How do you fix a fried laptop?
November 8, 2009 9:20 AM   Subscribe

How badly have I fried my laptop?

I went to a friend's house last night to watch a perfectly legally downloaded movie, and planned to hook my laptop up to his TV with an S-Video cable. Well, something wasn't grounded - when I touched the S-Video cable to the jack on his TV, there was a spark and my laptop shut off.

Now it's a brick. No power lights, no response at all.

I'm going to find all of this out on Monday when I take it in to the repair shop, but I'm anxious: how badly have I damaged it? Is this the kind of thing that can be repaired? How much does it cost? And most importantly - is all my data recoverable?

If it matters, it's a 4-year-old Gateway laptop. All educated guesses welcome. Thank you!
posted by Bobby Bittman to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It seems a bit unusual that this would happen from a video cable, but if you aren't getting any response at all when you try to boot it, it's likely to be a problem with the power supply. This is good news if so - if your power supply broke first, it's possible you didn't fry the rest of your motherboard. PSes have protection against current surges and will break first, before anything else, to protect the more expensive stuff.
posted by doteatop at 9:27 AM on November 8, 2009

For what it is worth, the data is almost certainly recoverable. It is very unlikely that your hard drive was fried - it is more likely the power supply or motherboard. That being said, there is a reasonable chance that the repair shop will erase the drive and reformat it just because that is what they do. If you have the chance to open the laptop, remove the drive, put it in an enclosure, and then copy the date off, then you should do that before you take it in. Or ask the repair place to remove the drive first off, and put a new one in when they do the repair.
posted by procrastination at 9:31 AM on November 8, 2009

Yeah, more than likely it is a bad motherboard. And yeah, more than likely the data is still there.

It is probable that what got fried was the video card- it is *possible* that that machine has a separate video card module and that can be replaced separately.

Things to try- remove the battery and try to start it on AC only. And vice versa. Try removing all the accessories- hard drive, cdrom and starting it that way. If you can get to the memory, try removing it and seeing if you get any different behavior. If there are two chips, try starting with one or another.
posted by gjc at 10:03 AM on November 8, 2009

A motherboard plus labor for a 4 year old laptop is probably not worth it. I would consider this a sign to buy a new machine. You can get your old data off by taking the laptop hard drive out and putting it in a usb enclosure. Bonus, 'free' external hard drive.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:08 AM on November 8, 2009

If the power-surge came through the S-Video connection.. .then your laptops AC Adapter would offer no protection. (since the electricity "jumped" through the S-video cable directly to the motherboard. Have you tried unplugging the AC Adapter.. removing the battery.. and letting it sit for a few minutes before attempting to power it ON again?.. still dead?... you probably fried the motherboard.. and for a 4yr old laptop, replacing the motherboard is most definitely not worth it. (maybe,.. if you could find a matching machine on Ebay and do the motherboard swap yourself.. but thats difficult work, even for someone familiar with laptop internals)

On the good side.. your data is most likely OK.. a power surge wouldn't (in most cases) affect the hard drive.. so as others have said, all you'd have to do is pull out the hard drive and put it in an external USB enclosure -- then plug it into another computer and pull your data off.
posted by jmnugent at 10:29 AM on November 8, 2009

Similar thing happened to me; Nthing motherboard. Was able to replace the machine and have a computer repair shop recover the contents of the hard drive.
posted by citywolf at 11:59 AM on November 8, 2009

Er, what kind of spark? Was it a discharge of static electricity, or did current electricity flowing? Are you in a cold, dry environment?

I don't know if the answer to this matters to your efforts to recover data, but it might help you to know whether this thing is likely to happen again in similar circumstances.

If it was a large arcing pop, then it's not your fault, and you could perhaps claim a warranty replacement based on defective design. (Maybe.)
posted by cmiller at 2:20 PM on November 8, 2009

If you can diagnose the problem and fix it yourself or get a friend to do it then go for it. Otherwise don't spend money at a repair center on a 4 year old laptop. You can easily buy a new one for the amount that you would spend repairing this.
posted by WizKid at 2:56 PM on November 8, 2009

« Older Park City ski schools?   |   Knit one, purl one, turn the plastic handle? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.