Replacing a mobile phone's motherboard or logic board is not an easy job, but for those who have the skills and confidence it can be a good way of saving or even making money.
What is the Motherboard or Logic Board?
The terms "motherboard" and "logic board" basically refer to the same thing. However, Apple users tend to prefer "logic board", whereas those who use other operating systems, for example Android, are more likely to use "motherboard". Another phrase for the same thing is "main board". Essentially, the motherboard (or logic board – from here on the terms will be used interchangeably) is the main circuit board in a mobile phone: the part that contains the most important components, for example the memory and the central processing unit (CPU). In fact, unlike in computers, the motherboard in a phone is likely to be the only circuit board. There isn't generally any room for smaller "child" boards as well. That means that when looking for replacement motherboards for phones, they will often just be called "circuit boards".
Things to Consider Before Deciding to Replace a Phone Motherboard
Before buying a replacement motherboard or logic board, there are a number of important things to consider.
What Skills are Necessary?
The difficulty of replacing a motherboard or logic board in a phone is not something that should be underestimated. Even people who have built their computers from scratch find it challenging. However, for those who are technically minded and dextrous enough to work on a small scale, the rewards of gaining this skill can be immense. Not only will it be possible to make one-off repairs should the repairer's own phone be damaged, but it will also be possible to make money by buying old phones that are supposedly broken beyond repair, then refurbishing them and selling them on.
What Equipment is Necessary?
No particularly specialist or expensive equipment is necessary to replace a phone's motherboard. An ordinary phone repair kit plus a circuit board holder are all that should be necessary, and both can be acquired inexpensively from online dealers, auction sites and bricks and mortar shops specialising in phone repair.
Is It Definitely the Motherboard That's Broken?
Replacing the motherboard is one of the most drastic repairs possible, and should only be attempted if all the other reasons why the phone might not be working have been ruled out.
Is Repair Rather than Replacement an Option?
Repairing a phone motherboard is usually even more difficult than replacing it, but for experienced phone repairers, it may sometimes be a possibility.
Is the DIY Option Definitely Worth it?
There is no guaranteed success when it comes to something as delicate as replacing a phone motherboard for the first time, and replacement motherboards are not generally very cheap. Consider whether another option, for example buying a new phone or paying someone else to repair the old one might be better.
How To Find Out What to Do?
There are plenty of websites with instructions and videos for replacing phone motherboards. Browse around for one that deals with the exact model of phone to be repaired if possible, and if not, a closely related model.
What to Look for When Buying a Replacement Phone Motherboard
Once the decision has been made that replacement is the best course of action, the next important thing to think about is what to look for in the replacement part. Here are ten of the most important factors to consider.
1. Is it the Right Model?
It's an obvious point, but make absolutely sure that the motherboard being bought is exactly the right one for the model of phone it's for. The motherboards even of closely related models are not interchangeable.
2. New or Used?
It's possible to buy second-hand motherboards, or second-hand broken phones with working motherboards, at bargain prices. This can be a risky option, however, since it's generally difficult to tell from looking at a photograph or even the motherboard itself whether it works. On the other hand, new motherboards, particularly for recent models of phone, are so expensive that once the time and effort needed to replace is taken into account, buying a new phone may work out better. There's no right answer to the question of whether it's better to buy new or used: it depends on things like individual attitude to risk.
3. Where to Buy From?
Online specialist suppliers and auction sites are the main options for buying replacement motherboards: it's rare to find them in bricks and mortar shops.
4. Is It Better To Buy a Phone For Parts Or Just Buy the Parts Separately?
Strangely, it can be cheaper to buy up old phones for their parts rather than buying the parts separately. This also has the advantage that it's possible to sell on whatever ends up not getting used. On the other hand, without seeing the motherboard itself, it's difficult to tell whether it has been damaged.
5. Is it a Good Idea to Buy in Bulk?
For buyers seeking to replace motherboards for other people, perhaps as a small business, buying a collection of spare motherboards all together can be a good option. These quite frequently become available on online auction sites.
6. Looking for Damage
It's not generally worth buying a damaged motherboard or logic board, even if the damage only appears to be cosmetic. One particularly important thing to look for is water damage, which normally shows up in the form of rust or stains, and can be quite subtle.
7. Spotting Fakes
Since motherboard replacement is difficult and specialist, there isn't a big market for fake parts, but it's always a good idea to be cautious, and not buy a motherboard that doesn't look exactly like the one it's replacing.
8. Is There A Guarantee?
Try to buy through a reputable website or dealer that gives a guarantee, and be sure to read the item description carefully. If a replacement motherboard is sold as 'untested', for example, there will be no recourse should it turn out not to work, even if the dealer has a good buyer protection policy.
9. Buying 'Sight Unseen'
Be careful when buying a motherboard without having seen a picture of the exact item being bought.
10. Trusting Instincts
If something doesn't look quite right, there's a good chance it isn't, so don't be afraid to trust instincts.
Finding Replacement Motherboards and Logic Boards on eBay
One good option for finding a wide variety of camera lenses is the online auction site eBay. To browse the selection currently available, start at eBay's homepage, then click on Electronics, then Mobile and Home Phones and then Mobile Phone and PDA Accessories. Replacement parts, including motherboards and logic boards, can be found under Other Mobile Phone Accessories. It's necessary to tick a box in the left hand menu, which will lead to Replacement Parts. To browse more specifically for motherboards, go to the sub-type menu, which is again on the left. Select "see all" and then Circuits and Components. An easier option than browsing in the way described is simply to enter a description of what is required in the search box at the top of eBay pages. To get the best results, try lots of different options, for example "main board" and "circuit board" as well as "motherboard" or "logic board". Don't forget to specify the model of phone it's for in order to get the most relevant results.
Replacing the motherboard or logic board is one of the most challenging kinds of mobile phone repair, but that doesn't mean it should never be attempted. It's worth investing in good quality replacement parts, because it would be a waste of time to go through the whole process only to find the phone still doesn't work, or quickly breaks again.