• Daniel Wright

Laptop Hinges Are Crap!

Laptop hinges are crap and that’s all there is to it. Some models are better than others but most aren’t fit for purpose. So called ‘High End’ laptops are no better. It’s all well and good sticking all the best kit in a good looking box but if that box is a flimsy piece of plastic with weak screw mounts, it’s a spares or repairs job waiting to happen.

With aluminium cases and tooled screw mounts, it’s one of the things Apple have got just right. I rarely see MacBooks with hinge problems caused by normal, everyday use.

That’s not true of HP, Lenovo, Asus and a lot of other popular brands. And don’t get me started on expensive gaming laptops. Considering the cost and potential for heavy usage, you would think they would be designed with this in mind. They’re not! The hinge system on a £1000 gamer is generally no better than the hinge system on a £250 Chromebook. In fact, in a lot of cases, I’d say the Chromebook has the superior hinge.

Over the years, I’ve repaired and attempted to repair hundreds of laptop hinge problems. This usually involves either broken screw mounts on the screen lid or broken screw mounts inside the main case. Laptop screw mounts are set into moulded plastic and these work loose with general wear and tear. By wear and tear, I don’t mean dropping your laptop on the floor or throwing it at the wall, I mean doing the things your meant to do with your laptop, like opening the lid a couple of times a day.

These screw mounts are a poor design and not really up to the job. In fact, it's almost like the manufacturers designed the hinge systems on laptops to break.

Since laptops became thinner and lighter, this situation has only got worse. Older, laptop designs tended to be better thought out because they had to support heavier hardware. Laptops designed in the last five years or so, not so much.

The problem from my point of view is there are no real long term solutions to hinge system repairs. Anyone who tells you there are is not being entirely honest. Repairing a hinge system with hot glue or epoxy resin can be okay in the short term but there’s no guarantee it will last. I’ve tried all of the usual methods with varying degrees of success but none of them were an absolute fix I would trust.

Where possible (if the customer can afford it), I replace the damaged parts with new ones. Screen lids and other case parts don’t tend to cost much but the work involved is delicate and time consuming, so the overall cost can be higher than people are prepared to pay. Especially if it’s an older laptop and they can buy a better one second hand or they can afford a new one. If that’s the case, it’s easier for me to stick their old hard drive in an external drive bay or transfer their data to the new machine.

Sadly this is not an option for a lot of people. Especially at the moment when people are struggling financially and laptops (even second hand ones) are beyond their means. To these people, I offer the only solution I know that works and I don’t charge much to do it.

With a tiny drill bit attached to a Dremel or similar rotary tool, I drill the required amount of holes in the screen lid and use these small M2/M3 nuts and bolts to reattach the hinge. I found these on eBay years ago but they’re also available on Amazon next day if you’re in a rush The flat heads are thin enough to fit under most screen bezels and with a bit of finagling, they can be used to securely reattach the hinge to the upper or bottom casing.

I’ve done this repair in one form or another on at least 30 laptops and I’ve never had any comebacks other than the occasional nut needed to be re tightened. It can be a fiddly job and you have to get creative when it comes to the bottom hinge bracket inside the laptop, but it’s doable.

Word of warning though: If you’re working with a rotary tool or drill of any kind, be careful!

Before drilling holes, I always take the lid off completely, remove the LCD screen and make sure all the cables are taped out of the way. The same applies if I’m re-attaching the bottom hinge bracket inside the laptop. The job is easier to do with the lid off and the hinge removed. If I’m drilling holes near components like mainboards, I tend to use a plastic drill guide that covers them and doesn’t allow the rotary tool to come into contact with anything important.

It’s not an ideal solution cosmetically but it’s neat enough and it does the job. It’s also less wasteful than yet another working laptop ending up in landfill.

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