How to disassemble Dell Inspiron 15 3521/5521

posted in: 4. Dell | 32

Dell Inspiron R15-5521/3512 disassembly

In this guide I explain how to disassemble a Dell Inspiron 15 3521/5521.

I will remove all main components from the laptop and show how to access the cooling fan.

You can use these instructions for replacing failed internal components or cleaning up the heatsink and fan.

Before you start taking it apart make sure the computer is turned off.

As always, I advice to keep track of all removed screws. Make notes. It will help you during the reassembly process.


Unlock and remove the battery.

Remove laptop battery


Loosen two screws securing the service cover on the bottom.

Lift up and remove the service cover. You’ll have to apply some reasonable force to remove the service cover.

Loosen screws on service cover


Now you can access the hard drive, both memory modules and CMOS battery.

Hard drive and memory access


Remove two screws securing the hard drive to the case.

Remove screws from hard drive


Pull the hard drive to the left to disconnect it from the motherboard.

Disconnect hard drive


Now lift up the hard drive and remove it.

Remove hard drive


You’ll find five latches securing the keyboard on the top.

By the way, in order to remove the keyboard you don’t have to go though the previous steps. Just follow STEP 7-STEP 13.

Keyboard latches


Those latches are spring loaded.

Push on the latch using a small flathead screwdriver. The latch will move inside the case.

Push keyboard latch inside

At the same time, while the latch is hidden inside, insert a sharp object under the keyboard and lift it up a little bit.

This will not allow the latch to lock the keyboard.

Do the same with all remaining latches.

Lift up keyboard


When all five latches unlocked, you should be able to lift up the keyboard and separate it from the top cover assembly.

Besides five latches on the top, there are two plastic retainers on the left and right side of the keyboard.

You’ll have to apply some reasonable force to move the keyboard though those  retainers on both sides.

Lift it up and move towards the display assembly.

Slide keyboard towards display assembly

STEP 10.

Turn the keyboard upside down.

Now you can access the keyboard cable connector on the motherboard.

Before you release the cable you’ll have to unlock the connector.

Keyboard connector

STEP 11.

Lift up the left side of the connector retainer with your fingernail.

The retainer will open up at a 90 degree angle.

The retainer (brown) must remain attached to the connector base (white).

Unlock keyboard connector

STEP 12.

On the following picture the connector shown in the unlocked position.

As you see, the retainer is still attached to the base.

Now you can pull the keyboard cable from the connector.

Unplug keyboard cable

STEP 13.

Lift up and remove the keyboard.

Remove laptop keyboard

STEP 14.

Remove all screws from the bottom.

Remove screws from bottom of laptop

STEP 15.

Remove screws securing the top cover (palmrest) assembly.

Disconnect the power button board cable and trackpad cable from the motherboard.

Use same technique as for disconnecting the keyboard cable.

Remove screws securing top cover

Lift up the cable retainer.

Disconnect power button board cable

Pull the cable from the connector.

Disconnect power button board cable

STEP 16.

Now you can start separating the top cover (palmrest) assembly from the bottom cover.

I’m using the guitar pick for that. You can use a piece of plastic.

Separate top cover from bottom cover

STEP 17.

Continue separating the top cover from the bottom cover.

You’ll have to apply some reasonable force to separate these two parts. There are hidden latches securing them.

Continue removing top cover

STEP 18.

Remove the top cover (palmrest) assembly.

Remove top cover assembly

STEP 19.

Here’s the bottom side of the top cover (palmrest) assembly.

Here you can access the trackpad, trackpad button board and power button board.

Bottom side of top cover assembly

STEP 20.

Before removing the motherboard it’s necessary to disconnect and remove the wireless card.

Wireless card

STEP 21.

You’ll have to disconnect two antenna cables, remove one screw securing the wireless card and pull the card from the slot.

Wireless card antenna cables

Here’s how to disconnect the antenna cable from the wireless card.

Simply lift up the cable form the card by the gold connector.

Disconnect antenna cable from wireless card

STEP 22.

Remove one screw securing the motherboard.

Disconnect the following cables:
1. Video cable.
2. DC jack cable.
3. Speaker cable.
4. I/O board cable.

Disconnect cables from motherboard

Here’s how to unplug the video cable.

Disconnect video cable

And DC jack cable.

Disconnect DC jack cable

STEP 23.

Start removing the motherboard from the laptop case as it shown on the following picture.

Lift up motherboard

STEP 24.

Remove the motherboard.

Remove motherboard

STEP 25.

You can access the cooling module (heatsink and fan) on the other side of the motherboard.

Other side of motherboard

STEP 26.

In order to remove and replace the fan you’ll have to disconnect the fan cable and remove one screw.

When the cooling fan removed you can clean up the fan and heatsink.

Disconnect cooling fan

Here’s the bottom cover of the laptop with the motherboard removed.

Bottom case without motherboard

The DC power jack located in the upper left corner of the bottom case.

DC power jack

Here’s the official Dell Inspiron 15 3521/5521 owner’s manual. This manual also has detailed disassembly instructions.

32 Responses

  1. Brandon

    Hi, I am locked out of my laptop via bios password that has been lost. It is the same as this laptop Dell inspiron 15-3521. Do you by chance know a master password for this computer in case of a situation like this? I have tried the keygens on the net but to no avail. I will gladly donate for your assistance…thanks

  2. Balsey Dean De Witt, Jr.

    Disconnect the power cord and remove the battery.

