Trashed Laptops: When Bad Things Happen to (Mostly) Good PCs

We scoured the Web to find true tales of splintered, shattered, and smashed laptops.

Singed Silicon

Portable by design, a laptop computer is a delicate, intricate machine that respond poorly to flames, freefalls, and blunt-force trauma (accidental or otherwise). And unlike a smartphone, which fits snugly in a pocket or pouch, a laptop is bulky and relatively awkward to carry. In short, it's a disaster waiting to happen.

Warning: If you're offended by graphic images of singed silicon and eviscerated electronics, click away now! Brave souls, continue.

And if you like seeing tech hardware put through changes, you might enjoy these other features from the archives of PCWorld.


• "Battered, Bashed and Beaten: Broken iPhones A-Go-Go" [slideshow]

• "iPhone 3G Torture Tests" [video]

• "Digital Demolition: Hard Drive vs. Flame Thrower!" [video]


• "Steampunk Tech Mods: A 19th-Century Take on 21st-Century PCs and Gadgets" [slideshow]

• "10 Insane PC Case Mods" [slideshow]

• "10 Seriously Ridiculous Hacks" [slideshow]

Calling Al Capone

"This was a dying laptop owned by my coworker, and he had a friend with a Vickers machine gun. The next step was obvious," writes C. A. Bridges of Orange City, Florida. To witness the rat-a-tat carnage, check out this YouTube clip. Is machine gunfire covered under warranty?

Special Delivery

Andrew Tegala of London, England, was working in technical support when this pulverized portable arrived. "I headed over to the reception area and saw a laptop back with a delivery address taped to the side," he writes. "I realised then that the laptop had been sent in just the bag, no packaging. As I picked up the case, I heard the rattle inside of small fragments (the LCD display was smashed)."

Office Revenge

"The laptop in question met its demise during a routine cull of office equipment," writes Henry Cooke of London, England. "This particular little beast had been the bane of our collective existence, however, so when its time came we used slightly more than the necessary amount of force in propelling it to the skip [or dumpster, for anyone not fluent in British English] four floors down." Tony Soprano would be proud.

Try the Dental Records

This charred notebook couldn't be saved, although its owner miraculously managed to recover data from the hard drive, according to Tim Gee, a healthcare consultant in Portland, Oregon.

Executive Privilege

This Dell Latitude D500 didn't kowtow to the boss--and paid the ultimate price. The demolition job "was the work of an executive at our company who was angry that the computer was so slow. He angrily swept it off his desk and into the wall," writes Patrick Maloney of Ventura, California. Two words: anger management.

Abstract Art

No, that's not a screen saver. "With a school full of kids and laptops, accidents are bound to happen," writes Arvind S. Grover, director of technology at The Hewitt School in New York City. "This particular laptop was in a student’s bag and got crushed while left in a hallway. To the student’s horror, this is what she saw the next time she powered up the machine!"

Keyboard Optional

Josh Hallett of Winter Haven, Florida, snapped a shot of this damaged HP demo unit at a nearby Wal-Mart. "That laptop with all the keys ripped off was quite a sight. There were actually a few of them with keys missing," Hallett writes. Maybe that's why HP is bullish on touchscreens.

Oops! My Bad

Technology drives us all a little batty. Just ask Philippines resident Arjay Arceo, who one day gave his Dell laptop screen a knuckle sandwich. "I got really mad, then punched it," Arceo writes. "I did spend a lot of money to replace it." Perhaps a stress ball next time?

That's What Friends Are For

Okay, what happened here? "The story behind its destruction is my friend threw an N64 controller at me," writes Liam Higgins of Comox, British Columbia. The controller "flew right into the screen, cracking it. It was a fairly old laptop at the time with no data that I cared about, so I took the opportunity to smash it more and remove the keys for a photo shoot."

Beware the Bag

When Marcus Sanford of Austin, Texas, placed his HP laptop in a protective carrying bag on a bike rack, he assumed the PC was safe. Guess again. As Sanford chronicles in this blog post, the laptop suffered significant damage when the bag "flew off the rack and hit the road." The screen cracks are certainly stylish, though.

Mystery Damage

Vicky Sawyer of Blacksburg, Virginia, participates in a local computer literacy program, and she isn't quite sure how this Dell laptop cracked up. But she has weighed three possible scenarios: (1) a baby toy fell on it; (2) it was in a book bag that was thrown against a wall; (3) two kids were fighting over it, and it fell. "I don't believe #1 at all. I think #3 is most plausible," she writes.

Slate Smackdown

Stephen Hackett of Memphis, Tennessee, used to repair computers at an Apple service provider, and in that job he saw his fair share of damaged hardware. This shell-shocked laptop fell off a table and had a meet-and-greet with a slate floor. Ouch!

Spontaneous Combustion

Laptop battery pyrotechnics have always posed a hazard to the unfortunate few. Gino Zahnd snapped this shot of a charred Dell laptop, which reportedly burst into flames in a Yahoo office building in Santa Clara, California. "It emptied the building, complete with fire alarm and all," Zahnd writes on his Flickr page.

Some Assembly Required

Notebook repairs aren't for the faint of heart. Joanne Owens reports that her husband bravely dismantled this laptop, which had stopped working after filling with dust during a home renovation project. "He took it apart in an attempt to fix it," Joanne writes. "Surprisingly, it did work afterwards!"

A Truly Green Laptop

In nature, rebirth often follows destruction. Arvids Baranovs of Riga, Latvia, chose to repurpose his dying Windows notebook as a planter. "This was my first laptop I bought back in 2003, and it served me well through my university years," he writes. "As it reached its end of life, I switched to an Apple portable and decided to build a 'memorial' for the old one." It's hard to see, but Baranovs used the Windows key as a gravestone in the middle of his keyboard garden.

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