We see a lot of damaged laptops each year. Since we are in a university town there are thousands of laptops in circulation every day. Laptops that seemingly contain the very lives of the students! The portability of laptops naturally exposes these devices to accidents. The tech store at the university now only repairs Apple products so we see a lot of laptop problems every month.
You should always assume that gravity will expose your computer to very hard surfaces or spilled drinks. Even when a laptop is in a case it can still be damaged. Therefore frequent backups to a separate device or in a cloud service is a must. If I had information for classes, photographs, music, etc. on a laptop, I would back up at least once a day.
Since laptops are so susceptible to damage, below are some tips for dealing with accidents when they happen:
- WARRANTIES: Check your computer’s warranty to see if it is still covered, what is covered, and what is not covered. Very likely you will need to talk to the manufacturer’s customer service department. If it is OK to take your laptop to a repair service, below are some recommendations.
- LIQUID SPILLS: Turn the power off and remove the battery. Open the cover and place the computer face down on towels. DO NOT TURN THE POWER ON FOR ANY REASON. Take the laptop to a trusted repair shop, like Keystone IT, to be opened by an expert. The technician will take it apart and dry everything out. Once the computer can safely be powered on, the technician can then assess the damage and give you your options.
- CRACKED SCREEN: A cracked screen cannot be repaired – only replaced. We do not recommend that owners try to replace the cracked screen on their own unless they have been trained and have had supervised experience. Some people can successfully follow on-line videos but even these can be a challenge for a novice.
The problem is that when removing the screen from the keyboard, it is very easy to damage a hinge or to crack the case. This then leads to cascading other problems and increasing costs.
- CRACKED CASE: A cracked case might not appear to be much of a worry, but sometimes a crack is a major worry. Everything is so packed into a laptop’s case, a crack in it can compromise the stability of the components inside, leading to cracks and breaks in key components. Best to get this damage repaired or replaced before the problem escalates.
- HARD DRIVE PROBLEM: Often when a laptop is dropped, the hard drive is damaged. A spinning hard drive (not a solid state drive) has moving parts. The moving parts can damage the surface of the platters and/or can damage the mechanisms themselves. The best thing to do is to immediately shut the computer down and take it to an expert for an evaluation. Sometimes data can be recovered and sometimes hard drives can be made to run. However, we recommend that damaged hard drives should never be trusted again.
Because of the natural vulnerabilities of laptops, we advise clients to specify solid state drives (SSD) for new laptops. They have no moving parts, they boot up faster, run cooler and run faster. They cost more, but are well worth it.
- POWER PROBLEMS: A problem we see often is a laptop that will not charge. Sometimes it is the power cord with the built-in adapter or the power supply. These are easy to diagnose and remedy. Most of the time, however, the plug where the power cord connects to the laptop has broken its mounting connection inside the case. The connector inside is usually very fragile and breaks when too much stress is placed on the plug. This happens when the plug is not carefully inserted and removed. This can be repaired, but again, it should only be attempted by a technician or an experienced layman. It is very easy to crack the plastic pieces of the case and the internal mountings making a good repair nearly impossible.
Many of these problems can be repaired for $100 – $150. At Keystone IT, we will only recommend repairs if it makes sense. Often, computers have depreciated more than the owner thinks, and putting more money into an older machine, with other age-related problems looming, may not make sense. So we may recommend repairs, or we may recommend a new laptop. We can help with either, but that decision is left up to the owner.