McGyver needed: Broken screen, external monitor, and attempting to restore factory settings

Ok,

have an interesting problem: I broke the screen on my laptop, but instead of fixing it I've just been using an external monitor and keeping it at home.  I just don't have the money to fix it.  BUT, my comp needs some maintenance.  I have Vista, and have a Win 7 install disk on an external (USB) dvd drive - this would be my first choice.  My second choice is to use Dell's System Restore.  BUT, both require actions before my screen lights up.  For factory restore, I need to press F8 and get into the advanced boot options, etc..

Any genius ideas?
avtelAsked:
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mark1208Commented:
Hi avtel,

Can't you just power on the laptop and blindly press the appropriate key to enter BIOS/System Setup? For most modern Dell PCs, this is usually F2 (older systems commonly use Ctrl+Alt+Enter, Fn+F1, Fn+Esc, or Del).

Your external monitor should then be able to catch up and allow you to see what you're doing so you can navigate through the Boot Sequence settings. From there, set your USB flash drive as the primary boot source for the Win7 install, save your settings, exit BIOS and restart. If you've correctly bypassed the hard disc as the primary boot source, Windows 7 setup should 'automagically' begin by the time the external monitor refreshes.

Other than that, I've used an external LCD/flat panel monitor on several occasions when diagnosing/repairing faulty laptop displays. The delay shouldn't be that significant where you miss the opportunity to access BIOS before the OS starts. In fact, if the external monitor is attached via standard VGA/DVI cable, I usually even see the DELL logo displayed simultaneously on both the laptop display and the external monitor.

Shrug ... hope this helps! Please provide the specific model number and/or Asset Tag if you need any further assistance.  :)

Good luck,
-Mark

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mark1208Commented:
Hi avtel, just following up to see how your issue is progressing. Any luck with the recommendations above?

Thanks,
Mark
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avtelAuthor Commented:
my problem is that the external monitor is HDMI connected - so it doesn't start up until the OS gets going.  Can't think of a way to get around that part.
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mark1208Commented:
avtel, thanks for getting back to us!

Is this a TV?!? :)  It probably doesn't like the low resolution mode displayed during POST, BIOS/CMOS, before the operating system boots (which should hopefully explain the delay. HDMI isn't going to be enabled until the OS sets an appropriate resolution, which may also be further restricted by HDCP issues as well.

Is HDMI the only input option available (i.e. no way to directly attach using VGA, DVI, or S-Video)? How about taking your laptop to a friend's house, school/public library, office, etc. to "borrow" a monitor for the BIOS configuration and OS install? You might also look into a VGA to HDMI converter cable (less than $10 online), though I've personally not tried these before.

CRT monitors and small/cheap flat panels can be found cheaply on craigslist or eBay too, if those are available to you. With many folks getting rid of their older CRT monitors, I've seen them available free to the first person who will pick them up, to less than $50.

-Mark

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avtelAuthor Commented:
I have a Dell Studio 15, and unfortunately there is only the HDMI output.  No VGA and not even DVI.  
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mark1208Commented:
Are you sure about the no VGA output? Based on Dell's product information, all current models of the Dell Studio 15 (1535, 1536, 1537, 1555) have both HDMI and VGA (15-pin) on the left side. Can you provide your specific model number or Dell Service Tag?

Other than that, your options are pretty limited based on the constraints provided. Any one-time investment costs spent on finagling the video output just to install the OS are going to far outweigh the cost of just replacing the broken internal LCD screen in the first place (about $100-150 online, eBay).

There are other options such as using an external drive enclosure to attach the hard drive to another system and install Windows 7 under WinPE, but that's probably more geeky (not to mention time consuming!) than you want to go here.

Here's hoping that you're wrong about the VGA option.  :)  Otherwise, I'll let the other experts weigh in. Not sure that you're going to find the easy fix you were hoping for.

Good luck!
Mark
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mark1208Commented:
Apologies for the broken link above ... correct link to Dell Product Information is here: http://support.dell.com/support/systemsinfo/documentation.aspx?c=us&cs=19&l=en&s=dhs&~subcat=177&~cat=12
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avtelAuthor Commented:
yeah, really sorry about that - looks like you did a bit of research.  I actually meant the Studio 14z (1440). Mixed up another model we own.  The Studio 14z doesn't have any VGA.  

I think you've pretty much covered all the possible routes, and I think you're right that replacing the screen is probably the best option.  You got any recommendations for vendors?

Thanks for the quick help, I appreciate it.
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mark1208Commented:
Ah, that helps!

1) The 1440 has a DisplayPort. You might be able to try a DisplayPort to VGA adapter (http://www.amazon.com/Display-Video-Converter-Adapter-Black/dp/B001RPCZL4, about $30). In my experience, DisplayPort behaves a little more like DVI and should be initialized at POST rather than at OS startup, though your mileage may vary.

2) I still think the better option for you is going to be LCD replacement. Start saving your pennies! :)  Also, I'd encourage you to go local if you can ... usually cheaper and avoids the hassle of shipping. Pick a few out of the Yellow Pages and cross-reference against BBBonline.org, or Google for recommendations based on your area.

Suggested vendors:
Hang in there ... displays are unfortunately one of more expensive components to replace on notebook PCs. But it usually beats having to buy a new one! On the bright side, at least you'll be able to use your laptop as a laptop again.

-Mark
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avtelAuthor Commented:
Best, most consistent response I've gotten to a question yet.  Although I wish there was an easier answer, the answers I got from mark1208 were quick, accurate, and complete, and let me know what I could and could not do.
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