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Common Reasons for Laptop Failure

Updated on November 17, 2011

My Experience with Laptop Failures

I have owned a number of laptop computers over the last few years. Our first, a Compaq Presario, broke down after a few months of use. Compaq was great to work with, as they not only replaced the computer, but upgraded its features to compensate me for my trouble. When it broke again, Compaq was not so nice to work with as their policies had changed. It took two trips to the service center before they got it right. It has worked fine for the last few years, despite the fact that this particular model has a reputation for overheating and poor ventilation.

Laptop number two is a Sony Vaio. It worked fine, expect for a virus which caused all sorts of problems, and had to be wiped clean and reformatted to factory settings. Once that problem was fixed it continued to work for a year. Now the Vaio is now just an expensive paper weight, as it will not power up.

These problems led me to research why laptops fail so often.

The obvious problem with the Vaio was the DC input jack. It was clearly missing a part. I ordered a new one and installed it this weekend. It was not hard to remove the back of the computer, unplug the old one and insert the new one in.No luck. Computer is still dead.

Motherboard Failure

I suspect the motherboard, due to our experience with the Compaq. These fail at a high rate, many times due to user error. The Vaios first power adapter died, so I bought a universal power adapter to replace it until the new one arrived. I had no idea that these can deliver excessive power when they fail. In fact, this very adapter started to overheat and melt at the DC input on the Compaq. Imagine my daughter’s surprise when smoke started to come up from her computer. I would not recommend these at all.Replacements should be readily available on Amazon, or any computer parts store.

DC Jack Failure

Since our DC jack broke, it was no surprise to learn that these fail or break often. According to computer experts, this is almost always 100% user-caused.It is easily broken when the computer is moved while plugged in, or dropped.These jacks are delicate and can short out, break off (as ours clearly did), or break the solder connection to the motherboard.

Power Supply Failure

The original power supply for the Vaio quit working, so it was replaced with a new Sony power supply. The green light does come on when it is plugged in, but that is not always a sign that power is getting to your computer. Use a voltmeter to test to see if power is coming out, or take it to a repair shop to have them test it out. This was my first thought on this whole no-power issue. Unfortunately for me, my power supply works fine.

Hard Disk

Hard disk failures are the most common computer hardware problems. Laptop hard disks fail more often than desktop hard drives. Think about how often we move our laptop computers around. Knock it around a bit and your hard drive will respond with a resounding NO.Case in point – a coworker had an external hard drive fall one foot onto the floor at work.That drive was damaged beyond repair. In fact, dropping a laptop can cause damage to your hard drive, but also to most of the other critical parts of the laptop.

LCD Failure and Damage

The Vaio has a new LCD display, due to the original screen shattering when it was accidentally dropped. This is a very common repair, and is usually due to user error. A laptop should be set to sleep mode or turned off when not in use as LCD screen apparently do not last forever. Lowering the brightness setting also extends the life of the screen.The repair to the Vaio cost me about $80. Luckily, I installed it myself without any complications.

CPU Fan Failure and Overheating

CPU fans can fail, as laptops generate lots of heat. The Compaq we use runs extremely hot and needs a cooling fan to keep it from overheating and burning the user.When I removed the back of the Vaio this weekend, I cleaned out a large amount of lint from the fan. It does make me wonder if excessive heat caused a motherboard failure. My desktop computer also has this problem, so I clean this with a can of compressed air about four times a year.

The one culprit I suspect in both laptops issues are excessive heat. Laptops run HOT, and with all that delicate electronics stuffed into a small space, it is very likely that heat causes many problems. To avoid future overheating issues, I use a USB-driven cooling device that sits under the laptop and runs a fan to help cool it down. This also keeps my lap from absorbing this heat!

Keyboard Damage

Damage to keyboards make up a large number of failures. When a drink is spilled on your laptop, it may not survive.I can live with a missing key but a wet and sticky keyboard does not bode well for its future.


Viruses have also caused problems on our laptops, despite having AVG and McAfee. These are an easier fix, as you can reformat your hard drive and start over. We use multiple external backup drives to save all of our data. I have managed to fix the problems viruses have caused, both by having a restore point set.

My Vaio is probably not worth repairing at this point, but I do plan on getting it looked at to confirm this. Other than new RAM, these lower end laptops are not worth repairing.


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    • profile image

      aasmit646 5 years ago

      my moms computer broken down thanks for this blog i was able to fix it

    • profile image

      Allison 5 years ago

      I have SUCH a slow compac, now I'm thinking about getting mac but I don't have enough money :(

    • rayechan profile image

      rayechan 6 years ago from Missouri

      Hmmm.. We've spotted a Dell that sounds good but I'll have to be sure to double and triple check since I'm worried about spending so much money on something that might not be the best thing.

      And wow, I did know not that the graphics board was wired into the motherboard. xD That explains why he complains about the low quality and he can't do anything about it. =)

    • TTC12 profile image

      TTC12 6 years ago

      My Dell desktop is about 4 years old and still running strong. I upgraded the RAM, and put in a new and faster graphics board. My son plays Minecraft so this worked out well for him. Don't know much about Dell - the one I bought was on sale and had the specs I wanted. Laptops can really only be upgraded with RAM or maybe a new CD/DVD player. The graphics boards are wired into the motherboard. Hope that helps!

    • rayechan profile image

      rayechan 6 years ago from Missouri

      Really? I thought you could upgrade those too. o.O I'm not tech savvy when it comes to the actual like hardware of a computer so some things I'm just like OMG WTH?! xD

      I'll have to let him know that. He does like to game quite a bit and people we've talked to so far suggest desktops more than anything. Laptops are so fragile sometimes lol Do the Dell desktops work better than their laptops or about the same on quality?

    • TTC12 profile image

      TTC12 6 years ago

      Amazon had the cheapest price and this model was not available at a store. Seemed like the best way to go. I do think you can buy direct from Lenovo, but they may cost more. Consider a desktop if he likes gaming as I traded my son my Dell desktop for the Lenovo. Laptops can't be upgraded for graphics cards.

    • rayechan profile image

      rayechan 6 years ago from Missouri

      Thank you for the suggestion =) Is Amazon the only place you could get a Lenovo? I was pretty surprised myself when I started hearing from other people that Toshibas and HPs weren't all that good.

      I'd rather him get a desktop so that way he won't be able to drop it (or as easily O.O) and just a better overall idea in general. Although there's a lot of desktops I heard are bad (although my cheap E-Machines desktop is still working excellent for being bought back in 2003 xD).

      But thank you very much. :D

    • TTC12 profile image

      TTC12 6 years ago

      I did a lot of research on this when I bought a new one last year. My choice was a Lenovo G550 which I got off of Amazon for $495.00. It runs Windows 7 and so far has been a great computer. I use a Lenovo Think Pad at work, which has also worked well. I was surprised at how many well-known brands were not reliable (Toshiba, HP). For my research, I used rating guides at Best Buy and Amazon, plus read the reviews.

      I would look into Lenovo as I am happy with my purchase. Thanks for reading and I hope that helps!

    • rayechan profile image

      rayechan 6 years ago from Missouri

      Thank you for this article. =) Recently my boyfriend's laptop started to show a "Hard Disk Failure" warning the moment you turn it on. I had a feeling it might have been from him dropping it, hitting it when he's gotten mad, etc.

      Sadly, it is a cheapy computer; a Compaq. It still runs half the time now but it tends to get really glitchy and freezes a lot.

      Is there a particular brand of laptops that you might suggest? We're looking to buy a new one on black Friday and we weren't really sure what computer would really be a good idea laptop wise.