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Book 3

My third book is released! Learn what you'll need to know in order to become an embedded engineer.

Book 2

Check out my second book; learn practical stuff about building robots and control systems around Linux PCs and the Atmel AVR.

Book 1

My first book gives you all the intro you need on developing 32-bit embedded systems on a hobbyist budget.

Opening the Averatec AV3715 Subnotebook

On this page, you'll learn how to disassemble the Averatec AV3715 subnotebook computer for upgrade or repair purposes. But first, a brief word on why I had to learn how to do this:

  • August 26th, 2005: I bought an AV3715 from Circuit City in Rego Park (Queens), NY.
  • September 15th, 2005: Machine working perfectly when shut down in the evening.
  • September 16th, 2005: Machine does not power up in the morning. I CANNOT send this machine in for repair without first removing important data from the HDD. Circuit City won't exchange it and swap the hard drives. They want about $350 to transfer data.
  • The long and short of it is that the machine is toast after three weeks of use (and I'm gentle with my computer equipment - my last laptop was a year old and looked factory fresh when I gave it to my wife). It has to go into Averatec for service, which will take 7-10 business days. This unit is practically a DOA; definitely an infant death, anyway. It should be replaced immediately. In fact, they should cross-ship me a replacement.
  • UPDATE: I've received the machine back, but this isn't unqualified good news; see below.

I'm VERY annoyed at Averatec for their low-quality product and even more annoyed at Circuit City for their nonexistent customer service. I'm 90% certain the problem is due to the mainboard flexing inside the unit. Averatec modeled this laptop on the iBook, but they left out the expensive magnesium chassis that gives an iBook physical rigidity and helps with thermal management. The mainboard is a STRUCTURAL COMPONENT inside this machine (actually, practically everything that has a screw through it is a structural component). Picking the unit up by any method whatsoever will flex the mainboard.

I received the machine back after about two weeks of downtime. They had replaced the motherboard - which is fine. Unfortunately they also tightened one of the screws too far and damaged the bottom case plastic, and worse than that, they also created a "hot spot" on the LCD. By this I mean a deformity in the reflector, which appears as a bright fuzzy patch if the affected area is filled with a uniform color. I opened the LCD part of the laptop to look, and this hot spot is right where the LCD data cable is taped to the back of the LCD. So the hot spot was probably caused by their ham-fisted tech putting the machine upside-down onto something on his desk, thereby putting pressure on the LCD panel.

I've already spent so much time on this machine that it would have been cheaper for me to spend double the amount on a real brand - so, next time I will learn my lesson.

Note, by the way, that Averatec is one of those "companies that does not exist" - the address they gave me to send the RMA'd laptop is actually the address for Twinhead. So the laptop is OEMed for them and the mighty corporate infrastructure of Averatec probably consists entirely of two guys, a receptionist and a lhasa apso working out of their basement.

To summarize this experience:

  • Incredibly low-quality product from a shell company.
  • Utter disinterest and lack of proactive help from the retailer.
  • Incompetent technical support.
  • Careless technicians who should be fired and sent back to flipping burgers.
  • Slow service, to boot.

If you are offered an Averatec machine, RUN SCREAMING. Never buy one.

Anyway, due to the sealed nature of this laptop, there isn't much (any?) information available on upgrading it. This page will help you, as long as you want to break your warranty seal. All the images on this page are 160x120 thumbnails. Click any image for a fullsize version.

You will need the following tools: small Philips head screwdriver (magnetized), small flat screwdriver. A large, well-lit workspace is essential.

Begin by disconnecting all cables. Remove the dummy PCMCIA card and battery. Close the laptop and place it, LCD side down and battery facing away from you, on a smooth tabletop.

The warranty seal on the bottom (not visible in this photo as I had already removed it) covers a silver self-adhesive cover on a screw inside the PCMCIA slot area, just above the bottom right-hand foot in the picture. Use a screwdriver inserted through the PCMCIA slot door to push off the warranty seal and screw cover.

Open the laptop and look at the top edge of the keyboard. There are three spring-loaded catches that hold the top edge down. The leftmost of these is above the F2 key as indicated in the photo. Use the flat screwdriver to push each of these latches up, starting at the left edge and working rightwards. Lift the keyboard to expose the heat spreader and cables underneath.

Remove the white tape holding down the cables. Disconnect the small cable running along the top (it runs to the VGA connector and power switch). To release the cable from the connector, lift the black locking bar. Disconnect the keyboard by sliding the black locking tab to the left and pulling out the cable. Remove the keyboard and place it somewhere convenient. Bend the small cable so that it runs directly downwards, as shown in the next picture. Observe the purple heat transfer pad. This pad is sticky and will pick up hairs and dust very quickly.

Remove three screws underneath where the small cable used to run. NOTE THAT THERE ARE ALMOST NO TWO SCREWS THE SAME IN THIS MACHINE. IT CAN BE VERY DIFFICULT TO KEEP TRACK OF WHICH TYPES GO IN WHICH HOLES. I prefer to keep track of the screws by sketching the item I'm disassembling and putting the screws into callouts on the sketch. My first step at this sketch is shown below.

Now flip the laptop back into the first position, LCD side down, battery side facing away from you on the table. Remove three screws from the CPU compartment door and lift the lid off. Put those three screws in the door and place it somewhere safe.

(Note: At this point, it would be most efficient to remove the fan and heatsink. However: (a) you only need to do this if you have to upgrade the HDD, and (b) once you remove these screws, the whole unit becomes very floppy and you run a big danger of damaging the plastics.)

At this time, you should also remove all the other screws visible on the bottom of the laptop, paying attention to what I said above!

Peel up the TOP LAYER (only!) of silver tape to expose the WLAN antenna feeds. Gray feeds the auxiliary antenna; black feeds the main antenna. Pull the cables apart at the gold inline connectors.

