A lesson in computer maintenance

Going into the summer storm season, I had what I thought at the time was a brilliant and cunning plan – take my not-too-often used laptop computer down in the basement and leave it there in case we would need to relocate there for a tornado warning. This is an extension of last year’s idea of taking it down just for the event and then bringing it back upstairs after the storm had passed.

The day that I had decided to do this, there was a threat of storms so I chose to set it up with Firefox running with tabs for the local National Weather Service office and a couple of radar views open, reloading automatically. I also had installed TightVNC so that I could take control from my main computer to see if everything was working well down there, and in fact to see if the system was still going (it has overheating issues, and has been prone to random shutdowns at times). It all went well, and the threat of storms had passed, so I shut down the computer and left it downstairs and plugged in (mostly just to waste power since the battery in there has never taken a charge properly).

I didn’t start it up again for about a month or so, until I wanted to check how a page looked in a really old version of Firefox Firebird. I go and start it up, and everything works fine, so I decide that it’s best that I come back upstairs and take remote control over the computer from my desktop. Again, that works fine until I get a message saying that there was no response received from the computer. I go downstairs to see that the screen was on, but completely frozen, so I figure that it’s best to bring it back upstairs.

Here’s the thing about our basement – it’s unfinished with concrete floors and walls, and also a tendency to be on the moist side. I don’t know of that had anything to do with what has happened to my laptop, but I’m guessing it’s a factor. If you don’t have a climate controlled basement, don’t leave a laptop down there, it won’t do any good. If you need to, just carry it with you in a storm.

So anyway, I get the laptop back upstairs and get it all hooked up again, turn it on; it boots like normal, goes into Windows, works for about 5 or 10 minutes and then the screen freezes again. I think I managed to get what I needed to get done after two or three attempts to do it. However, as it now seems, that might have been the last time I’ll have used the laptop properly.

A couple of days passed until I tried to start it up again, and when I did, the screen wouldn’t go on – that was solved, of all things, by turning it upside down. Then, the other day, I plug it in and try to start it up again. Now, it starts, the fan goes on for a few seconds, but then about 15 seconds into booting, it just goes off, five seconds pass and it starts up again. This process repeats until I manually turn it off.

So, now I have a laptop with some files that I’d like to have off of there (not critical files, but stuff I’d like to have), and seemingly no way to get it off of there. I guess it’s fair to say that all electronics have a lifespan – and this is no different. I’ve had the laptop since October, 2001 (a week before XP came out, but it was preinstalled on there. To get over five years of functional life from a laptop is probably good, though most of the parts on there (hard drive, screen, fan) are about three years old – they were replaced on the extended warranty.

Does anyone have any idea what I might be able to do to get it going again (it’s an HP Pavilion N5475 – 1Ghz AMD processor with 256 MB of memory and a 30gig hard drive)? Or does it look like I have a hunk of dead computer on my hand?

Also, how in the heck do you open the case on a laptop – I’ve taken almost all the screws (the only ones I’ve not gotten to are the ones in the body under the screen) out but have had no luck in taking the bottom off of it?

3 thoughts on “A lesson in computer maintenance

  1. Wow, I don’t have any specific useful suggestions for you. Though in general you might be able to find some help online, for getting the hard drive out of the laptop. Once you have the drive you should be able to connect it to pretty much any other computer, though you might need a semi-special cable. Again, I’m not sure but there must be plenty of other people who’ve gone down this path before you…

    If you have no success finding info, let me know. I might be able to find a laptop repair savvy person at work. Good luck!

  2. Well, it’s not the highest of priorities right now, but I’d like to have a chance to just get in there. It might just be that there’s a connection loose or something. It’s been through a couple of falls in the past, so it might just be that.

    If I can get the stuff, great, but I think I’d be somewhat okay if I couldn’t. However, I won’t take it to Best Buy or another repair shop – who knows what they’d do with the data that’s on there. Not that it’s anything sensitive or such, but I’d rather them not have access to it. šŸ™‚

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