by Craig Anderton
So you decided to re-visit that older piece of digital gear you had sitting around, plugged it in, and—ooops, nothing! Although this could mean you’ll have to cough up the bucks to get it serviced, if it’s out of warranty anyway, there are a few tricks you might try to get it working again.
First, you have to unplug the unit (seriously, some people forget to do this!) and disassemble it. You may get lucky and find a service manual online, but be careful—you want to fix any damage, not create more. Use your cell phone to take pictures of what went where so you won’t have any trouble putting everything back together again. Get a small plastic container or cup to hold any screws; if it seems you can’t get the bottom off because of a hidden screw, check to see if it’s under a sticker or label on the unit’s underside. And please—if you don’t have the right size screwdriver, get one that fits. Stripping the head of a Philips head screw before it’s out completely means you probably won’t be able to remove it at all.
Second, very carefully unplug and re-plug any ribbon connectors, ICs, and Molex connectors. You don’t have to take the plugs all the way out; just take them out far enough so that pushing them back in will wipe the contacts of oxidation. You may need to do this a couple of times if there’s any serious oxidation or even corrosion, and remember, some connectors may have tabs that have be pried away from the connector in order to remove it. With socketed integrated circuits, it’s worth getting an IC puller and gently rocking the IC back and forth to move the pin contacts within the socket (they don’t need to move much). If you pull the IC out, be extremely careful when re-inserting it so you don’t bend any pins, or end up bending a pin underneath the IC.
After doing this, reassemble the device, plug it in, cross your fingers, and prepare for the “smoke test.” These procedures aren’t always the solution, but you might be surprised at just how often you’ll end up with a working unit—and not have to send it in for servicing after all.
Craig Anderton is Editor Emeritus of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.