What to Do with a Broken Laptop

Even If Your Laptop Is Broken, You Can Still Make Clever Use of the Other Parts

macbook-air-project.jpg
Macbook Air in a Keyboard. Bart Reardon

When your laptop is busted and it's beyond repair--or you just don't want to pay to fix it--all hope is not lost. Even if you can't sell the laptop as is, there are still things you can do other to either breathe new life into the laptop or salvage as much as you can. Here are a few ideas for making the most of that broken computer

Most of these suggestions require a little DIY spirit and elbow grease, but they're better than tossing the laptop in the trash.

You'll save money, too, by repurposing a laptop or its parts, making your investment go farther.

Turn It into a PC-in-a-Keyboard

If the main computer parts (processor, hard drive, etc.) are fine but just the LCD, hinge, keyboard, or other external parts are broken, you can take the guts out of the laptop, put it into a standard desktop keyboard, and hook that keyboard to a monitor. The MacBook Air Project shows how you can do this with a MacBook Air, but the concept is the same for any laptop: In the end, your laptop becomes a desktop PC, except its case isn't a tower or a cube but your keyboard. [via Gizmodo]

Turn the Display into a Standalone Monitor

Additional monitors can boost your productivity, so if your laptop screen still works but the rest of the laptop doesn't (or you have an old laptop with a perfectly good screen), use it as another monitor for your other computer. Instructables user augustoerico provides step-by-step directions for using the LCD as a second monitor.

It involves detaching the LCD panel and attaching it to a controller board, which you can buy or build yourself if you're handy.

Salvage the Hard Drive as an External Hard Drive

If the hard drive still works but the laptop is otherwise unusable, take the drive out of the laptop and use it as an external hard drive.

It's a good thing to try even if you're not sure if the laptop drive still functions. There are lots of  external hard drive enclosures that fit the typical 2.5" laptop drive; I really like the Vantec NexStar hard drive enclosures because they're sturdy, well designed, and affordable. Just make sure you know what kind of connection (SATA, IDE, etc.) your laptop drive needs and find the case that matches.

Sell the Other Parts

If worse comes to worst. you can always just sell the parts of your laptop--the memory, screen, power adapter, and even the motherboard--or the laptop itself with a note that it's broken and for parts only. You might be surprised how many people need and buy old computer parts. Just remember to wipe the hard drive if you can or remove the hard drive and destroy it. (See About.com's PC Support site for directions.) 

If worse comes to worst, you should be able to donate or recycle the old laptop (and other electronics) and get rid of it with a clear conscience.