Laptop Evaluation

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General Steps

Check the case for defects. This will give you important clues as to why it was donated. Is it just old or did someone drop it from a 2nd storey window?

A note about drive cages

Very often people will remove their hard drives before donating the laptop and take the drive cage along with it. Freegeek doesn't have any way of replacing drive cages so if you don't find one there's really not much to be done. This goes for the plastic cover on the drive bay as well.

Turn it on

Keep a spare hard drive with a copy of Ubuntu handy. Drop it into the hard drive slot and boot up. This is the quickest way to assess whether or not you have serious problems.

Brand Specific Problems


Thinkpads are notoriously solid machines. They do suffer from a few problmes.

Some things to look for:

  • Red screen. This problem has to do with the backlight. Look for a reddish tinge when you turn on the machine. Often this will correct itself in a few seconds. If it doesn't the screen may be unusable
  • Graphics corruption. Play a video and look for screen flickering. Very often this is triggered by applying pressure to one corner of the laptop or by picking it up off the bench.


Dell Inspirons

Be sure to do a thorough stress test as these can often overheat under pressure. If the machine reboots during a stress test you have a problem.

HP Pavilions

These shiny laptops are amazing when they work. They are plagued by a number of problems though, usually associated with the monitor and onboard nVidia graphics chip.


  • remove the hard drive of all units and place in the to be wiped bin. the wiping process may take several hours
  • in case of failed units remove the ram and the wi-fi card and place them in the appropriate bin