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Replaced RAM without removing battery -- damage?

Posted on 2009-05-09
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Last Modified: 2013-11-10
Hi,

I recently bought a new Dell laptop, and I've done two things to it which are advised against in the manual. I haven't noticed any problems, but I'd like to know if it's possible that I have caused any damage:

1) I replaced the 1GB RAM module with a 2GB module. I was careful to ground myself first, however I forgot to remove the battery. The system was powered off, not connected to AC, but the battery was intact. I touched nothing except the RAM and there was no ESD. The manual says that it's important to remove the battery before touching anything to prevent damage to the mainboard.

2) I accidentally removed the battery while the system was on and connected to AC power. The manual advises against this.


What I'd like to know first and foremost, is how exactly these two things can cause damage. Secondly, does the fact that I am not _noticing_ any problems mean that I got lucky and didn't cause any damage?

I still have the option to return this system and buy a new one -- I'd only lose $150 on shipping costs. So if it's quite likely I've damaged it I may do that.

Thanks in advance!
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Question by:eric_cartman_16
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LVL 99

Accepted Solution

by:
John Hurst earned 400 total points
ID: 24344310
1. Leaving the battery in with AC off is not recommended because you could short something. You say no, and that you grounded yourself, so there should be no issue.
2. Losing power without battery is the same as a desktop PC losing power. It happens. You can do this once or twice with no problem (in the vast majority of cases). If all is well, you escaped. No issue. Just be more careful on this one in future.
... Thinkpads_User
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Assisted Solution

by:aboo_s
aboo_s earned 400 total points
ID: 24344328
The way you described it, nothing is damaged!!!

You can damage the main board if you install memory while it's hooked to power supply cause it might be short circuited and powered on thus burning something on the board.

And if you remove the battery while power adapter is attached I can imagine it might kill the charging circuit!!!

This always of course is a precaution and has a little chance of happening.
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Assisted Solution

by:lawina900
lawina900 earned 400 total points
ID: 24344347
1) If you are doing any type of hardware work on a computer you need to remove all power sources (AC and Battery)  Don't just turn off the computer.  Remove the source of power.  ie. unplug from wall, remove battery.  The electrical current can arc and fry your motherboard or memory modules.  If you computer powered on and you don't notice any problems more than likely you did not cause any damage as the memory modules or motherboard, if damaged, would not even boot up. I would suggest running the Dell diagnostic program that should have come with your system to make sure everything is in working order.

2) Removing the battery while the system is on is not a big deal.  I swap batteries all the time so that they are both charged while my laptop is plugged in.

Good luck
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by:rettif9
rettif9 earned 400 total points
ID: 24344348
Power events usually cause things like corrupted system files, corrupted data files, or memory errors. In more extreme cases the system may blue screen, display error messages on screen with event IDs, or you may find system error messages in the Event Viewer (inside Control Panel -> Administrative Tools) that indicate hardware problems. (Not all Event viewer errors are hardware related by any means.)  if you find errors in event viewer you can research them here on EE. The guidelines provided by Dell in the owners manual should always be followed. If you aren't experiencing any mysterious reboots, blue screens (euphemistically called the Blue Screen Of Death or bsod), or other errors, then it does appear that you "got lucky".
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Author Comment

by:eric_cartman_16
ID: 24344360
@thinkpads_user: That's good news! I don't think I could've shorted anything (didn't touch anything except the memory itself), so I guess I got lucky on that one.

@aboo_s: Can you explain what you mean by killing the charging circuit? If it has reduced the life of the battery I do not particularly mind. Or has it affected the computer's ability to charge batteries?
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by:OriNetworks
OriNetworks earned 400 total points
ID: 24344363
1. Regardless of grounding yourself, with the battery still in the laptop, that means the mainboard still had power to it. If the RAM was inserted or removed charges can sometimes jump between pins or allow it to short between circuits.

2. Removing the battery while on AC can cause shorts, or power surgers as the battery is removed and switches to AC. Power flowing through the connectors can jump as it is removed.

You may simply be lucky that nothing happened. Also just because they warn against it, that doesnt mean that something will definitely happen to your laptop.
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Expert Comment

by:John Hurst
ID: 24345090
@rettif9 - In my experience (many, many years), PC's have had power failures over time with no damage. An experienced, but unmeasured guess puts power problems at less than 20% of outages. So one or two do not perturb me at all. ... Thinkpads_User
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Author Comment

by:eric_cartman_16
ID: 24345284
Yes, certainly I'd think that the main issue with power outages is the system losing power before it can sync and unmount the filesystem (i.e. no actual hardware damage).

All the information has been helpful. I'm not sure if I will return the laptop or not. After what OriNetworks said It seems like I could have damaged the mainboard but it's just not showing symptoms (yet).

I'm going to bed. I'll decide who to award points to tomorrow.
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Expert Comment

by:aboo_s
ID: 24345522
quote:" @aboo_s: Can you explain what you mean by killing the charging circuit? If it has reduced the life of the battery I do not particularly mind. Or has it affected the computer's ability to charge batteries?
"
I didn't say you have killed the circuit I just said that there is a chance of doing that if you try removing the battery in the same way again. But I'm sure you won't. Anyway if your system is functioning ok then I really don't think that a harm has been done! S o I wouldn't advise you return your laptop only because of that!!!  
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Expert Comment

by:rettif9
ID: 24381493
@ thinkpads_user - I don't dispute your point that power failure is often inconsequential. Thats not always the case however. Here's a dated but informative article you may find interesting; http://www.realworldtech.com/page.cfm?ArticleID=RWT110100000000&p=1 
In my experience (a few years) I've replaced a lot of power supplies (they seem to come in spurts, I don't know why) and found OS problems after replacement in some cases. I guess that validates your estimate of 20%. My primary concern in this case was changing the memory with a connected battery. That seems like an undesireable risk to me even if Eric was grounded.

rettif9
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Expert Comment

by:OriNetworks
ID: 24381946
@eric_cartman "After what OriNetworks said It seems like I could have damaged the mainboard but it's just not showing symptoms (yet)."

I didn't mean to have scared you into wanting to possibly returning the laptop, just wanted to share the things that can happen. Since you dont see any symptoms of failure, which you would most likely have noticed immediately, it should be perfectly find to keep. I would save the $150 becuase it doesnt sound like anything is wrong.
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