This morning I turned on my laptop after I put into hibernation overnight. After the Dell logo screen I just see a black screen with a blinking dash on the top left corner. I've looked all over the internet for a solution and found multiple answers. But I am still very confused on how to really fix this. Some people say to reinstall Windows. The problem with that is that I cannot find the service disk. Even if found, there are many important files on that computer and I can't even access safety mode to back them up. So I have several questions:
What is causing the black screen?
How do I fix it?
If I nee to reinstall Windows, how can I save the existing files?
Any help is much appreciated.
First step: remove the hard drive, mount it in a 2.5" USB 2.0 case (it's EIDE, NOT SATA) and attach it to a working system -- back up your data.
Remove the battery, unplug the system and hold the power button for 30 seconds. Remove and reinstall the memory module(s). Then plug the hard drive back into the system, plug into the wall and try powering up again.
If mounting the drive externally and attaching it to a working system didn't help, then it's likely the drive is the cause of the problem. If you don't see it when you attach it to a working system, you'll have to decide whether professional data recovery is worth the cost (basic service will easily exceed $1,000 with a reputable recovery company).
Since you can't get the system to pass POST, a bad mainboard would be at the top of the list of possible causes. You're going to need that external case to rescue your data. It's likely the system is too old to be worth a major repair like a mainboard replacement.