Computers Affected by “The Solder Plague,” or How RoHS Fueled E-waste

The Solder Plague – though difficult to define – was a highly prevalent manufacturing issue (akin to The Capacitor Plague) that led to many devices randomly having mass failure.

When? The issue was highly prevalent in roughly 2005 to 2010.

What? Exactly what would fail would depend on the device in question. Typically in laptops, the device will still turn on, but is unable to actually finish the boot process, and simply hangs at a black screen. In some cases, the computer will still work but lose some functionality.

A good example of partial failure are the HP Pavilion dv9000 laptops without discrete graphics, which were known to randomly lose their WiFi functionality. In contrast, the discrete graphics units would fail to display altogether.

How? A great question! A common story is this: Initially, when RoHS was mandated in Europe in 2003, most everyone making electronics followed suit regardless of where, to save on manufacturing costs. Allegedly, this was done without upgrading the equipment. Since lead-free solder melts at a higher temperature than leaded solder – therefore requiring different treatment – this is VERY bad!

I personally have seen even a Radeon HD 7850 1GB video card purchased new in 2013 fail about 3-4 years later. I know it was a solder problem, since reflowing it got it going again, as is often the case for these devices. That is not known to be a reliable fix! Nonetheless, the cause was clear.

Here, I keep a list of some laptop computers I’ve seen all suffer the same issues. For these, it’s really best to just not use them, because whether you reflow them or replace their motherboards, the issues most often come back.

Chipset failure:

  • HP Pavilion dv2000/dv6000/dv9000
  • Dell Inspiron M5030
  • Toshiba L50xD (maybe L55xD too), Toshiba L6xxD
  • Acer Aspire 5551

Discrete GPUs failure

  • HP Pavilion dv2000/dv6000/dv9000 (where applicable)
  • Dell Inspiron 1×20
  • Dell XPS M1x30
  • Lenovo Y400?