- 1 Pre-flight checks
- 2 Overheating / noisy fan
- 3 Running slow
- 4 Power / battery
- 5 Generic diagnosis of laptop problems
- 6 Useful kit to have for laptops
The laptop charger and power lead should be PAT tested. The laptop should also be given a visual inspection.
Overheating / noisy fan
The owner reports that the laptop is overheating, or that the fan is running all the time, or both.
Things to check
Is it actually overheating?
It may seem like it, but it might actually be operating within the acceptable range. It might feel hot on the chassis, but it might just not be a great design for which parts are being cooled. If something taxing is being run, then the CPU will heat up, and the fan will go. That's OK. If the fan is going constantly, even when not much is being done, then there is likely a problem. It the laptop heats so much that the laptop shuts down, there is definitely a problem.
Where is the person using the laptop?
If they're using it on a bed or similar, and the vents are being blocked, then that might be the cause of the overheating and / or busy fan. Recommend using it on a hard surface and ensuring the vents are not blocked.
How hot is it getting?
Monitor the CPU temperatures with your tool of choice. (On Windows, e.g. Open Hardware Monitor. On Linux, e.g. psensor). Run whatever it is that the user says they are usually doing when it says it overheats. See what the temperatures get up to. When you start getting about 70/75 degrees C, that's starting to get high. The critical temperature of a CPU is around 100C, at which point there would likely be a shutdown. For a given CPU these values might vary - you can find the CPU with e.g. hardinfo on Linux and then search for the specs, or use a command such as sensors.
"At idle, you should expect to see temperatures between 35 and 50°C (95-122F), and when playing games or running any apps which put a high load on the CPU, you should expect them to rise to 60-85°C (140-185F)." -- https://www.techadvisor.co.uk/how-to/desktop-pc/best-cpu-temperature-3498564/
If it's consistently above 50C when running fairly idle, or consistently above 85C and close to the max temp when doing something heavy, it's worth then looking for a clogged fan or other problem. If it's within the normal ranges when you'd expect it to be, then it's probably fine and worth just telling the user that.
If it's definitely overheating, and not because the laptop is too low spec for what is being run, and not because the vents are blocked when in use, it's going to need a further look. It could be dusty vents, dusty fan, dust cooling fins. It may be an issue with thermal paste. Check  for more info.
The participant reports that the laptop is running slow.
See also: https://wiki.restarters.net/Slow_laptop
Things to check
When is it running slow?
- Does it feel slow to boot, but OK after that?
- Does it feel slow all of the time?
- Does it feel slow just when doing a particular operation?
- Has it always felt slow? Or did it start more recently?
Depending on the answer to those questions, we might want to try different things first.
What are the specs of the laptop?
Find out the specs of the laptop.
- Linux: hardinfo
- Windows: system info?
- Mac: ?
Full of junk?
Are there lots of random looking programs installed? Does the user's preferred browser had a lot of random toolbars?
How much space is left on the drive?
Possible causes / solutions
Ask the user to see if there's old files they can remove, or that can be backed up to an external drive. CCleaner or similar can remove some junk, but it won't probably won't make a massive difference here - it'll be all the series of Game of Thrones or similar.
Slow disk access
An SSD can make a big difference to slow boot / slow programs. Not a small undertaking though - you'll need to recommend an SSD, and that they go home, back all important files up, and come back for a fresh install. (Is doing a drive clone worth it?)
Is the laptop too low spec for the operating system running on it? Is it too low spec for whatever tasks are being performed?
Possible solutions: memory upgrade or install a more suitable OS.
If you're very lucky maybe some suitable RAM will be laying around, but more than likely need to find out what RAM is needed and suggest they purchase some and install it themselves or come back. Help them find a guide to installing the memory, e.g. iFixit or from a service manual.
- sudo dmidecode --type 17
Installing a more suitable OS - make sure everything backed up, ask them to come back to next event if not. If it's an older, lower spec machine, then the most suitable OS is probably a distro of Linux (https://wiki.restarters.net/Linux_migration).
Power / battery
Owner reports that it doesn't turn on, or turns off while it's on, or similar.
Things to check
Does it work on mains but not battery?
If it works with the charger plugged in, but not when it isn't, there's something wrong with the battery.
Are there any signs of life at all?
If you plug in the charger, you usually get an LED flashing somewhere on the laptop. If there's nothing at all - maybe the charger doesn't work (also check that it's an acceptable charger for the laptop) or maybe there's a loose connection, or some laptops (Thinkpads at least) have a short circuit protection mode where there will be no signs of life until you reset from that mode.
Are there some signs of life but it still doesn't power on?
Maybe it's actually a problem with the power button.
Generic diagnosis of laptop problems
Useful kit to have for laptops
- Portable keyboard
- If there's a problem with typing, help diagnose if it's the integrated keyboard, or something else
- Most laptops are going to have USB, but if the keyboard supports PS2 can be handy for very old devices.
- Portable mouse
- If there's a problem with pointing, help diagnose if it's the integrated trackpad, or something else
- Most laptops are going to have USB, but if the mouse supports PS2 can be handy for very old devices.
- External display
- If there's a problem with the screen, help diagnose the fault (and work on the laptop without the screen)
- Ideally with both VGA and HDMI input.
- Portable keyboard
- Utility programs
- Mainly portable exes to run on Windows (what most people will have installed)
- Belarc Advisor
- Open Hardware Info
- Malware Bytes
- System Rescue CD http://www.system-rescue-cd.org/ A collection of utilities for saving systems.
- OS Installers
- Windows 10 installation media USB
- Variety of Linux distros on USB
- To support specs of machines (including 32bit)
- Disassembly & cleaning & inside bits
- Variety of screwdriver bits
- Prying tools
- Air duster
- SIM card pin
- Thermal paste & remover