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#DearFindLaw: My Laptop Just Died ... Help!

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By William Peacock, Esq. on October 13, 2014 9:09 AM

#DearFindLaw - Advice for New Lawyers and Law Students from @FindLawLP

Last week, I got a call from my big brother, a 1L at Louisiana State University. It seems that, while his laptop was sitting in the library, it overheated and fried the motherboard. Unfortunately, he didn't follow his little bro's advice and use cloud storage as a back-up.

He wants to know what to do, besides start listening to his brother. Here's how to get back to business, assuming you have a PC (Mac users ... just head to the nearest Genius Bar):

Step 1: Triage.

You can't fix what you can't see. For Johnny Boy, he did a Web search for his laptop model and "won't turn on," and found out that the overheating/motherboard suicide was not an uncommon thing. By hitting a few buttons, he got the thing to send a seven-beep signal, which confirmed the diagnosis.

If your laptop will start to load, but gets stuck before booting into Windows, we'd guess either your operating system is corrupted (rare) or hard drive is kaput (less rare). In that case, see our sad post on the time my hard drive failed while blogging.

And if it sounds like it's booting, but you don't see anything on the screen, try hooking up an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse, which will let you know if your screen went bad.

Step 2: Get Your Data, Get Back to Work.

You want to get back to work ASAP. For most people, the short answer is to take your old laptop to an expert -- unless, of course, you can't afford one. Also, do not let them reformat your drive without trying to copy your data first.

If you can't afford one...

If it's a fried motherboard, you're going to want to pull the drive (use Google to find instructions for your model -- other than super thin-and-light laptops, it's typically very easy to do) and hook it up to a second (newer) computer using a USB adapter.

If it's a fried drive, and you didn't back it up, you're going to need to replace the drive and do a system restore -- this is complicated and beyond the scope of this blog, but generally, you can get restore software and instructions from your computer manufacturer's website.

And finally, it's probably time for a new laptop. If your laptop is more than a few years old, ask yourself if the risk of losing client data is worth saving a few hundred bucks on a new system.

Law students and recent grads, send us your questions! Write to us via Twitter (@FindLawLP) or Facebook (FindLaw for Legal Professionals) using the hashtag #DearFindLaw.

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