When Your Laptop Screen Breaks

James dropped his laptop and broke the screen. What should he do?

First, you need to determine if anything else is broken. Try booting the laptop. If the screen can still create a legible image, you should have no trouble seeing if everything else works. (On the other hand, if you hear a loud scraping noise, turn it off, immediately. That could be your hard drive destroying data.)

If you can't get any image on your screen, try plugging it in to an external monitor. If the screen is the only thing that's damaged, and you're tight on cash, you may want accept that your laptop is now a small desktop.

You can also get the laptop repaired, but be forewarned: Replacing a laptop's screen professionally can cost as much as buying a new laptop. It will almost certainly cost more than buying a monitorless desktop of equivalent power. But contact your laptop's manufacturer and get a price before you make that decision.

Should you consider replacing the screen, yourself? Probably not. First of all, it's still expensive. I checked with ScreenTek (a company that sells replacement laptop screens) and discovered that a replacement for my Lenovo X60 tablet screen (which fortunately isn't broken) would cost $435. And that doesn't include labor.

And that labor is the main reason why you probably shouldn't replace your own screen. Unlike desktops, laptops aren't designed for convenient, amateur repairs. See Five Insane Upgrades That You Should Never Do (and How to Do Them!) for details.

Add your comments to this article below. If you have other tech questions, email them to me at answer@pcworld.com, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum.

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