What to Do With a Broken Laptop?

edited August 2023 in PC Tech

Tried everything, and your laptop still won't start. Whether it's a hardware or a software issue, deciding what to do next is a dilemma we have all faced with a certain level of dread. There are lots of things that could affect your decision, including:

  • How long before you must have a computer to use? 
  • How old is the laptop? 
  • Is it under warranty? 
  • Is the damage permanent? 
  • How many computer geeks do you know who can help you work out what to do?

After your initial panic, the second thing to do is congratulate yourself on backing up regularly, right? Alternatively, if you always meant to set up a regular backup system but never got around to it and don't use a cloud to store your stuff, you will want to get your precious data as quickly as possible.

Look at the basics first

 Firstly, take these steps to confirm it is a hardware issue, not a software problem.

  • Is the battery flat? 
  • Is the battery low but charging? 
  • Is it turned on? 
  • Is the power light working? 
  • Is the power cable correctly connected to the laptop, transformer, and wall socket? 
  • Will another appliance work on the same power source?

If that all looks ok, then these tips might help you to get it going again:

  • Turn off the computer, wait a few minutes, and then turn it on again. 
  • Take the battery completely out of the case and then put it back before turning the computer on again.

Microsoft suggests if the:

  • Screen is black: press the Windows logo key + Ctrl + Shift + B. 
  • Screen has gone to sleep and won't wake up: press the Windows logo key + P or Ctrl + Alt + Del

Listen for any sounds the laptop makes when you turn it on – if the fan is running or the hard drive is spinning, it might be fine, but the screen is broken. Try connecting an external screen to access the data on your PC.

Contact the official manufacturer or your local computer repair shop for additional help.

If the above doesn't breathe life back into your laptop and you have access to the internet, then try:

  • Searching for suggestions that might have caused the computer to fail. 
  • Find the official manufacturer's helpline or the manual to see if you can work out the issue and if it has a quick fix. 
  • Contact the official manufacturer directly to see if they can repair the machine or if another technician in your area is an agent for the make and model of your laptop i.e. Contact Acer.

Evaluate your broken laptop: Learn what is broken and what is not? 

Evaluating what is broken and what can be salvaged is vital because once this is determined, you can then decide what to do with the computer. Unless you can test and evaluate your computer, you'll need a technician to help you.

If your computer is under 2 years old and assuming you didn't damage the computer with water or by dropping it on a hard surface, it is likely to be under warranty. So, contact the manufacturer to learn about your options.

Even if your laptop is an older model, try contacting the official manufacturer to see if they have a technician in your local area, or check with your local computer repairer to see if they can work on your computer.

Once the evaluation has been completed and you know whether it is something you can work around - like a keyboard, mouse, or screen issue - or whether it is something that you need a technician to deal with, then you can decide how to proceed.

1) Repair your laptop 

Laptops are almost as modular as desktops. But, due to their small size, they are not always as easy to repair or upgrade as desktops.

In some cases, repairs are quick and not necessarily expensive. Maybe you need a new battery or part for your:

  • Microphone 
  • Camera 
  • Mouse 
  • Keyboard 
  • Screen

Talk to an expert who can tell you your options and whether the machine is fixable. The right decision could be to take the device to your local computer repairer or return it to the manufacturer. Check Acer support for more details and warranty information.

Once you have repaired it, you can use it, give it away, sell it, or repurpose it. 

 2) Repurpose your laptop 

Once you have determined the laptop cannot be fixed, the most important things to remember are:

A. Make art 

Maybe you can do something cool with it, like creating art. You could take it apart and use the pieces for sculpture, making key rings, pictures, jewelry, or other objets d'art by framing or coating them in resin or acrylic glass. Read our repurposing your computer for more inspiration.

B. Broken component options 

If only the screen is broken, you can do lots with it by connecting it to an external screen. If the mouse or keyboard is not working, try plug-in or wireless options to see if they will work. Then you have lots of choices available to you:

  • Make a media center and play music or videos. 
  • Turn it into a sandbox and experiment with the software you have always wanted to try out. 
  • Have a dedicated social media laptop for the whole family. 
  • Keep your computer at home with you but donate its processing power to not-for-profit Science United.org to help the world advance scientific knowledge.

C. Use the hard drive as an external hard drive 

If the hard drive still works, and the laptop is otherwise unusable, remove it and use it as an external hard drive.

D. Turn it into a Chromebook 

You can still use the hard drive as a Linux machine if the hard drive dies. Just make a bootable Chromebook USB key and a new computer. Follow our How to Turn an Old Laptop into a Chromebook guide

3) Sell or re-use the laptop for parts 

Many people seek spare parts or broken computers to salvage the necessary pieces. It is unlikely the whole laptop will be broken. Just remember to thoroughly wipe the hard drive if you part with it.

  • ItsWorthMore.com: Answer questions about your laptop, and they will value it with payments within 2 days. 
  • eBay: You can sell parts or the whole laptop. Include detailed descriptions of what you're selling and any defects or damage they may have. 
  • Bestbuy: Offers a trade-in on old laptops. 
  • Local Dealers or repair shops: They may buy components such as the screen, keyboard, or battery.

4) Donate your laptop 

If the laptop is still functional, but unneeded, donate it to an organization that will refurbish and upgrade it for others needing a computer. The types of organizations that do this sort of thing include:

By donating your computer through these channels, you can help others and help yourself safely dispose of your laptop. It's a win-win for everyone involved! However, again you must wipe the hard drive before making your donation.

5) Recycle your laptop 

The world faces a significant issue with electronic waste from computers, TVs, and phones. This includes chargers, power cables, other accessories, and machines. Unfortunately, the United States is not an exception to this problem. According to Global e-waste.org, in 2019, the US produced a staggering 21 kilograms per person.

Only around 15% of e-waste is recycled, yet it contains valuable materials such as gold, copper, and nickel that can be reused. Here are some options to recycle:

  • Check earth911 to find a recycling center by your zip code. 
  • Acer's Recycling Program: Read our guide for recycling according to your state. 
  • Many electronics stores like Staples and Best Buy will recycle old computers for free.

We all must try to help the planet by doing something sensible with e-waste.

Deciding what to do with a broken laptop depends on how badly damaged it is and how inventive you can be with rehoming it or finding a new purpose for the machine. The one thing you do not want to do is to put your laptop in the trash. 

Robert is a Taiwan-based writer and digital marketer at iamrobert design. He has a passion for helping people simplify their lives through tech.


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