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Question

My Macbook Pro is damaged after a drop. Can it be a DIY fix?

by Uyraies / May 5, 2012 1:07 AM PDT

I have a late 2009 model 15" unibody MacBook Pro that took a fall a couple of months ago. The computer itself is fine, boots fine, runs fine, rarely hits over 130 degrees (right now it's at 113), and for the most part seems to be in just as good of a condition as before I dropped it.

However, there are some problems with the keyboard, and by extension (I think), the ocular drive.

I have to wonder if something inside of the keyboard bent or got knocked out of place. Upon startup, the ocular drives makes an awful lot of noise (more than normal), and it sounds like there's something stressed or grinding in there that either makes a part skip or attempt to read the drive over again 3 times before giving up and allowing things to progress normally. It also does this sound when the computer comes out of sleep mode. (Incidentally, the computer seems unable to go into sleep mode and stay there anymore. It will try when I close the screen and continue through a cycle of going to sleep and waking itself up until I open the screen again.) The keyboard has problems reading keys correctly, and only a few keys have their original function. Most of the f-keys retain their function, however, the escape key functions like the f12 key and the f12 key, aside from its normal function, triggers the ` key. Touching ANY key on the built in keyboard interferes with the trackpad functionality. The trackpad will behave as though the command key is always pressed and will always right click. It is still possible to use a USB keyboard without any problems, and typing with any key on a USB keyboard fixes the interference with the trackpad. The keyboard's backlighting behaves normally and doesn't appear to be damaged.

Does this sound like something that can be repaired manually by opening up my Macbook on my own, or will I have to send it to Apple/a repair service? I've been avoiding sending it in because getting repairs directly from Apple is notoriously expensive. However, I also don't want to do anything that will damage my computer in a more serious and irreversible way. Any help or advice anyone could offer would be enormously appreciated.

PS- All mouse and keyboard settings have been restored to default just to see if it would make a difference. It doesn't. (which seems to be the obvious answer, since it only started giving me problems after being dropped...)

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All Answers

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Answer
Wow, derp
by Uyraies / May 5, 2012 1:11 AM PDT

I meant OPTICAL drive, not ocular drive. Oops.

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Answer
From the sound of it

From the sound of it at a minimum you have a bad top case and ODD. The fact that a USB keyboard works is good, since it indicates there is likely no damage to the MLB. Since there's drop damage, if you took it to an Apple store they'd probably quote you something in the $500US range I'd expect. Probably wouldn't be much different from any other AASP.

Doing a top case replacement on the unibody models is a bit of a pain, but it can be done if you're very careful and deliberate about it. So presumably if someone is selling a mid-09 (there was no late 09 MBP, just mid-09 and then mid-2010, so if you bought it in late 09, it's a mid-09 model) top case on ebay you could try that.

If it were me, I probably wouldn't waste the money. If disconnecting the flex cable for the top case didn't also kill the power button I'd say just unhook it, use it with an external keyboard, but the ODD sounds like it is toast. If you're not going to replace it, then you can just disconnect it from the MLB and stop it from making noise. I wouldn't put anything in the drive that you care about, because there's no telling what would happen. And with drop damage, there's always a possibility that something is held together by sheer dumb luck, and if you go moving things around internally, it's going to break off. Maybe get the ODD replaced, but I'd just leave the rest alone or there's a decent chance things will just get worse.

Kind of long story short, drop damage is like liquid damage, in that it can be a funny thing. I've seen units with huge corrosion spots (10-25% of the total surface area) on the MLB that work fine, and others with just this tiny little bit of corrosion that kills the whole system. Drop damage is kind of the same thing. Sometimes absolutely nothing happens, a lot of times you suffer a lot of collateral damage, you're in kind of the rarest of the groups where very little happens beyond cosmetic damage.

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