Recapping Your Own Motherboard or Device

Important Notice

With some soldering experience you should be able to complete recapping. However, please note we TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY for any damage to your board or device. The information we provide to assist with recapping has no warranties or guarantees. It may be incomplete, obsolete, or incorrect. Proceed at your own risk, or engage with a professional recapping service.

Recapping Tutorial Introduction

We encourage our user to repair their own boards if they think they can do it without damaging it. If you have some experience soldering, you'll have no trouble recapping your own motherboard or device. While we rarely discourage anyone from repairing their own board, there are many things that need to be taken into consideration before attempting this yourself. Firstly, and most important is to make sure that faulty capacitors are the true root of your systems problem. If your capacitors are swollen up and bulging, then you can be 99.9% sure that your troubles are capacitors. However, a system with bad capacitors will display quite an assortment of symptoms, some of which can be easily mistaken for other computer problems. Determining the problems to be bad caps can be difficult at times. One of the biggest tell-tale signs of bad capacitors (besides visual/physical signs of failure) is the gradual diminishing of your systems stability over time. Even after a completely clean install of the operating system, your system is still unstable and crash-prone, and it wasn't always like this. Here is a helpful list of commonly associated problems or errors encountered with bad capacitors. Some of this information was taken from PROJECT:VP6.

System faults

  • - Motherboard fails to POST
  • - Memory Test Fails
  • - Fails to fully boot (or even install) Operating System
  • - System randomly and frequently freezes
  • - Random & frequent "Blue Screens of Death"
  • - BSoD or hard freeze under heavy drive activity (Either RAID, SCSI, or standard ATA)
  • - CPU temps abnormally higher than usual under typical or less load
  • - CPU VCORE & other system voltages are erratic or far out of tolerances
  • - Resetting the system after a freeze and the system will not repost (You have to completely power down then power back up)

Note: CPU VCORE & system voltage issues can also be associated with a faulty power supply. Before you decide your capacitors are faulty, ALWAYS try a tested, high quality power supply.

Physical faults

  • - Swollen electrolytic capacitors primarily near the VRM, RAM, and AGP.
  • - Brown ooze coming from electrolytic capacitors near VRM, RAM, and AGP.
  • - Strange odor immerging from your case. (Yes, cooking capacitors DO give off a strong odor)

Should I try this myself?

We get many users asking how hard this is... It's extremely easy for someone with experience. We have created a list of questions, if you can honestly answer YES to the following questions, you have a good chance at a successful recapping venture should you choose to do so. This is far more precise than hooking up a car stereo or simply assembling a PC.

  • 1) If you fail, will you be able to survive without that board?
  • 2) If you burn yourself with the soldering iron, can you restrain from throwing things around in anger?
  • 3) Have you ever soldered a 6-layer PCB before?
  • 4) Do you have the right tools and equipment?
  • 5) Is an anti-static workstation available or do you know what anti-static precautions to take?

If you've answered YES to at least 4 out of the 5 questions, more than likely, you can do this! Here's the best way we've found to do this on a home budget using home quality (non-professional) equipment. When you decide to actually do this, it is VERY important to be prepared to do it from start to finish in one session. Don't start this project and then part-way through decide to go watch the Soprano's on TV! Interruptions in this procedure can lead to critical oversights resulting in a completely dead and unrecoverable board! Have all items needed for this repair on the bench and ready to go. A typical motherboard recapping takes us about 25 minutes per board from start to finish, replacing 19 caps on an Abit VP6. If this is your first time doing this, It might take you 25 minutes just to remove the first capacitor from the board. If it does take you that long, it's OK! DO NOT rush the job! Take your time!

Equipment List

  • 1) A temperature controlled GROUNDED soldering station.
  • 2) A pneumatic or vacuum powered de-soldering tool aka "solder sucker". Note: don't use a mechanical one as they can damage the board!
  • 3) A needle pick or similar object, a stainless steel dentists pick is perfect! (Can be used instead of a solder sucker if you don't have one)
  • 4) A roll of 60/40 rosin core solder.
  • 5) Proper quantity of NEW and proper value replacement capacitors. You can use our new capacitor search engine tool to find replacements.
  • 6) A pair of small side cutters.
  • 7) A sharp Exact-o Knife.

Additional Tips

NEVER use a "cold heat" type of soldering iron! They work similar to the principle of an ARC welder, and emit a current. This can instantly destroy your board when contact is made. If a good soldering station is not available to you, a 40 watt solder pencil with a fine tip on it will be sufficient.

Now that you've got all your equipment lined out, you need to make sure that you've identified ALL your bad caps and located NEW replacements for your board. VERY IMPORTANT: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE SHOULD YOU CHANGE THE CAPACITANCE RATING OF THE CAPACITORS UNLESS YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING! DOING SO MAY HAVE TRAGIC RESULTS FOR YOUR BOARD! Some will argue this point to death, but the way we see it is this... the engineers that designed these boards know far more than all of us put together about this. Unless there was a factory revision that changed the capacitance rating, I think it is safe to assume the engineers knew what they were doing. Remember, the reason for the failure was NOT the capacitors value, but rather a poorly manufactured capacitor! Slight variations will not harm anything, but don't stray too far from the 20% tolerance of the original capacitors farad rating.

However, increasing the rated voltage is OK. The only thing the capacitor voltage rating means is the amount of voltage the capacitor was designed to handle. Increasing this value is OK, but NEVER decrease the voltage! For example, it is safe to replace a 6.3v capacitor with a 16v capacitor, but NOT visa-versa. The only thing increasing rated voltage will do is enable the capacitor to handle a little more voltage. If you encounter a cap on your board rated at 10V, those can be safely substituted with 6.3V capacitor. On ANY 10V cap on a mainboard or on a PSU secondary, they're always on the 5V or 3.3V rails, and can be substituted with a 6.3V capacitor. On that note, NEVER decrease the voltage rating of a 16v cap unless you are absolutely sure that its on a low voltage rail (5V or 3.3V rail). Most all the time, a 16V capacitor in a mainboard is on the 12V power rail, and CAN NOT be decreased!

One more thing, NEVER cannibalize your replacement capacitors from an old motherboard you have in your junk pile! You might be using capacitors that are in worse shape than the ones you're removing! You will also need the long and straight leads on the new capacitors! The holes in the motherboard are extremely small and delicate! Trying to insert a bent, solder blobbed, and short lead into those holes is very difficult and can have undesired results if a mistake is made!