How to loot your dead laptop for good parts

So your laptop has said farewell. Kicked the bucket. Heard the fat lady sing. Completely refusing to work anymore. So you figure out that the best thing you can do, is to throw the whole thing in the wastebin.

But wait! What about the photos you had? Your good Wi-Fi signal? And your 8GB of RAM?

Today we’ll take a closer look on which parts you need to get out of your dead laptop, before you throw it away.


The parts you’ll need to focus the most on, is the RAM sticks, the harddisk(s), and the Wi-Fi networking card.

  1. The RAM sticks.

So your 8GB RAM laptop is dead. At the same time, you also have a pretty old laptop with between 2GB and 6GB of RAM, who would dearly love to have a new lease on life.


This is how a modern (DDR3-shaped) RAM stick look like. They come in many GB sizes, and if you’re in luck they’ll have a label on them that says how big they are. If they’re 4GB or larger, then you can happily insert it in your old laptop and see how it feels much less cramped and overloaded.

And even a 2GB stick can be a great benefit for a 2GB or 3GB laptop, as well. 1GB sticks can just as well be thrown away.

Usually there’s a special compartment under the laptop that is easy to find and to drill up the screws of. There are small iron clips on the sides of the RAM sticks you’ll need to loosen. When you’ve done that, lift the RAM stick’s back, and pull it out from its slot.

This, of course, works best if your machine has a 64-bit version of Windows/Linux. There are also some older RAM sticks and slots (DDR2) where the hole in the yellow stripe is further to the side, and which do not support modern RAM sticks at all.

2. The hard disk.

So you had a 1TB harddisk, or maybe even a 2TB one. You may even have had an SSD disk, none of which your new laptop has. You’ve also got a lot of photos deadlocked in your dead laptop, because you couldn’t figure out how OneDrive or security backups worked.

But in fact, it’s fairly easy to take the harddisk out, and it’ll support being supported into any laptop and almost any desktop PC to easily recover the files on it.


If you open up the laptop compartments that were mentioned in Chapter 1, you’ll very likely see a nondescript grey shell with holes in it, held in place by four screws in all corners. Under the shell, you’ll find your harddisk.

Open up the compartment, and drill out the four screws. You’ll almost always need to first slide the harddisk away from the slot it has been inserted into, before you can pull it up and out of the laptop.

Getting the disk out is the easy part. Now you’re left with the question of where you’re going to insert the harddisk now.

If you have a desktop PC, it should have SATA slots and power-unit slots that you can plug the harddisk (through two cables) to. Preferably when you have turned it off. When you have plugged it in and turned the PC on again, you’ll likely see that the harddisk shows up in the “Your PC” menu in Windows, from which you can browse through your files exactly like on the dead laptop.

There are a tiny amount of laptops that have two harddisk slots, with which you can do the same thing. If you only have laptops, and they only have one harddisk slot each, you’ll need to buy a harddisk docking.SATA adapter.png

They run on both a power plug, and a USB cable to connect to the PC of choice. You’ll preferably want one with USB 3.0 or 3.1.

When you’ve connected both the USB cable, the harddisk and the powerplug to the docking, it should show up on your PC as if the harddisk in fact was inside it. This also means that you should exercise a bit of caution to not just rip out the wires at random moments. Make very sure that it’s not currently transfering something, before you take out any of the wires.

Some laptop and PC harddisks use the so-called IDE slots, instead of the SATA slots. If this turns out to be the case with your harddisk, you should keep in mind that the desktop or docking that you’re hoping to plug it into, actually have IDE slots and IDE support.

And if the harddisk doesn’t show up in “Your PC” after several attempts to assure that it would work, it may be broken. 😥 If Windows insists on running harddisk integrity checks during startup on 2 or more occasions when you’ve connected the harddisk to it (1 occasion doesn’t mean anything wrong), it’s certainly dead meat.

Moreover, harddisks are generally bound to its operative system. Windows harddisks can only be used on Windows PCs, although there are almost no limits on which Windows PCs you can use it with. Mac harddisks only works with Mac, and Linux harddisks only work with Linux.

If you used BitLocker on your harddisk, you’re also going to need the BitLocker password to be able to use the harddisk with other PCs. Most commonly this is your Windows user’s login password, althoɦ one has also been able to use a different password for BitLocker if you began to use BitLocker of your own free will⁽¹⁾…

3. The Wi-Fi card.

So your dead laptop had an excellent connection range. It could easily find your router from 20 meters away, and may even have had 5GHz support if you were really lucky. In contrast, one of your functional laptops keep having its Wi-Fi network drop out apropos of nothing, or have slow speeds.

But there is a fairly easy way to give your bad laptop the same Wi-Fi and Bluetooth abilities, as the dead laptop.


This is a tiny little card, maybe measuring 3 by 3 centimeters, to be found somewhere inside the laptop compartment, or sometimes deeper into the laptop’s chassis instead. It will be held in place in its tiny cutesy slot by 1 or 2 screws, and will very often have 1 or 2 tiny wires connected to it.

Loosen its screws, and find a way to take out the wires. If it begins to tilt upwards in a 40-45° angle, then you’ve loosened the screws correctly. The wires are in actuality connected to microscopic antenna plugs on the card (Not shown on the image above).

To insert the card into a laptop, you’ll insert it into the PCIe Half Mini slot, drill down the screws to keep it in place, and pop the old laptop’s antenna wires into the card’s antenna slots. Now you’ll get to experience the same range/speed/connectivity as your dead laptop.


⁽¹⁾ = Some recent Windows laptops have been said to activate BitLocker or other encryption schemes by default. In these cases, they’ll virtually always use your login password as the encryption password, thankfully.

How to loot your dead laptop for good parts

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