Broken laptop, how much to fix?

This afternoon, I dropped my laptop. It’s a Dell Inspiron 640m. The display is very dim, there are five green bars about a quarter of the way from the bottom and the resolution is very wonky, like the resolution is at the lowest setting possible. Aside from these problems, there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with the screen.

I took it to Geek Squad, where the guy booted it up. The screen was completely dark. He thought it might be the video card or the LCD screen. The video card would be $300 to $600 to fix, and the screen would be $700 to $900 to fix. Based on the fact that there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with the screen, I’m thinking it’s the video card.

How much should I realistically expect to pay for these repairs? I don’t want to pay that much if I don’t have to.

Robin

This could be as simple as a loose connector to the LCD. This is usually a relatively simple fix.

When you say, ‘green bars’, can you elaborate? All the way across the screen? At those prices replacement is likely a better option.

A new screen is probably about $200 and moderately easy to install yourself.

I don’t know where you’d get a Dell-compatible video card, but it’d be even easier to install yourself. I’d surprised if it was much over $100 for a used card, maybe $250 new. Finding one is the hard part.

The green bars were five thin green bars (like a music staff) running all the way across the bottom of the screen, about a quarter of the way up from the bottom.

Robin

puter shop owner checks in.

$200 is probably typical for a screen on this model, googling yeilds several hits for $130ish (expect a significant markup). In my shop this would be roughly a $300 repair.

This cab be a partially dislodged connector but could also and probably more likely damage to a cable or connector from the fall.

This unit based on a quick google uses Intel 945GM Express Integrated Graphics Controller, its not a separate video card, its part of the motherboard meaning dead video = new mobo for the vast majority of shops. A few places can repair the board but most cannot (myself included)

Price points for new mobo in this case probably similar $200 range but about twice as much work. Call it about $400-$450.

How would I troubleshoot this to rule out one or the other?

Robin

If you have access to one, plug your laptop into a regular monitor, if the green lines still appear…motherboard, if not, its just the LCD.

Gotcha. That’s easy enough to do.

Thanks, everyone. Fortunately, I know several competent people (not including myself; I’d probably damage it worse) who can fix it in exchange for pizza and beer and maybe a pack of smokes.

Robin

If only all business could be done like that. Bring back bartering, I say!:slight_smile:

If the display is normal with an external monitor, head over to Dell’s website and find the instructions on how to open it up and how to service the “Display Assembly and Display Latch” Once inside, unplug and re-plug the display cable. Stop there - you don’t need to mess with the Mini-Card wiring unless you wind up needing to replace the LCD panel. Put it back together and fire it up.

With luck, it will be back to normal. A few years ago, a co-worker dropped their laptop four feet to concrete. The impact dislodged the display cable diagonally in its socket - one side was held in with a bracket and screw. Amazingly, that was the only thing knocked loose and nothing permanently damaged.

As best as I can tell, the only thing wrong is the display. It basically slid a few feet and it was in a padded neoprene sleeve surrounded by cables onto a carpeted floor. So unless it’s something that was on its way to breaking anyway, I’m hoping that’ll do it.

And, as long as I’ve got it open, I’ll give the keyboard a good cleaning. It’s about due for one.

Robin

Chances are pretty high it’s the screen itself or the VGA cable/connection interface not the VGA card. If the notebook spends it’s life in one place an easier and more value adding thing to do would be to get a LCD monitor. They are dirt cheapand are orders of magnitude nicer than the existing screen. Once the external monitor is connected and external video set to switch on automatically you can turn it on, close the lid quickly and the notebook will use the external monitor while closed.

Once the notebook is old in the tooth you can toss it and still continue to use the screen for other computers

The problem is that we use it when we travel and such, so a monitor isn’t the most practical solution.

I’m going to start with the wiring and work my way to other issues if that doesn’t work.

Robin

I hooked my laptop up to the monitor, and it worked just fine. I did have to go through the self-repair utility, but that appears to have worked. The laptop’s screen works, so it’s not that at all. :slight_smile:

However, the wireless card isn’t working. It failed the self-test. So I’ll go in and check it out to see if it might have been worked loose. If it hasn’t, well, that’s what card slots are for.

Robin

Airman re-seated the wireless card, and it works fine now.

Thanks, everyone! This went from being a potentially $900 repair to nothing at all.

Robin

Yet another example of why NOT to use Geek Squad!

That’s why I posted here before I signed it over to Geek Squad. The guy didn’t hook it up to anything, he just turned it on to see what happened. When nothing did, he assumed that it was the video card or the LCD. Had I OK’d the work, I’d still be on the hook for bench time to diagnose the non-problem, and that’s not cheap, either.

So by posting here, people who know more about this than I do walked me through what I needed to do. Fortunately, it was nothing. Had the wireless card been broken, that’s $45 and five minutes’ installation. I also have the repair documentation bookmarked in case I have to do anything in the future.

/glowing testimonial

Robin

Since everything worked out so well for you MsRobyn, I hope you won’t mind if I tack a question on here at the end. :slight_smile: I’ve never had a laptop before, but the Other Half bought me a similar one ( Dell Inspiron 1525) for Xmas and I was wondering how much it would ever cost to, say, replace the keyboard. I use it quite a bit, so I’m a little concerned that I could possibly wear it out. To prevent that, I’m going to buy a stand-alone keyboard to use most of the time, but thought I’d check with others just in case. Thanks in advance!

A friend of mine replaced her keyboard on a very old Dell (I’m not sure of the exact model, but it’s an Inspiron of some description, about 4 years old) and that cost her about £90 including postage and taxes. She looked up the system disassembly guide on Dell’s website and installed the keyboard herself; took about 15 minutes and a screwdriver.

I don’t really think you need to worry about wearing the keyboard out; and if it does it’s not a terribly expensive fix. If you prefer the ergonomics of an external keyboard, that’s a good reason to get one, though.

I’ve had mine for almost two years now, and the keyboard is fine, it’s just in need of a good cleaning.

If you do need parts, just Google whatever it is. You’ll find what you need. I’m also learning that you don’t need much more than a set of small screwdrivers and some manual dexterity to replace parts.

I will advocate for the use of an external mouse, however. The left button on the trackpad has lost its springiness, so it’s impossible to use. I’ve been using an external mouse, and it’s been working out just fine.

Robin