Dealing with a malfunctioning circuit board can be a real hassle. One may begin to think that he or she has no option but to purchase a new one or to bring the board into a local electronics repair shop. However, this doesn't have to be the case. With a little bit of understanding and expertise (along with the right tools), it's possible for just about anybody to troubleshoot their own circuit boards and possibly even conduct the necessary repair. Below is a simple guide to circuit board troubleshooting.
Check for the Obvious
The first step that should be taken before jumping to any conclusions is to look for any obvious damage to the board itself. This will likely involve extracting the board from the device itself, which should be done carefully and only after the device is shut off and unplugged from any electrical outlet.
Some common signs of circuit board damage include burn marks (which are often a sign of overloaded components), blobs of solder, and even broken connections. If any of these are the culprit, the good news is that these tend to be relatively easy fixes.
Use an Oscilloscope
If no obvious damage is present, then it will be time to further troubleshoot. This can be done in a number of ways, such as using PCB testing software (if the circuit board was designed and printed from home). Otherwise, it may be necessary to invest in an oscilloscope, which will allow the user to test the board for defects.
Once the oscilloscope is turned on, one of its probes should be connected to a metal component on the circuit board. This will ground the board and keep it from being fried through accidental static shock.
Next, the settings on the oscilloscope should be set based on the circuit board's proper sweep speed. At this time, each connection on the board can be tested by pressing the probe of the oscilloscope to the various components on the board itself. This can help the user locate any points on the circuit that are broken or damaged so that they can be easily repaired.
Troubleshooting a circuit board does take a bit of time and patience, but it can be done. If all else fails, the board may also be brought to a local electronics store that specializes in circuit boards for repair.