Story: I was driving to my Mother's for xmas with a brand new (albeit cheap; it's plenty for her) computer. Unfortunately, I got into an accident, and the computer flew from my back seat into my front seat and hit my console/dash board

Problem: After such a tumble, it's pretty likely that the computer is damaged. I plan on booting into an ubuntu live USB later today on it to see if it is damaged. Assuming I can boot and run from the USB what kinds of tests can I run to see if anything is damaged? I opened it up and everything looks fine (i.e. no heatsinks laying at the bottom, everything still connected) but I'd like to be sure so that I'm not stuck trying to troubleshoot her slow computer in a few weeks

The HDD had some data on it, but not a full OS so I don't expect that to boot, thus why I need a live USB to boot.

Things I want to check that are working completely:

  1. Mother board
  2. RAM
  3. Processor (if it doesn't boot one to all of these three are bad)
  4. HDD

There's no graphics card or anything super fancy.

  • 8
    Seatbelts man Seatbelts. They're not just for people. The physical inspection is a good start. – Journeyman Geek Dec 24 '14 at 23:46
  • looks like (arguably) a hassle to run tests on everything. Just find out the (arguably) easy way. Use it and see what happens! SMART is v quick to test but other tests may be a hassle, easier to test after a failure then you just test or replace the failed thing. – barlop Dec 25 '14 at 1:19
  • don't forget to check for muons that might've penetrated the DRAM – user541686 Dec 25 '14 at 4:12

Realistically by far the most likely damage to the system will be the hard drive, as its the only thing with moveable parts. If the HDD works without errors, its a fair bet the system will be fine.

To test the HDD, start off with doing some kind of SMART test, then, if that passes, do some full testing with badblocks (but backup the data off the hard drive first).

You can, of-course, also run p6burn or similar (maybe use StressLinux), as well as memory tests to check the other components.

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  • Anything in particular you'd suggest for doing the SMART test? I haven't explored the BIOS too much, but it seems less than featureful – Mitch Dec 24 '14 at 22:25
  • Well, you can do a "short" and "long" test - its more that if SMART fails there is definately a problem. If SMART does not fail it does not mean you are OK though. Generally if a drive is under warranty and SMART fails the people who are responsible will except that as conclusive evidence the hard drive is faulty - it was designed to predict and record failures (its not so good at predicting though) Thats why I suggested "badblocks" as well. – davidgo Dec 24 '14 at 22:28
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    You can use literally any SMART tool, they all just query drive's firmware for SMART parameters and display them. As far as I remember Ubuntu's disk management tool has built-in SMART viewer. – gronostaj Dec 24 '14 at 22:28
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    Ubuntu comes with memtest baked right in, and you can boot into that rather than linux to do a memory test. Might as well do that too. – Journeyman Geek Dec 25 '14 at 0:14
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    HDD's aren't that fragile once powered down; no need to worry. – user256743 Dec 25 '14 at 7:27
  1. The standard test for memory is Memtest86+. Since you're just testing basic functionality rather than long-term stability, you only need to let it run for the first few tests, rather than the full multi-hour test series.

  2. The standard test for the CPU is mprime in "torture test" mode. As a side benefit, it'll also test the CPU heatsink -- if the heatsink came loose, either the CPU will fail the test, or the computer will shut down from overheating. For a simple "is it working" test, 15 minutes or so should be sufficient.

  3. The standard test for the hard drive is badblocks. Since you're looking for large-scale physical damage, a read-only test is sufficient. This is going to be the slow test, taking several hours (depending on the drive size and speed).

  4. You'll also want to test the screen to see if it's developed dead or stuck pixels (or more likely, bands). The viewing angle test from lagom.nl has some full-screen solid-color images that are good for this.

  5. Assuming nothing was plugged in, the peripheral ports are probably in good shape. Even so, you should do basic testing: does the LiveUSB boot in each USB port, does the power cord actually power the laptop, does the network port transmit data, and so on.

As a side effect of the above testing, you'll have tested most of the mainboard. Verify that you can play sound, and you're pretty much done.

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Check out this somewhat old tomshardware article http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/a-sturdy-companion,758-2.html

Note that the circa 2004 drives were rated to take ~ 300g+ while not operating. Check all socketed components, cpu, mem and fire her up. I'd bet the laptop survived. G/L

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