We frequently evaluate laptops for repair and determine that some cannot be repaired due to cost or repair limitations. Repair is not recommended when there are multiple failed components (motherboard, LCD or hard drive) or when the replacement motherboard suffers from the same design defect, leading to repeated failure.
Since the programs and data in a laptop are stored inside the hard drive, separately from the motherboard, a failed motherboard does not mean the data is lost. After diagnosing a laptop with a failed motherboard, we remove the hard drive for testing and evaluation.
With a good working hard drive, all of the files can be copied or cloned to another laptop. Copying puts all files into a folder, while cloning yields a new computer identical to the original.
With a successful clone, the new laptop will start-up and run identically to the original laptop, preserving the programs, data and desktop icons without any change. While a laptop with Windows XP can be easily cloned and repaired to run on a new laptop, many new laptops do not include driver support for XP, limiting their driver support to Windows 7 or Vista.
For example, we have seen Gateway laptops that used sound chips that did not have Windows XP drivers, and Dell laptops that did not have USB or BlueTooth drivers for Windows XP, rendering those features unusable. In time, we expect laptop manufacturers to drop support for Vista and Windows 7, possibly requiring new laptops to run Windows 8.
When a failed laptop already is running Windows Vista or Windows 7, the cloning may yield much better results on a new laptop. Although Windows Vista/7 do not include a repair feature to recognize hardware changes, they will generally start-up and run after cloning to a new laptop.
We typically recommend Dell laptops from Wal-Mart, since they are readily available at the same price as the Dell web-site and feature the same Dell warranty. As of July 2012, a dual core Pentium laptop with 4gb RAM and Windows 7 can be purchased retail for $398, while a quad-core I3 with 6gb RAM and 64-bit Windows is only $100 more.