How to fix a laptop's graphics

It's not always easy to upgrade a laptop, so what do you do when its graphics fail? Here we explain how to fix a laptop's graphics.

A reader wrote in to Helproom to ask the following question: "I have an HP Pavilion dv7 laptop, which is around five years old. It’s running Windows 7 Service Pack 1 and has a 64-bit quad-core 2.3GHz processor with 8GB of RAM.

"Unfortunately, my graphics card is playing up. But the idea of replacing what is otherwise a very good computer simply because the graphics card is wearing out seems absurd. 

"In one of your articles you mention using an external card via USB and attaching another monitor to it. How would that work when it comes to logging in? I would need to be able to see the login box on the external screen.

"I’m also interested in any other ideas you have regarding my problem with the graphics card, as I have limited space in which to put new gear."

This is how we solved their problem.

How to fix a laptop's graphics

Replacing a graphics card on a laptop is generally not advisable as they are seldom designed as user-replaceable parts. It also typically requires almost completely dismantling the laptop in order to get to the faulty components.

However, in some cases it can be done if the laptop has a modular design where the graphics hardware can be swapped out without replacing the entire motherboard. Whether or not this will work depends entirely on the exact model of laptop you’re trying to repair.

Searching on YouTube reveals several videos of people fixing HP Pavilion dv7s with similar-sounding video problems. Sometimes the graphics problems can be fixed by fitting a new heatsink and cooler assembly, while others show the actual graphics chip being replaced. The more basic repairs use a heat gun, while chip replacements require specialised, and expensive, equipment. Also see: Best laptop

This would suggest that it is in fact possible to repair your laptop, given a repair centre with the right skills and the right equipment. However, the cost may be rather higher than you expect.

An external USB graphics adaptor isn’t an option. It will work well for a second display, but isn’t designed for use as the only graphics output from a PC.

We would therefore suggest that you look into getting an expert to install a card. Get a quote first, and then decide whether or not the cost is economical for you.