    Remove the access door on the back of the computer, two screws hold it on.

    To the left, as above in the photo’s, you will see the bios watch battery. Remove it.

    Turn laptop over and press the power button and hold for 10 seconds.

    Turn laptop over and install the watch battery.

    Finish up hooking up the rest. This should remove the password that was given to bios.

    Good luck. This used to work in the old days, not sure of today, but you would think it would.

  3. Rodrigo

    Hi! I accidentally dropped my laptop and it got dented on the lid, next to the DELL logo. I want to take the lid off so I can punch the dent back, but I have no clue on how to do that without messing up the touch screen. Can you help me please? I’m desperate!

  4. Rishi

    Hi I am Currently using this laptop can i upgrade new graphic card to 1 or 2 gb ..? plz reply ..!

  5. August Tiamzon

    Hi, I changed my LCD screen on my dell 15r 5521. After doing this. It has no power or any light on my laptop. What should I do?


  6. Noah Beck

    Hey I got this laptop of craigslist and it’s a dell inspiron 15-3521 but the power button is broken an I just wanted to know if you knew of a way to turn it on without having to go through all the trouble fixing the power button etc… If you know a way that’d be awesome thanks (I do not have a warranty)

    • IML Tech

      @ Noah Beck,
      Sorry cannot help with that. Probably you can do that but I don’t know the pinout.
      By the way, you can buy a replacement power button for this laptop on eBay. It’s only about $4 with free shipping.

  7. samuel ola

    my dell mother board is retuning current, when i plugged charger to it the charger will went off please any suggestion or what may be the course of it

    • IML Tech

      @ samuel ola,
      I don’t fix motherboard on the component level but it sounds like there is a problem with the DC jack or the motherboard itself failed.

  8. Ausama

    Hi, last night i found my laptop soaked with water from the bottom side. I dont know how it happend and i didn’t even notice it was soaked untill i tried to power it up and heard a strage tune from it like a beeb, i lift it up and found the water covering to bottom side. Now it’s dissassebled and i’m waiting for it to dry up, but i wonder does that beeb sound indecate a serious danger? Will it ever tun again?

  9. Rob T.

    Just a question, I have an old Dell Latitude c640 which was mistreated by a teenager years ago who thought that download was a law. I’ve cleaned it out but it’s still slow so I bought a used motherboard and hard drive for it and would like to attempt the motherboard replacement, but it doesn’t look quite as easy as the compaq cq62 I had success with before thanks to your tutorial here. I’d like to give it to my granddaughter for her 10th birthday for her to play her games on.
    Any hope for me here?
    Thanks, R.T.

    • IML Tech

      @ Rob T,
      This manual will help to to remove the motherboard on a Dell Latitude C640. It’s relatively easy.

  10. Rob T.

    Hey thanks so much for the info, I’m pretty sure I can do it now although I must say it’s not as nicely done as yours are. You are the Richard Feynman of the computer world and will have a good spot on the karmic wheel.
    Rob T.

  11. Grant Boyer

    Hey I used your guide hoping it could give me access to push a broken aux plug out but I really can’t. Is there a way to do that or get it out?

    • IML Tech

      @ Grant Boyer,
      The audio plug soldered to the motherboard. If the plug is damaged, you cannot simply push it out.
      Most likely the plug gas to be replaced but it requires very strong soldering skills.
      Alternatively, you can use a USB audio adapter ($5-10 on Amazon or eBay).

  12. Robert B

    Great article on the disassembly. Had a water spill while the computer was off fortunately. Very straightforward and easy to follow. Great work!

  13. Suresh Bhandari

    my laptop is not showing any light I have deassembled all parts, could you please tell me how to check where is the exact issue.

  14. Habiba Ali

    Hey ! I accidently drop my laptop and now its audio jack is not working , can u help ?

  15. Humaid Siddiqui

    Hey, My 5521 audio jack isnt working. is there any way to fix it..Thanks!!! Awaiting Reply

  16. Swindy Jones

    Hi, by any chance can you recommend me any video cards or RAM that can speed up my pc and a better processor? (i have a core i3) 🙁

  17. Klaus

    heyy it was good. it helped me out.
    Please hv forgotten ma password can u help me with that?

  18. abhijith

    i a have a dell 3521 laptop.
    now some times its arrow key keep pressing
    what can i do

  19. Kishore R

    laptop model Dell Inspiron 3521

    Problem facing
    Improper display. this problem is temporarily solved with the help of charging while we operate the laptop.

  20. abhilash

    my laptop is Dell inspiron 15R(N5521) i have 4GB RAM but can i add Kingston 8GB RAM of DDR3L with 1600MHz to the empty slot? plz help me

  21. Mahalaxmi

    When i install graphics driver in my laptop,then after restarting the screen gets blinking continuosly much more faster,what should i do for that can u pls tell me?

  22. kumar

    Hi can you tell me where the graphic driver was & I wanted to upgrade to GeForce gtx 960 is it possible

  23. Ayotomi

    Hello IML Tech,
    I currently own dell inspiron 15R 5521 8Gig RAM, 2.5Ghz but does not install Graphic card now matter how hard I tried. does it has Graphic slot at all? if it has, how do I go about it?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *