My laptop fell over and will not boot now

My daughter has an Acer Aspire 3100 which fell over a couple of weeks ago. It sounded just like an HDD failure to me so I bought a replacement drive and fitted it. I then tried to restore the system using the restore disk that I had created when originally setting it up for her. Everything seemed to go fine until it got to a point where the message at the bottom of the screen said it was loading Windows – when it hung – no activity at all. I immediately assumed it was a problem with the boot disk and tried a Window upgrade disc – similar result, I scrounged a Dell XP system disc from work – no go. Then I popped the old HDD into a remote enclosure to see if it worked – and it did, nothing wrong with it – so it wasn’t the HDD… My local laptop shop had a look and said – it’s the motherboard or the video card (but the Acer splash screen appears when you try to boot it). So, as a last thing to try I set the BIOS to boot from a USB HDD and connected the original hard drive, in its new remote housing, and the thing immediately booted not to Windows but to DOS! It says Windows 98 but it comes up with the C prompt. It says there is only one file on the disc… So I am utterly confused! Can I save this machine?

Here something you can try in order to narrow down the problem.

1. Try reconnecting the memory module. If you have two modules, reseat both of them. This problem may occur because of loose connection between RAM module and motherboard.
Download Memtest86+ and burn it on a CD. Run this utility to test laptop RAM. Make sure it passes test. If you have two modules installed in your laptop, remove them one by one and test the laptop with each module separately. It’s possible that one of the memory slots on the motherboards was damaged when she dropped the laptop. In that is the case, you still can use the laptop with one good memory slot.

2. Download Knoppix (live Linux) and burn it on a CD. Try booting the laptop from this Knoppix CD while the hard drive is removed from the laptop. If you still cannot boot to the desktop (similar to Windows desktop) even with the hard drive removed, most likely this problem is not related to the hard drive and something else is going on.

3. I don’t know if you feel comfortable opening up the laptop. If you do, you can try reseating internal components (wireless card, DVD drive, video card, CPU, cable connections, etc…) just to make sure it’s not connection related issue.

4. If the video card in your laptop is a separate module, try reseating the video card. Make sure it’s making good connection with the motherboard.