Motherboard fried or harddrive? Pics inside

My laptop (Gateway NV79) is failing to recognize the mobo after about a year of owning it. I tried the HD in the other slot, still nothing, which isn't helping me narrow down if it's the HDD or the MB. Sorry about these poor quality pics, but what I am showing you is a dark black spot, which looks like aftermath of a failure of some sort.

I am able to boot my compute with a recovery disk with no prob., other than it being unable to detect a HDD.

My main question here is, how can I;

1. Avoid buying a new HDD just to test it to confirm if it's the HDD or the MB.

2. Not bring it to a computer repair place. (Broke as a joke during the holidays!)

My only other computer is a desktop, but I don't think I am able to test the drives in that computer. Correct me if I'm wrong.

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More about motherboard fried harddrive pics inside
  1. Sorry, forgot to mention seeing it's hard to see. Its on the upper part of the copper tubing under the plastic, where it actually looks like a shadow, it's black from something.
  2. This image is keeping me positive the mobo might still be ok.

  3. Sorry, dug a little deeper and answered a part of my question.

    which is exactly how the blackening looks.

    Now, if the HDD isn't working in both slots, chances are, it's going to be the HDD? How could I test this out?
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