Easy fixes for common laptop problems

A laptop can be an expensive item to replace, but if you can act quickly, many common issues are easily fixed with minimal to no cost.

Easy fixes for common laptop problems

I’ve scratched my laptop screen

Reach for the petroleum jelly

All but the deepest scratches can be filled and disguised. First, clean the affected area using a fresh lint-free cloth dipped in water. Wipe it dry with a second lint-free cloth.

  • For shallow scratches, lightly rub the affected area with a clean, soft pencil eraser, following the direction of the scratch. You might need to repeat this several times before the scratch disappears.
  • Fill deeper scratches with petroleum jelly. Press the jelly into the scratch with a clean finger, then wipe away the excess with a lint-free cloth. The jelly left within the scratch has similar optical properties to the screen material, making the blemish less noticeable. In time, when the jelly wears off, simply reapply as above.

I’ve spilled water on my laptop

Power down and act quickly

The biggest danger posed by spilled liquids is that they cause short circuits that permanently damage delicate circuitry.

  • Unplug the charger immediately, if it is connected. Your machine should revert to battery power.
  • Shut down the laptop. If your machine's battery is failing, keep the charger connected — but only for the time needed to shut it down safely. If the charger is wet, unplug it immediately.
  • Disconnect any attached hardware, such as storage devices, network and audio cables, and so on.
  • If possible, remove the battery pack. You'll usually need to release one or more catches on the base of the computer. In some machines, the battery cannot be removed easily, in which case, proceed with the battery in place.
  • Open the screen at right-angles; hold the laptop upside down and sway it from side to side to encourage water to drip out.
  • Place a dry towel on a table. Set the laptop keyboard-down on the towel, with the screen hanging over the side of the table. Leave overnight in a warm, well-ventilated place.
  • Next day, hold a hair dryer about six inches above the keyboard, and blast warm air into the machine for 15 minutes. Constantly move the hair dryer to avoid creating hot spots.

I broke my screen and I need my files

Hook up to an external monitor

A broken screen will need a professional repair, but in the meantime, you may still be able to access your important files. Put your laptop to your ear; if you can hear whirring, then there's a good chance that it is still operational. If so, try connecting the laptop to an external screen.

  • Look on the rear and side panel of your laptop. Most models have a socket through which you can connect the laptop to a monitor. In most cases, this will be a VGA socket with 15 holes (five holes in three rows), but could also be a DVI socket. You'll now need to buy or borrow a compatible cable through which to connect your laptop to an external monitor.
  • When connected, copy all your important data to a USB stick, removable hard drive or CD/DVD and send your faulty laptop for professional screen repair.
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