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Laptops tend to have a rather short lifetime. They are outdated within weeks of being released, they are notoriously hard to upgrade or repair, and by nature they are subject to gradual decay or fatal accidents You Just Spilled Water Or Coffee On Your Laptop - Here's What You Should Do You Just Spilled Water Or Coffee On Your Laptop - Here's What You Should Do Okay, let's take a deep breath and deal with the emergency first. Any emergency requires us to take a moment or two and assess the situation. That way we aren't just reacting, we are acting... Read More . Once damage has been done, repairs tend to be only slightly less expensive than getting a brand new model.

These very unfortunate conditions — not just for laptops, but most other electronic devices — cause mountains of electronic waste Thou Shalt Consume: The Story of Consumer Electronics [Feature] Thou Shalt Consume: The Story of Consumer Electronics [Feature] Every year, exhibitions around the world present new high tech devices; expensive toys that come with many promises. They aim to make our lives easier, more fun, super connected, and of course they are status... Read More . Some laptop issues, however, are often easier to repair than you would expect. This brief troubleshooting guide highlights the most likely damages, explores how to identify the culprit, and refers you to material that demonstrates how to fix it.

We have previously provided similar guides for desktop computers. Learn what parts can fail and what to do about it Every Computer Dies In The End: Learn What Parts Can Fail, & What To Do About It Every Computer Dies In The End: Learn What Parts Can Fail, & What To Do About It Most computers develop problems over time. Learning what they are and how you can deal with them is important if you don't want to be paying through the teeth for professional repairs. Don't worry though... Read More , as well as how to diagnose hardware problems when your computer won’t turn on How To Diagnose Hardware Problems When Your Computer Won't Turn On How To Diagnose Hardware Problems When Your Computer Won't Turn On Last week I showed you some of the simplest DIY repairs and upgrades that you can do yourself, but one reader asked how to diagnose which component was the problem. Today I’d like to walk... Read More . Finally, you might want to consult some online resources to learn how to repair your own computer 5 Sites To Learn How To Repair Your Own Computer 5 Sites To Learn How To Repair Your Own Computer Read More .

Some Things Cannot Be Fixed

There are some critical laptop parts that are very difficult and expensive to fix. They include the motherboard and everything that is molded on top of it, including the CPU (central processing unit) and the GPU (graphics processing unit). When you are sure that one of these are broken, proceed to the end of this article. For your next laptop, however, note that you can prevent damage of the CPU and GPU, by making sure they don’t overheat How To Fix An Overheating Laptop How To Fix An Overheating Laptop Read More .

CPU Heat Sink

Operating System

Symptoms: If your laptop sounds perfectly normal, if the disk drive seems to be working, and if the display turns on, but the system just won’t boot all the way through, the problem may lie with the operating system.

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Fix: Assuming you are running Windows, you can try to start in Safe Mode How To Start In Windows Safe Mode & Its Uses How To Start In Windows Safe Mode & Its Uses Read More to diagnose and potentially fix the issue. Maybe it’s a faulty driver or a damaged registry. Rather than wasting hours trying to fix your operating system, it’s probably better to re-install it. You can back up data from a computer that won’t boot How to Back Up Data From a Computer That Won't Boot How to Back Up Data From a Computer That Won't Boot When your computer won't boot, your data might still there. Here's how to install Linux on a bootable USB flash drive to recover your files. Next time keep a backup though. Read More using a Linux Live CD / USB.

Hard Disk Drive / Solid State Drive

Your hard or solid state drive is the home of your operating system and stores all of your data on the computer.

Symptoms: Hard drives don’t always fail out of the blue. Sometimes there are warning signs, including:

  • slow / poor performance;
  • frequent freezes;
  • BSODs;
  • corrupted data;
  • accumulation of bad sectors;
  • strange sounds.

I have summarized all of these signs in an article on signs your hard drive lifetime is ending 5 Signs Your Hard Drive Lifetime Is Ending (And What to Do) 5 Signs Your Hard Drive Lifetime Is Ending (And What to Do) Since a majority of people today own laptops and external hard drives, which get dragged around quite a bit, a realistic hard drive lifetime is probably around 3 - 5 years. This is an extremely... Read More . When you spot any of these signs, be sure to back up your data before it’s too late. After that, your only hope is to temporarily revive your hard drive to back up data How to Diagnose and Fix a Dead Hard Drive to Recover Data How to Diagnose and Fix a Dead Hard Drive to Recover Data Several years ago, I experienced a hard drive failure. I was at work when my laptop suddenly started to act particularly strange. About half an hour later, the hard drive failed audibly and the laptop... Read More .

A sure sign that your HDD or SSD has died is if the display turns on, the laptop’s indicator lights are blinking, but nothing else happens. You might see an error message that says something along the lines of a primary boot device missing. If the laptop is completely dead, however — no sounds, no lights, nothing — and if you have checked the charger, it’s very likely that the motherboard or one of its components has failed. In that case, proceed to the end of this article.

