine.

Using a USB DAC
3. Using a USB DAC

We’d asked around to find out how much a fix would cost. It would need the laptop to be stripped down, the jack plug unit de-soldered and removed, and a new one fitted in its place. This was going to cost up to £150 it turned out.

The Fix

I came up with a plan for getting the broken piece of plug out of the socket. We had tried forceps of various sizes, but there was nothing to grab on to. We’d toyed with using glue but hadn’t been sure of success.

My plan was to drill a hole through the broken piece and screw a fine self-tapping screw into it and haul it out.

My daughter is now back from university for the vacation, but was away for the weekend, so I decided to try while she wasn’t using the laptop - with her permission of course.

I set the laptop into a good position using my portable workbench. The laptop was on its edge, with a chair underneath to support it. The jaws of the work bench held it gently, with bits of cardboard to protect its surface. I used a spirit level to get it aligned properly.

Laptop secured for drilling
4. Laptop secured for drilling

I tried to get a closeup of the broken piece while I had the laptop set up, which you can see here:

Closeup of socket
5. Closeup of socket

I have a Dremel 4000 kit and a Dremel Workstation (see Links) which is like a small drill press. I set this up on the workbench, clamped to it securely, so that the Dremel could be sited above the jack socket.

Dremel stand set up
6. Dremel stand set up

I had recently bought some metalwork drills for the Dremel, and I planned to use one of them:

Metal drill set
7. Metal drill set

Unfortunately, the bit I wanted to use, the 1.6mm didn’t fit my Dremel. The two collets I have for it are too large:

Collets
8. Collets

However, Duct Tape came to the rescue and made the drill bit fit very snugly in the larger collet.

Duct tape cures everything
9. Duct tape cures everything

So, time to set up the Dremel and start drilling:

Dremel ready to go
10. Dremel ready to go

Some drilling has happened
11. Some drilling has happened

I drilled carefully for a while, cleaned up and tried a self-tapping screw, but it didn’t anchor properly. The screw was too big. I tried a little cup hook, and it bit into the plug. I pulled and out came … half the broken plug! It had snapped at the second plastic ring.

Trying to hook out plug
12. Trying to hook out plug

Got part of it
13. Got part of it

I carried on drilling, being very careful about the depth, but the screw trick did not work for the remaining piece. I was about to give up when I thought of using a small screwdriver. This time I had success:

Got it all
14. Got it all

After cleaning out the hole with a vacuum cleaner the socket seems fine and accepts a jack plug again.

Result

I didn’t know if the laptop had been fixed when I recorded the audio, but my daughter tested her headphones under Windows when she got home and … yes! They worked fine!

Conclusion

Sometimes a totally mad scheme actually works! I would never have tried this without a drill-stand, though I imagine that at a pinch something like one could be contrived.

Also, final point, try not to trip over your headphone leads!!

Note: The Amazon links below are for information. I have no financial involvement with Amazon; these are not Affiliate links.


  1. For some reason I said it was the microphone plug that had been snapped, but it was the headphone one, as you can see from the pictures.