At this time, you should also disconnect the LCD cable, which is the large rectangular connector just to the right of the fan. These wires are VERY THIN. Be extremely careful. DO NOT pull on the wire, use a screwdriver or knife to pry the connector sections apart.

Route the cables as shown in the next image, to facilitate pulling them through their feed hole when you separate the two halves of the laptop. It is very important to pull the WLAN cables out of their race, otherwise you may damage them when cracking the machine.

We're now ready to separate the two sections. They are held together by four latches at the back of the laptop, inside the battery compartment. Crack the machine starting at the upper left corner.

Don't attempt to separate the halves completely at this time. Just proceed until you have unlatched all four hooks and you can insert your fingers in the gap, as shown in the photo at right.

Flip the machine over again and open the screen. Carefully route the VGA board cable so it will feed properly as you crack the machine from the rear.

Once the rear is fully separated, crack the front side. Before opening the unit all the way, the trackpad cable must be disconnected from the motherboard (lift the black locking bar and pull out the cable). At this point you have physically disconnected everything joining the two halves, but there are still four cables threaded through the two pieces: VGA cable (guides itself out as you separate the halves), WLAN cables and video cable.

The video cable connector is a tight fit through its feed hole. Before attempting to feed it out, pull the two WLAN cables through by hand to loosen the gap. You'll need to bend the video connector along its cable in order to fit it through the hole; be very careful not to put too much stress on the wires.

The picture at left should indicate how the halves are separated. Once you've got the two pieces apart, place the LCD half in a safe place and proceed with the instructions below.


If you need to get further into the machine (to upgrade the hard disk), begin by removing the DVD-RW drive. Slide it to the left and lift upwards. This exposes the main power feed and Ethernet lines underneath.

Disconnect the black modem audio wire from the power/Ethernet daughterboard. Also pull it out of the chase that guides it back to the motherboard. You will need to break one glue spot to do this. The glue spot that must be broken is at the end of the chase, just before the cable takes a 90 degree turn and starts running along the motherboard. Do not break the glue spots on the motherboard itself.

You must now remove two screws on the motherboard. In the picture at right, the screwdriver is pointing at one of these screws. The other screw is approximately one inch below the first. Also disconnect the speaker cable, at the bottom of this picture.

The next step is very tricky to perform because the laptop is in a mostly-disassembled state and has no structural support. Place one hand over the rectangular steel CPU reinforcement you saw in the previous picture, indicating which screws to remove from the motherboard. Flip the laptop upside-down so you can access the fan and heatsink compartment.

The fan is held on by two screws. BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL WHILE REMOVING THIS COMPONENT. The fan and heatsink assembly are threaded over a very flimsy segment of the housing. Normally this segment is protected by the metal lid. Do not press hard while removing the screws! Also, be very careful to support the laptop with a hand under the CPU (as described above) during the next few steps, or the mainboard will sag out and its weight will break the plastic and/or damage the PCMCIA daughtercard.

When you have unscrewed the fan, remove it (gently pull its connector free of the motherboard) and set it aside. Still supporting the unit under the CPU, remove the four screws that secure the heatsink over the CPU. A magnetized screwdriver is essential for this step.

When all four screws have been removed, you can lift the CPU end of the heat pipe. The heatpipe assembly will be stuck down by thermal grease; lever gently until you can lift up the CPU end. Rotate counterclockwise and pull out the heatsink assembly. Flip the laptop right-side up again. Ensure that you do not touch the grease on the CPU; place the heat pipe assembly out of the way so the grease does not become contaminated.

Disconnect the power feed (red and black cables, shown in my hand) from the power jack PCB. This cable is wrapped in a self-adhesive polyimide tape; peel it up from the bottom of the chassis. Also disconnect the Ethernet feed (white cable running from top to bottom on the left-hand side). This cable is also self-adhesive. Peel it up off the floor of the housing, taking great care to use the minimum force to avoid breaking any conductors. Remove one screw from the PCMCIA daughtercard. In the picture at left, this screw is immediately to the right of where the white Ethernet feed cable runs through a slot in the PCMCIA daughtercard. It is the only screw in the vicinity, so you can't make a mistake.

At this point, the mainboard and PCMCIA daughtercard are free and you can remove them by lifting the top and right-hand edges of the mainboard, and sliding to the right. You might have to lift the PCMCIA daughtercard by hand; be VERY careful as there are delicate mechanical parts that can get caught on the case.

Flip the mainboard upside-down to expose the hard disk. Place it on your work surface as shown, with the USB ports facing you. Remove the two screws holding down the HDD retainer bracket, at the bottom of the photo (the posts into which these screws penetrate are between the USB ports). Remove the HDD bracket. You may now slide the HDD down and remove it.

Insert your new hard drive and reverse the steps above to reassemble. Note that the lengths of all the cables in this unit are very finely calculated. If you have too much slack at one point in the cable, then you've mis-routed it. This applies specifically to the power feed cable running from the power jack board to the mainboard, and the Ethernet FFC cable running from the mainboard to the same power jack board. When these cables come off their respective connection points, they should go through a sharp 90 degree bend downwards, then another sharp 90 degree bend when they touch the floor of the housing. If you have gentle, sloppy curves, the DVD-RW drive will not fit back snugly.

Finally, here's a picture of (most) of the screws that you'll have removed in the above steps (this picture does not include the two screws that secure the HDD bracket, nor the screw that holds down the PCMCIA daughterboard. and all original content herein is © Copyright 2005 by Lewin A.R.W. Edwards. "" is a trademark protected under U.S. and international law. Infringement or attempted dilution of the intellectual property rights held by Lewin A.R.W. Edwards will be prosecuted to the fullest possible extent.