Hardware problems of laptops and notebooks

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There is an array of problems that are peculiar to laptops not experienced on desktop systems.

This page is intended to give some insight to the hardware problems you may have expierienced with your laptop. Also made with laptop parts, all-in-one computers and mini desktop systems (the size of a dictionary and smaller) can experience similar problems. The information provided is not presented as the last word on the various hardware problems you may experience with your notebook.

Power & startup issues;

  • AC power adapter; if you aren’t sure if your ac adapter puts out the required voltage, you may want to try ejecting the battery (with the system off), then connecting the ac adapter to see if it will run the laptop.
  • Battery Fire: please be safe if this happens, but note that it may still be possible to do file recovery after a fire.
  • BIOS resets when the laptop is off (you always have to set the time and date); usually because of the cmos battery needing to be replaced.
  • DC jack; if the ac adapter must be held in a certain position to charge the battery or run the laptop without the battery, the dc jack may be broken or have a cold solder joint.
  • Passworded BIOS or hard drive; can frequently be cleared, but may sometimes require hardware replacement.
  • Random shut down; may also be caused by processor overheating possibly from a non-functional heatsink fan or heatsink compound that has dried out.
  • Shut down shortly after start up; can be symptomatic of a processor that has overheated too often and may need replalcement.

Display problems;

  • Black screen (no display); many laptops have the ability to display to standard monitor, the LCD screen, or both. Pressing the fn key (to the left of the spacebar) and the appropriate function key (usually f5, f6, f7, or f8) can sometimes turn on your LCD screen or output to a monitor if some of the LCD hardware has a problem.
  • Cracked or broken LCD screen; a sharp enough impact to break the screen can damage adjacent hardware also.
  • Display has lines; may have been caused by handling the LCD screen at the corner instead of the center. Unfortunately, the only fix for this annoyance is replacement of the screen.
  • Intermittent display; frequently caused by loose cable connections.
  • Loose or broken hinges or other lid hardware, such as the latch, can result in other display problems.
  • Part of the display missing; can be the result of loose hardware, such as hinges. Caught early on, reconnection of cables and tightening of hinges, etc., may solve this problem.
  • Screen dims or goes out; likely caused by a tired backlight or power inverter.
  • White screen; may be caused by incorrect contrast setting or corroded connection in the video cabling.

Hard Drive Problems;

  • Drive not recognized; this can happen even freshly installing a new drive. Even as there have been advances in the capacity that make some drives inappropriate for some systems, the drive speed can also have the effect of being unworkable.
  • File recovery or transfer from a dead laptop or to a new system
  • Hard drive upgrades (copy your old drive to the new drive) give you more space when you need it and a good backup drive with your operating system, drivers, and most used software already installed.
  • Installation; besides the upgrade option mentioned here, it is possible to install a second drive in some larger laptops and totally back up an existing drive so that either can be booted up.
  • Noisy hard drive; clinks, clunks, etc. are indicative of a drive which may be failing. If your operating system still functions, you may resuscitate the drive with a surface scan.

Other laptop problems;

  • CD/DVD or Floppy replacement; before taking this step, try a cleaner. Floppy cleaners are more difficult to find now than cleaners for a CD/DVD drive whch are available at office supply or computer stores.
  • Keyboard replacement; if your keyboard has no obvious damage, you may simply need to change some settings in the BIOS or the operating system. Note that the setting for an English keyboard reverses the letters Q & A from the French keyboard with other differences for other languages. Also some keys may be used as a number pad.
  • Memory testing, replacement, or upgrade; note that within the Administrative Tools of the Control Panel in Windows Vista, there is a Memory Diagnostic which can be scheduled to run at startup.
  • Overheating; if vented air is obviously hot, rather than just warm, be advised to have this resolved before the only repair available is to replace a burnt out processor.
  • Printer port problems; many later model laptop have no printer port and those that do my have them disabled by default. This is compounded by the standard in Windows Xp to also disable a printer port to free up the associated interrupt unless it is specifically activated in the Device Manager.
  • Spill; please be safe if this happens by disconnecting your ac adapter and shutting down as quickly as possible. Note that it may still be possible to do file recovery after a spill even if the laptop will no longer run.
  • Touchpad is non-functional; many later model laptops have a button to turn off the touchpad while using a usb or wireless mouse. If the touchpad is engaged, there is usually an led that would be lit indicating that it is on.
  • Wireless issues; many laptops with internal wireless have a button, switch, or function key (used with the ‘fn’ key to the left of the spacebar) to turn it on. If the wireless is engaged, there is usually an led that would be lit.