What to do with a busted laptop?

Broken Laptop 1 My wife’s 17” HP Pavillion laptop broke; when I say that it broke I do not mean that the OS crashed or that the hard disk was defective, or even that the motherboard fried, which are all legitimate reasons for computers to stop working.  It seems that a couple of people liked to carry the open laptop from place to place by the screen, and eventually the hinge broke.  The screen still works, the system itself is great, but it neither closes nor opens properly, and to top that off much of the plastic frame is broken and bits of wire and electronics are exposed where they should not be.  Add to the damage caused by humans there is also damage  done by dogs… Gingit at one point decided to learn to type, and when she got bored ATE the F3, F7, and T keys.  _ry _yping a le__er wihou_ _he le__er _ and you will unders_and my frus_ration.

We looked into getting the damage fixed but the quotes were over $500… not worth it for a three year old laptop that is one of 5 laptops and 13 computers in the house.  It has been sitting on a shelf in my office for months.

As I prepare for my Windows 7 Launch Party (http://www.houseparty.com/party/175335) this week I am planning all sorts of demos… Media Center, Deployment, and more.  As I planned it out  I realized I did not particularly want to use any of my primary machines lying around… although I can do a pretty good job of securing them I really don’t want just anyone playing with them; I plan to mingle and do not want to spend my time (or assign people to) watching my laptops for funny business.  So I looked on the shelf to Broken Laptop 3seek alternatives.  I decided to spin up the HP and see how it worked… and of course it worked flawlessly.

I popped in the USB key that I created in my last article (Creating a Multi-OS Installation USB Key) and booted from it – I knew I had already moved all data off the disused laptop – and installed Windows 7 x64 Ultimate.  Fifteen minutes later the only error message I received was that the Microsoft Security Essentials could not be installed because I had only included the x86 installation file… everything else worked flawlessly!

So what do we do with a busted laptop?  It is certainly not worth paying to fix… but is it worth throwingBroken Laptop 5 out?  Absolutely not.

The first question I asked myself is if the whole is worth more than the sum of its parts?  Simply put, if I were to cannibalize it would the components be worth more to me than the unit as a whole?  As the system itself is functioning perfectly (including the screen) the quick answer is no… the interchangeable components are just too inexpensive these days for them to be worth more separately.

So what is the real damage?  The computer works fine, the screen is  great, it is simply the hinge that is unusable.  Thus the only part that does not work is the portability!  What was once a portable laptop is now destined to be a stationary desktop.  I should mention that if the screen was NOT working this would still be a good solution, only I would need an external monitor for it to work.

Broken Laptop 6Next came the question of the keyboard… It made me think for a few minutes because I actually had a few options, now that I knew that the system would be stationary… I could add an external keyboard to it of course, but there are also a number of systems that do not require a keyboard… servers!  I would never make a busted up laptop a full production server, but what about a test environment?  A Terminal Server?  A Home Server?  I even briefly considered, knowing that it is how it  started its life converting it into a Media Center PC to run my TV!  All viable options, but as my wife and I just bought a PVR, and because I have a really good server already, that it was destined to become a desktop PC.

So I now have an extra demo unit for the launch party.  But what should I do with it after the launch?Broken Laptop 4

I do not spend a lot of time there but I actually do have an office… desk and all!  The only thing I do not have there is a computer, because I always come and go with my laptop.  Starting this week that will not be the case; I will install the former laptop there, set up remote access, a keyboard and mouse, and for about $60 in hardware I will have a perfectly functioning – though not necessarily pretty – desktop computer.  I laugh not because of my ingenuity, but because no fewer than five people and charitable Broken Laptop 3organizations refused it as a donation saying they didn’t want junk.  What they call junk I now call a very reliable high-performance Windows 7 machine!


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