Well over a year ago now I had two not very old 22″ Samsung 226bw LCD monitors die on me. They didn’t die all at once mind you. At first they would take a second or two to ‘pop’ on. Then they would take five to ten seconds and flash/flicker as they came on and run dimmer than usual for a few minutes. Eventually the whole affair devolved into never turning them off at all lest they cause epileptic siezures and trigger latent Manchurian candidates. And then they just died, all at once, at the end. Mind you the whole process lasted several months and both monitors died within weeks of each other.
When I was down to one I finally started looking into the possibility of fixing it because I assumed the backlight was dying. After some creative Googling I found an outfit in LA that sold backlights and inverters and all manner of computer monitor electronics gak. It was only going to be $15 per monitor plus shipping. But for some reason I didn’t do it.
Instead the day the second monitor died I headed out to find the best deal I could on a new monitor that I shouldn’t have been spending the money on. I stood wandered Best Buy and then Fry’s eventually narrowing down my choices and even furiously searching the internet for better deals in stock at other places forcing the Fry’s sales person to price match a sale price even though the other store was technically out of stock.
I arrived home the proud owner of a 24″ Samsung 2494. Why I bought another Samsung is beyond me except I remember a sales person at some point in my life say Samsung was among the best monitor manufacturers. Spurious at best. But we are creatures of habit, no?
Though I had been working with a single monitor for a few weeks already it finally hit home once the new monitor was in place: I was now a ‘normal’ with one monitor. How was I supposed to use photoshop? How was I supposed to write code in one window and test it simultaneously in another? How did people work like this?
I tried to convince myself that the extra width of the new monitor could make up for the second monitor. But 21″ is far from 37″. I began hunching over and squinting like I was looking through a too small too low porthole into the blinding sunset. There was no room to work. I had to relearn how to switch between programs without clicking directly on the window. I drowned in a sea of not quite maximized windows overlapping each other in a digital quilt designed by the Merry Pranksters.
My productivity dropped off and I finally just quit working altogether and sank into a deep depression. I climbed into my cave and the quiet dark of hibernation.
A year later I awoke and started cleaning up around the house and came across the ancient shells of plastic that used to be my viewports to the digital realm. For some reason I thought what the heck and attempted to search again for the parts to fix one or both of them so I could resume life with two monitors.
I couldn’t find the original site that sold the backlights and started just doing general searches for failures and fixes for the Samsung 226bw. Quickly my more general search revealed that the 226bw had been manufactured using particularly bad capacitors from a notoriously bad overseas electronics company. Hmmm. I even found a step by step for repairing the 225bw or some similar model monitor (links at end).
I dismantled one of the monitors and sure enough several of the caps were swollen and oozing toxic shit. Ah ha! I immediately headed out to Fry’s, sadly the only place left that sells any real electronics parts only to discover they didn’t nearly carry the necessary combination of microfarads and voltage I needed. Dejected I headed home and somehow procrastinated another number of weeks before my sister finally asked about the monitor carcass sitting on my work/storage/sewing/project table and chastised me for not ordering them online immediately when I explained the story.
I tried some smaller online electronics outfits but they too failed to have the correct or even close to correct capacitors. Even at Mouser it was difficult to find the right specs in the right size. I ended up ordering the exact specs for all but two and a safe overage otherwise but in a height that I wasn’t sure would fit the case. The tallest object on the board was a heat sink at 22mm and the closest cap I could find was 23mm tall. “Fuck it, we’re doing it live,” I said and placed the order.
- (8) 820µF 25v
- (2) 330µF 25v
For both monitors. (4) and (1) per monitor respectively. The actual list of exact specs: (2) 820µF 25v, (2) 680µF 25v, and 1 330µF 25v. If you wanted to be really thorough you could replace the power supply capacitor as well but my were fine and unlike the ~$0.50 cost of the others that one is like $12 or something so I skipped it. In fact on both monitors only 3 of the caps were visibly bad but since they were all from the same company and the total cost of replacing all of them was only $6 each I said what the heck.
Somehow the whole event put me at ease and I managed to work happily on my single monitor until the day the little brown box showed up.
I dug out my piece of junk soldering pencil (having lost or had stolen my piece of junk adjustable soldering workstation at the theater) I noticed that somehow at some point I managed to bend the not graceful stub of a point (giving a whole new meaning to the TMBG lyric: not to put too fine a point on it). With a little bit of power it seemed to be generating enough heat to repeatedly damage my work table but not melt solder. I struggled with my inadequate setup and tools to hold the board in place, pull on the capacitor and heat the leads on the bottom of the printed circuit board while looking at the solder sucker wondering how in the world I was going to use it with only two hands and feet to assist. I began to wonder if I had ever known how to solder. Like a retarded monkey with a hot poker duct taped to his elbow I managed to finally pull, yank, wiggle, and jerk out the first capacitor not unlike a particularly painful tooth extraction I once endured.
So it went for hours with long coffee breaks and cursing between I eventually got all five out and the new ones soldered in place not without applying too much pressure with the soldering pencil and slipping across the entire bottom of the circuit board causing a great panic wondering just how thick the printed metal of the board was.
In the end I got it back together. The 23mm caps all fit except one barely. The metal casing starts bending in at an angle and one cap didn’t want to sit perfect as I screwed the board back in. Based on the minimal amount of rocking it was doing while sitting in there loose I once again exclaimed, “Fuck it, we’re doing it live,” screwed and snapped it all together and held my breath waiting for a great plume of smoke to rise from the casing as I put in place and applied power. And yet it worked. Tada!
I now had two monitors again. Albeit the refurbished monitor had even poor color than it did in the first place (why did I buy Samsung again) especially in comparison to the superior 2494 it now sat next to.
Needless to say, while ecstatic to have my second monitor, I don’t have enough video cards right now to have a third monitor (and previous experiments with a third proved to be too much ultimately going unused) so I put off repairing the second 226bw until today after I finished quoting some jobs and sending off some correspondence.
Unlike the first monitor I quickly, cleanly, and adeptly removed the bad capacitors (with not even one giant gouge across the back of the board) like a pro and had the new ones soldered in place without a hitch. Apparently the retarded monkey had evolved or at least learned from his past experiences. I was shocked however to discover that some of the leads going to the screen itself were not wired the same between the first and second monitor despite being identical make and models purchased on the same day (see pictures).
At any rate I am now the proud owner of 3 monitors, one of which I don’t currently have a use for.
I post this story and the pictures in the event that it could somehow help (or amuse) someone else about to throw away a dying LCD monitor. Trust me it’s worth taking a few minutes to crack the case open and at least look to see if it is the capacitors. Even if it is the backlight or inverter, from my cursory research all of these operations on most monitors are fairly simple and affordable tasks. Must simpler than I made mine out to be and certainly simple enough to not warrant the level of putting-it-off-ness I managed to muster for this project.
And now I can say that I am real DIY geek!
Overview of problem and fixing on YouTube:
Fixing a Samsung Syncmaster 204b (same or similar board) and a decent discussion about capacitors: