Getting a new notebook computer is exciting, but before you throw away the box be sure to follow these steps to verify if your new laptop is in proper operating condition.
Notebook computers go through a quality control process, but it’s always possible atypical issues can slip thorough — or worse, something could go wrong during shipping (such as rough handling). In this guide we take you through eight essential steps to verify the computer’s operation and double-check you received what you paid for.
Visually inspect the box when your computer arrives:
- Look for noticeable dents, rips and other signs of abuse.
- Check to see the box is still sealed (e.g. it hasn’t been opened and re-taped)
If anything is out of the ordinary, take pictures of the box’s condition before proceeding! This way you have potential recourse if any of the box’s contents are damaged.
Step 2: Assess Contents
Your notebook will at the very least include the computer itself, the battery and a power adapter. Note that some notebooks have the battery built-in; if it’s user-replaceable, chances are it will be packaged separately and you’ll have to install it.
Step 3: Inspect the Notebook
Now it’s time to look at the notebook itself. Leave any plastic wrap, stickers, or protective material on the notebook while going through this process; should you have to send it back, the process will be that much easier.
- Look at each corner of the chassis and verify there are no cracks, fractures or marks.
- The top and bottom of the notebook should also be free of any signs of abuse.
- Open and close the notebook’s lid several times; it should operate smoothly with no unusual noises.
- Press each of the keyboard’s keys; make sure each one goes down and comes up in the same manner.
If the notebook checks out, install the battery (if applicable), connect the supplied power adapter and turn it on.
Step 4: Verify Computer Specifications
Your new computer was advertised with certain specifications: a specific operating system, processor (CPU), storage drive capacity and amount of memory. We can verify most of these by looking at the system properties window.
Access the System Properties window by doing the following:
All versions of Windows: press the [Windows] + [Pause] keys simultaneously
Windows 7: right-click My Computer > Properties
Windows 8: Open Windows Explorer, right click “This PC” on the left > Properties
Compare the following against what your computer was advertised with:
- The “Windows edition” (e.g. if the computer was sold with a Professional/Pro edition, verify it’s stated on this screen).
- The “Processor.”
- The “Installed Memory.”
Your computer’s storage drives will be listed at the top of the screen; verify the “Capacity” (usually listed in Gigabytes or GB) matches what your computer was advertised with. Note that it won’t be an exact match; the available storage capacity in Windows will always show about ~92% of the drive’s theoretical capacity due to NTFS formatting. This is perfectly normal.
Lastly we’ll verify the notebook has the correct graphics card. Open the Run menu by pressing the [Windows] + [R] keys simultaneously; then type devmgmt.msc and click OK.
Expand the “Display Adapters” section by pressing the arrow next to it; verify what’s listed there matches what your notebook was supposed to come with.
Step 5: Run Memtest86+
Memory errors are a typical cause of seemingly random errors or unexplained behavior such as the computer freezing. Memtest86+ is a bootable program which runs against your computer’s memory (RAM) and tests for errors.
Download memtest86+ here: http://www.memtest.org/
There are two ways to run the program; create a bootable memory key or burn the disc image to a CD/DVD. Restart your computer with the media inserted and your computer should boot to memtest86+. Memory testing will start immediately and continue until the computer is turned off (accomplished by pressing the computer’s power button). Let the test run for 24 hours (yes, a full day); you’re good to go if no errors are detected during that period. Arrange for your computer to be sent in for service if even one error is detected.
P.S. — If you’re thinking about upgrading or replacing your computer’s memory, check out our guide here to learn How To Replace Your Laptop Memory.
Not all displays are manufactured equally; it’s possible during manufacturing that some of the display’s pixels were defective. To check for this we’ll use an all-black image.
In Windows 7/8: right-click the desktop > choose “Personalize” > click “Desktop Background” at the lower left > select “Solid Colors” from the drop-down > click the black icon > click the Save Changes button.
Once you’ve done the above, carefully inspect the screen for any green or discolored pixels. In the rare event you find one (or two), call the computer company’s customer support line and ask for repair or replacement. The company may refuse to do so unless you have five or more as some dead pixels are considered “normal.” Of course, you can potentially take advantage of any 30-day return periods and send the notebook back for a refund if necessary.
Step 7: Verify Battery Life and Power Adapter Operation
This is pretty easy; make sure the notebook has a 95% or greater charge then unplug and use it until battery life runs out. Keep track of the time and compare it to the computer’s advertised battery life; it should be within 20-25% of that time (computer makers typically state the absolute maximum life; most of the time you’ll come in under that).
The second part of this test is to plug in your notebook and run it up to a full charge (100%). Make sure the computer reaches full charge in a reasonable amount of time (usually a few hours). This has the double effect of ensuring the power adapter works correctly.
This step involves plugging something into each of the ports on your notebook to verify they function as expected. Try each of the USB ports using an external storage device, a cell phone or other USB device. Also check the video output such as VGA and HDMI ports — you should be able to connect to an external monitor or projector without issue. Lastly, play audio through both the computer’s speakers and the headphone jack.
Statistically speaking most notebook computers will arrive aesthetically and functionally sound; as good as today’s quality control is however, some oddballs will slip through. If your new notebook passed the quality control test you gave it courtesy of this guide, chances are it’s a good egg and will continue to be so for years to come.