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Due to the integrated nature of laptops, troubleshooting notebook components is significantly harder than troubleshooting desktop components. The following table provides some troubleshooting guidelines to follow when working with laptop computers:

Component Troubleshooting Tips
Power Notebooks can run from either AC power through the transformer or from battery power. When troubleshooting power, verify that:
  • The cord from the AC outlet to the power adapter is correctly plugged into both the wall and the adapter unit. Move it around to see if a more secure connection can be made.
  • The LED light on your power adapter is lit. If it isn't lit, this means that your point of failure is between the outlet and the adapter.
  • Your battery is sufficiently charged. If the battery reads it is fully charged in Windows, disconnect your laptop from its power source. If the battery lasts only a short amount of time, you can assume that your battery needs to be replaced.
  • If the computer runs for only a short time even while plugged in, it could be that the power adapter is bad. If the adapter is not working, the computer will run off of the battery until the battery is drained. Try using a different adapter, or verify the power coming from the adapter.
Video When you experience video problems:
  • One of the first things to try is to press the Fn (Function) and the appropriate display key to switch the display output to the laptop monitor.
  • Check the screen brightness levels to make sure the backlight is not turned down all of the way. Some notebooks have an automatic backlight that dims or gets brighter based on the available light.
  • If the display is very dim, the most likely cause is the backlight, although a failing inverter might also be the cause. To test the inverter or the backlight, use special testing tools or replace with components that you know to be working.
  • If the built-in monitor isn't working, connect an external monitor to the laptop. Use the Fn keys to direct output to the external monitor.
  • If you don't get a display on either monitor, you can assume that there is a problem with the video card. Depending on the computer, you might be able to replace the video card, or you might need to replace the entire motherboard.
  • If the display renders on the external monitor but still won't render on your laptop, then you can assume that there is a problem with your LCD display. If this is the case, you should verify that:
    • Your LCD cutoff switch is working. Sometimes the switch can get stuck in the off position, thus preventing the display from being sent to the LCD.
    • There aren't cracks in the bezel around your LCD. This can be an indicator that your LCD has been damaged.
    • The power bundles that go from your laptop to the LCD are not damaged or cracked. You must remove the bezel around the LCD to inspect the power bundles.
Additional problems with laptop displays include:
  • Dead spots are areas on your screen (sometimes entire rows or columns of pixels) that no longer work. This means that your LCD assembly is no longer functioning and you will need to replace it. Be aware that it is often cheaper to purchase a new laptop computer than to replace the display.
  • A flickering screen can be caused by a faulty backlight or inverter.
If you know that your LCD needs to be replaced but you don't have the resources to buy a new LCD or a new laptop, you can consider converting your laptop into a desktop system by hooking it up to an external monitor permanently. If the video card is bad, you might be able to use a remote solution, such as Remote Desktop, to connect to the laptop from an external system.
Portable Components The most common portable components used with laptop systems are keyboards, mice, digitizer pads, and antennae. The following list suggests troubleshooting methods to use when working with these components:
  • A bad keyboard can be tested by plugging in an external keyboard to your laptop and seeing if it works. If it does, you can assume that your laptop keyboard is malfunctioning and needs to be replaced.
  • Most notebook systems have features that cause keyboard keys to perform alternate functions, such as emulating 10-key functionality by turning on the NumLock. Before troubleshooting other problems, make sure that no special features are enabled that may cause keys to perform alternate tasks.
  • Mouse malfunction on a laptop is usually caused by the installation of an incorrect driver. Good indicators that the incorrect driver has been installed are if the laptop mouse's sensitivity isn't consistent or if the mouse doesn't recognize a double tap.
  • A digitizer pad is used in laptop and PDA systems to receive input. Input is written onto the pad with a stylus pen, then those motions are transferred into data that is processed by the system. If this pad becomes scratched, the laptop or PDA cannot receive input correctly. This is most easily resolved by buying a cleaning product called Screen Clean. This product removes the top layer of plastic from the digitizer pad, thus removing existing scratches and giving the pad a fresh surface. However, you will need to replace the digitizer pad or buy a new system if the scratch is too deep.
  • Another problem that digitizer pads face is called drift. Drift occurs when a pad's pressure sensors need to be realigned. If this is the case, your digitizer pad needs to be recalibrated. It is always best to address this issue before it progresses to the point that you can't access the recalibration utility.
  • Though laptop antennae are supposed to be omni-directional, they sometimes need to be re-oriented to get the best reception. This can usually be done by moving the laptop until the reception picks up. If redirecting the antennae doesn't work and wireless reception is consistently poor, the antennae may need to be replaced.
  • Many laptops include a switch that turns the wireless network card on and off. When troubleshooting wireless network connectivity, make sure the switch is turned on.
As long as your laptop runs, you can substitute an external device connected to a PS/2, USB, PCMCIA, or ExpressCard slot for most failed components, allowing you to continue using the computer.