Using a laptop screen as a display for a different laptop.
January 25, 2011 5:48 AM   Subscribe

My laptop has a broken screen. Before I send it off for repair, I need to back it up, but I can't do that without a screen. I don't have access to a monitor to plug it into, but I do have two other working laptops available. Can I somehow hook them up so I can use one of the working screens with the broken laptop?

I've asked around, but everyone I know has a laptop rather than a desktop, so I can't find a monitor to hook it up to.

The laptop with the broken screen that I need to back up is a Toshiba Satellite L300, about 18 months old. The other two I have are a 1-2 year old Dell, and an old Toshiba Satellite circa 2001. All are running Windows, if that matters. They can all be hooked up to the same network if required.

The only one I'd feel ok dismantling at all is the old Toshiba- the Dell isn't mine and the newer Toshiba is still under warranty. 

Is there a way to do this? What kind of cables would I need? Or is there some other way entirely to think about the problem?

I'm not scared of experimenting, but I'm not all that familiar with IT jargon, so plain English explanations appreciated.
posted by une_heure_pleine to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What I've done in the past is remove the hard drive before shipping the laptop off. I put the hard drive in a case like this and can then use any other computer to access my files. Plus, I don't risk the repair techs messing up my hard drive while they're working.
posted by katemonster at 5:55 AM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could always pop out the HD and hold on to it while the laptop is out for repairs. Since the issue is for the monitor, they won't need the HD in there to finish the job (or they could grab one of their own spares if they want to test a full boot).

If you still want to back up the drive, you could purchase a USB dongle like this one. It's a handy thing to have, and you might find yourself using it for other purposes down the road (can read any IDE/SATA device, so you can hook up DVDRW's as well. More here)
posted by samsara at 6:00 AM on January 25, 2011

For $15-$30 you can get USB to SATA adapters that will help you out - you plug one end into a laptop drive, the other into a USP port on some other machine, and there's your stuff. I'd take katemonster's advice and pull the drive (be gentle, but it's not terribly difficult - just ground yourself right before you start to avoid static) and if you need the files off of it buy one of those.

If it's that vintage of laptop it may still have a PATA drive in it, but most of the USB-SATA adapters I've seen will have a PATA port on them too.
posted by mhoye at 6:01 AM on January 25, 2011

Does anyone you know have a lcd or plasma TV? Most reasonably new TVs have VGA, DVI and/or HDMI inputs and should be about as easy to connect as an external monitor.
posted by rpn at 6:23 AM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

For the L300, you'll be fine with just a USB to SATA adapter as mhoye suggests. (IDE is an older connector type, in the event you wanted to attach the Satellite's HD to another computer) In this picture you can view the difference between the two types of data connectors. IDE is at the top, SATA (then red cable) at the bottom.

Another option I just thought of, if the broken laptop is still booting up fully you could possibly connect to it over the network (peferrably wired). If you know the laptop's name, you can connect to it's C drive by clicking start/run and typeing the following on the older laptop:

\\(newer laptop's name)\c$
omit the ('s

You'll need to log in as the administrator of the L300 to continue:

Username: (newer laptop's name)\(your account or the admin account)
Password: (your password)

Administrative shares are the drive letter followed by a $ symbol. This may be a little trickier to pull off, but is one alternative in case you don't want to take anything out of the laptop.
posted by samsara at 6:25 AM on January 25, 2011

Around here, one can almost always pick up a free monitor off Craigslist as people are buying new LCD monitors.
posted by advicepig at 6:47 AM on January 25, 2011

If you can get all the laptops on to the same network you could just remote into the broken one from a working one - if you don't have Remote Desktop setup already then some free tools will connect, install the necessary client and then connect you (DameWare MRC works this way, unfortunately it's not free any more). Once you have remote access, plug in a USB stick or whatever you're copying the files to into the broken laptop and do your backup with no network overhead.
posted by robertc at 7:36 AM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm nthing keeping the hard drive. They don't need it, and many companies tell you to keep it when sending in a computer for repair.
posted by borkencode at 7:54 AM on January 25, 2011

Best answer: I can't find a monitor to hook it up to.
Keep looking? I used to volunteer at an electronics recycler and reuse centre and we would take in dozens of functional CRT monitors per day, almost all of which go straight to recycling because they are worth less than zero dollars. Free monitors are out there. Try your workpalce too.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:22 AM on January 25, 2011

Best answer: Perhaps there's a digital video projector at your work/school that you could borrow? You should be able to treat it like an external monitor.

Also, are you assuming that your friends-with-laptops don't have monitors, or have you actually asked them? Lots of people hook up their laptops to external monitors for the extra resolution.
posted by vasi at 10:20 PM on January 26, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks all for your help, but it looks like I'm going to have to keep looking for a monitor somewhere. I can't remove the hard drive without voiding the warranty (and so also can't get it out to plug in a SATA cable), and it's not configured to share files over the network. Oh well, it was worth a try!
posted by une_heure_pleine at 5:24 AM on January 27, 2011

How do you know it's not configured to share files? Have you tried the default share \\[machine name]\c$?
posted by robertc at 3:59 PM on January 27, 2011

Response by poster: Follow-up: I managed to borrow a monitor for the purpose of backing it up to an external hard drive, and following a warranty repair have a shiny new screen. Thanks all for your suggestions.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 6:59 PM on March 4, 2011

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