PC Rescue – Help I just dropped my laptop

How to fix a dropped laptop

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IT is at the heart of most businesses, and your laptop, tablet and smartphone are full of invaluable data, and although we all secretly know that we should backup that data, very few people do. If the worst thing happens and you drop your laptop, or you spill coffee over the keyboard would your business be able to recover?

Laptops are not indestructible

Unless you have deep pockets and can run to something like a Panasonic Toughbook, the first thing you should take on board is that laptops are, generally speaking, not particularly rugged.

They should not be dropped or allowed to come in to contact with water. If they do, bad things can happen to the most valuable part of your laptop – your data. Remember: you can always buy a new laptop what you can't buy is one with your old data on.

And it's inevitable that something that is designated as a portable device is going to get dropped at some point in its working life. So avoid at least some potential future pain by sorting out a good backup plan in the present.

What to do if there's no backup

OK so you have dropped your laptop and you haven't got a backup – what's the first thing you should do? Unless the drop was particularly hard (and hopefully your laptop wasn't switched on at the time) it's a fair assumption that your data is actually still OK and recoverable. This may still be true even if the laptop fails to boot.

So how do you retrieve your precious data? The first thing to do is to extract the drive from the laptop – normally a pair of tiny crosshead screws can be removed, allowing you to slide the drive caddy out.

Once it's out you need to invest in a USB hard disk dock, which will set you back about £20. These typically take both 3.5in and 2.5in SATA drives. Simply slide your drive in to the pocket on the top of the dock, power up and plug the USB in to another PC. No driver software is required and within a matter of seconds a new drive will have been added to your My Computer window. You can now retrieve your precious data off the old drive and copy it across to the other PC. Remember to log on as Administrator in order to access your user files on the new drive.

If the laptop has sustained other physical damage, unless it's relatively new it may be uneconomic to repair it. As unlikely as it may seem, laptops are not that difficult to repair yourself – trust me, there is an ocean of useful instructional 'how-to' videos on YouTube to hold your hand during dismantling.

Generally all you need is small cross-head screw-driver, a little common sense and patience. As for spare parts, without doubt the place to obtain them is eBay. Again, you'll be surprised what is available for your particular laptop.

Mobile repairs

Smart phones are expensive and it's essential to have insurance cover as accidental damage won't be covered by your warranty. Monthly insurance premiums on smartphones, which don't forget can cost in excess of £500 if sold contract-free, can be comprise a significant portion of your monthly bill. But the more premium you pay the lower the voluntary excess – just £60 for an iPhone on O2, for example. So it's almost always worth making a claim for accidental damage.

To get it fixed you can take your phone back to your service provider's shop or to one of a multitude of tiny repair shops on our high streets and markets. Or if you're feeling adventurous, you could try a spot of DIY – as with laptops, spare parts for most phones are available on eBay and YouTube is littered with innumerable 'tear-down' videos showing you how to do it in great detail. They may have the world's tiniest screws but smartphones don't have many components and so are relatively easy to fix

Getting a smartphone wet is almost certainly fatal, but it's worth having a go at resurrecting one. Do not try turning the phone on and immediately remove the battery (tough luck iPhone owners). Remove the SIM too. If it fell in salty water, rinse the phone in fresh water – you don't want any salt crystallizing inside your dry phone. After wiping it down you now need to dry the phone's innards – you could use compressed air or you might try very mild heat, placing it in an airing cupboard perhaps or close to a radiator. Some even advocate putting the phone in a sealable plastic bag full of uncooked rice for a couple of days as an aid to desiccation. Silica gel is also suitable. All this may not in the end save your phone but at least you tried.

The final fix

If you've tried to fix your phone or your laptop and failed, or you don't feel brave enough to attempt a fix, then there's one last option, and it's an expensive option, but it's the option that's most likely to get your data back. There are many businesses that specialise in retrieving data from drives, but the largest and oldest is Kroll Ontrack.

Kroll Ontrack are a business that specialises in getting data back from even the most desperately mangled and destroyed drives. If your laptop hard disk, or smartphone have been dropped, burnt, soaked or even attacked by ants (yes ants), or you've run over your USB memory stick, or dropped your iPhone in the loo, then they're the people who can guarantee to get your data back.