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Infinite HP

Laptop Power Failure (and HDD Access) Question

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Yeah I know the title doesn't do it much justice but I couldn't really think how to word it at 6am in the morning.

I will be honest, I'm kind of sick to my stomach about this, since my laptop is my life anymore, and my lifeline at college, but it is no longer working. Here is the sequence of events in case anyone is good at diagnosing computer problems:

There are three lights on the front of my laptop (your standard HDD, Power, Battery lights...or whatever the three lights are for, but for this diagnosis let's just say it was the power light), and I noticed that the rightmost light, the power light, was orange, and constantly lit. Now, this light is only orange when the battery is low, and it doesn't stay lit but rather flashes. After attempting to turn the computer on, and failing, I had to unhook the AC Adapter and take the battery out before the light shut off. Then, after reattaching one or the other (or both) I still was/am unable to get the computer to turn on. Now, granted not the smartest thing but in a panic/fury I started pressing the power button several times, holding it in for a few seconds, pressing keys on the board, and it "powered up" but by "powered up" I mean the fans ran, the lights started flashing interchangeably in an odd fashion, but the screen did not activate at all.

Now, I am about 98% sure I'm probably going to have to send this to the manufacturer to be repaired (Dell in this case, and yes I know, Dell is probably my first mistake, but they've been good so far about repairs), but my question is, is there anything I can do in the meantime? Would using a boot disk/reformatting the hard drive help (even though I can't really get the computer to come "on" except when I get it to "power up" in that odd fashion)? This leads me to my second question:

I don't really have anything I'm worried about saving on my hard drive, because luckily just a few days ago I had moved most of everything I wanted over to my external HDD, but if I had to reformat it or access it in any way, do I need a converter to hook the laptop HDD to my PC? Or are the IDE standards the same? What about swapping the HDD out of my External HDD with my laptop HDD and then connection it to the PC via USB? Also, if I did have to send it into the manufacturer (which again is a near 100% possibility I'm sure), there is some..."stuff"...that I probably do not want them to see on my HDD (things like p2p programs and/or *coughpr0ncough*)...so it may be of some importance for me to be able to access the HDD. :-)

Anyway, any and all help would be appreciated. Sorry about the long post, I'm just worried about it.

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If it's not powering up at all, then my late-night theory is that the power connection is somehow severed, be it from corrosion, wear, a sudden jolt... whatever the case, even with the power cord attached, you've been running off the battery? It ran out of juice, and now the laptop won't start up cuz there's no way to recharge the battery (nor start the system) if there's no power making it to the laptop from the AC outlet.

If I've got the story right, then sending it to the manufacturer is about the only thing you can do.

EDIT: As for your second question, yes, you'd need some sort of converter to hook up a 2.5" laptop hard drive to a desktop PC.

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I'm not so sure that it isn't getting any power, though you may be right. I mean both batteries I have for it are charged, and I can understand if there might be a bad connection from the AC adapter to the components inside the laptop, but the batteries too? Not that it'll help much but I'm going to try and take out and reinstall the memory cards/HDD/etc and hope that maybe one of them came loose...otherwise as we both suggested I'll probably have to send it in.

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Hmm, your description sounds like it doesn't have to be and most likely isn't HDD failure. More like a power or motherboard issue, but your later post tells me it's not a power issue.

If it's a dead mobo as I suspect, you can only send it to the manufacturer, nothing you can do. I'd advise against removing the HDD, especially if there's nothing on there you need, and the part isn't the reason it's not working.

As far as getting data off a laptop HDD, you will need a converter for it since the connections are different. Alternatively, you can get an external HDD enclosure made for 2.5" disks and use that instead.

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Ah, well I was thinking of taking it to a local retailer here in town to see about getting it fixed (since my warranty on the laptop is up anyway) but if the problem is as you suggest the motherboard, I guess my hands are tied.

Aren't motherboards extremely expensive? I mean to the point that most people just get a different computer rather than paying the expense to have them replaced? I hope not, I'm already on a strict budget as it is :-(

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Laptop mainboards are, pretty much for all intents and purposes, impossible to replace on the open market (or at very least, I don't see them for sale at Frys or on NewEgg). There isn't much profit to be made in laptop parts outside of processors, hard drives and memory because everything is customized for a particular chassis style.

Particularly if the warranty is up, it might make more sense to just buy a new laptop and then transfer the contents of the old drive to the new laptop.

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Yeah, that's what I meant by chassis style. Pretty much everything except the processor, ram, hard drive and optical drive (that to a lesser extent) is specific to the model, thus the only place you'd get a replacement motherboard from is the company that built the laptop in the first place, and chances are they don't sell replacement motherboards, just replacement laptops.

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Yeah, I took it to a local Computer shop here in town and pretty much confirmed the mobo was fried. Instead of replacing it (I found out online that this particular model, Dell Inspiron 5160, has had a known issue concerning fried motherboards, so I'd have to repace it every year or so) I am just going to either sell the parts myself or have them do it on eBay and take what little bit of money I get from those parts (I have a good, upgraded video card in it (ATI) and a lot of ram, good hdd, extra battery, etc) and buy a different...NOT DELL...laptop. In the meantime looks like I'm hauling my PC up to college this weekend. Thank you to everyone who replied. These things just happen I guess, kinda sucks but no reason to get upset. Computers do that (one of the main reasons I got out of the computer engineering field was that it became frustrating, haha).

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