Community center computer repair activity


FSMK’s various community centers have around 15-20 computers. Only a couple of them work and the rest have missing or damaged parts. We want to fix as many of them as possible and get them to a usable state.

We conducted a pilot activity for this a few weeks ago and all the participants thoroughly enjoyed it. We managed to catalog many parts, but we weren’t able to actually fix any computers due to lack of time and other resources. We want to do it at a larger scale this time and hopefully end up with a number of working computers.

This session will involve fixing minor issues (bent pins, etc.), replacing broken parts (either with new parts or with parts salvaged from other computers), allocating working components efficiently, testing the re-built computers and installing a suitable GNU/Linux distro on them.

Approximate plan -

  • Quick introduction to PC hardware - common components, connectors, etc.
  • Hardware disassembly and cataloging
  • Reassembly planning - allocating parts to computers
  • Reassembly
  • Testing and OS installation

The specifics of each of these steps are hard to plan in advance, since it all depends on the number of participants and the exact issues in the broken computers. We’ll need to plan and work spontaneously.

Tools (potentially) required -

  • Assorted screw drivers (most importantly flat and philips)
  • Wire strippers, pliers
  • Multimeter
  • Superglue
  • SATA to USB adapter
  • IDE to SATA or IDE to USB adapter
  • Blank stickers and markers to label parts

We shall try to arrange for as many of all these tools as we can, but please bring your own if possible.

We shall also have a small team of volunteers who can go to SP Road or other suitable places to purchase any parts we might need.

If you have old hardware that you would like to donate to the community centers, please bring them with you.

Venue: FSMK Office, Wilson Garden
Date: Sunday, February 12th 2017
Time: 10 AM to 4 PM (depending on how quick we are)

See you there!


For those who missed the discussion during the first day’s “pilot activity”, we are inspired by and trying to emulate

Perhaps also mention-worthy in this context: and e-waste mountains in pictures


I just fixed one of the keyboards I had taken from the community center. Its USB connector had been chopped off. I bought a new connector, soldered it on, and it’s working! :slight_smile: However, it still has a slightly broken leg on one side making it a little shaky while typing.

We’re probably going to need some documentation system (a wiki?) to document the state of hardware that we debug/fix. Ideally, we’ll need some kind of an unique identification number on each device that will tell us the entire history of work we’ve done on that device. Also, we’ll need an inventory management system that will help us keep stock of all the hardware that we have. Good organization can help us avoid a lot of searching around, buying stuff we already have, etc. Something to think about… Ideas welcome…


Here are my thoughts on the documentation system -

  • I really doubt the system will be used again after we finish this activity.
  • In light of that, and to keep the activity efficient, I think we should only implement the features that will actually be useful.
  • In the last session we physically labeled each part as working/not working with a date and optionally a small comment, e.g., “Not working / Damaged plug / Jan 01 2017”. I feel this much information is mostly adequate. We could add an ID to this perhaps.
  • One major limitation we had was that the “database” was a text file on a smartphone, and that didn’t even have a proper format. We definitely need to fix this.

I think if each group/team has a laptop, we can use EtherCalc to keep track of everything. We could have one section/sheet for each type of part and a few columns for details, e.g.,

  • HDDs might need type (SATA/IDE) and capacity
  • Monitors might need size, connectors supported (VGA, HDMI, etc.) and type (CRT/TFT)

All items will need common fields. Let’s say, ID, working/not working and comments.

But this is a fairly complex activity, so it’s possible (even likely) that I’m missing something. Does anybody have concerns about using a system like this?


I think this spreadsheet idea should be good enough to start with. Based on our requirements, we can always expand later.