Fix: If your HDD or SSD has died, you can fix your laptop by replacing it. That is usually very easy. Remove the old drive, get a new one with an identical connector (IDE or SATA What Are The Different Computer Cable Types You Should Know As A User? What Are The Different Computer Cable Types You Should Know As A User? Take a look at any piece of equipment related to computer harder and you’ll soon find yourself in a swirling maelstrom of acronyms and foreign jargon. What does it matter if you use IDE or... Read More ), and mount it in place of the old drive. My colleague Matt has demonstrated how to install a new laptop hard drive How To Upgrade Your Laptop In a Flash: Add a New Hard Drive & Increase RAM How To Upgrade Your Laptop In a Flash: Add a New Hard Drive & Increase RAM Laptops are not as easy to upgrade as desktops. Many components are simply soldered on to the motherboard and others, though technically replaceable, are restricted by technical skill and cost. There are, however, two upgrades... Read More in a previous article.

Laptop Hard Drive

CMOS Battery

The CMOS battery provides power for storing BIOS settings when the computer is turned off.

Symptoms of a bad CMOS: The laptop mostly boots up fine and everything appears to be normal, except for some petty issues:

Any one of these issues can be caused by a number of things. But if a few of them coincide, then it’s a sure sign that your CMOS battery is failing.

Fix: My colleague Chris has previously written an article that addresses replacing the CMOS battery Why Does My Motherboard Have A Battery? Why Does My Motherboard Have A Battery? Whether you’re using a desktop computer or a laptop, your computer’s motherboard contains an integrated battery. Unlike a standard laptop battery, the motherboard’s battery doesn’t power your computer while you're using it. Quite the opposite,... Read More on a desktop PC. Even on a laptop, the procedure is not so hard. The battery is usually accessible via the laptop’s underside. On some models, like my old HP Compaq nw8440, it might sit under the keyboard. In any case, it’s not as easy to access as the RAM or HDD / SDD, as it doesn’t come with its own door or panel. If you can manage to expose the motherboard as shown below, replacing the CMOS battery is just a matter of popping it out and replacing it with a new one.

Laptop CMOS Battery

RAM

The RAM is your computer’s short-term memory. It temporarily stores any information the system needs to run as it is running.

Symptoms of bad RAM:

Fix: Should your computer still boot, run a memory test Test Your Computer's Memory For Errors with Memtest Test Your Computer's Memory For Errors with Memtest Read More to check for errors, for example using MemTest86.

If you’re lucky, maybe one of your RAM sticks isn’t sitting properly in its socket. Open the latch on the underside of the laptop to examine the RAM sticks How To Upgrade A Laptop's RAM, Step By Step How To Upgrade A Laptop's RAM, Step By Step Is your laptop old, slow, and has the hardware never been upgraded? Working on a slow computer can be a real drag. Before you buy a completely new one, however, you should consider ways to... Read More , take them out and reseat them.

Laptop RAM

If that doesn’t solve your issues and if you only have one RAM stick, try moving it to a different slot. If you have two sticks, try booting the computer with one stick removed and try both sticks in different slots.

Should none of that work, try to get a working RAM module for a final test, but make sure you can return it in case it turns out that something else is broken.

Display

Until recently, I thought a display was almost impossible to fix. And then I dropped my laptop and my display was toast.

Symptoms: Other than obvious damage to the display, your display might not turn on at all. In this case, try to connect an external monitor, to exclude motherboard damage.

Fix: If everything works fine with an external monitor, chances are you can repair your laptop by replacing the broken display. I have previously described the process of dealing with a broken screen on your laptop Busted - How To Deal With a Broken Screen On Your Laptop Busted - How To Deal With a Broken Screen On Your Laptop Over the past couple of years I have traveled a lot and took my work with me wherever I went. I worked from the most ridiculous and beautiful places all over North America and Europe.... Read More . It’s not easy, but it often can be done without special tools or skills, and it’s surprisingly affordable.

Broken Laptop Display

What If Your Laptop Is Broken Beyond Repair?

Sometimes the damage is not to be found with any of those relatively easy-to-replace parts. When the motherboard, the CPU, or the GPU are damaged, or when one of the parts simply cannot be replaced easily, it’s best to salvage any parts that are still functional Disposing Of An Old Laptop - What To Recycle, What To Keep Disposing Of An Old Laptop - What To Recycle, What To Keep Laptops are a treasure trove of parts that can live more than one life. Whether they continue a life as spare part or become the subject of a DIY tech project, you can get a... Read More and recycle the remaining electronic waste.

Have you ever repaired an old laptop? Which part was broken and how did you fix it?

Image Credits: Zombie Powerbook Via Flickr

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