I have a Gateway 7422GX whose wonderful (at the time) video card busted. It's probably a video memory issue because from the booting on it displays stripes all through the screen which make it difficult to read the text.
As a curiosity, it came back to life on its own fot a few months, during which I used it as a media center, but it's gone astray again and it looks like forever.
I'm looking for some suggestions on the best way to use it as a home server. I have an external 2tb USB HD which holds all of my media files. Because it'll be a file and media server, I want it to be a P2P server too (and perhaps backup also). I plan to strip the screen out of it to save power and allow for ventilation.
I would get one of those USB -> drive cable adapters so you can temporarily attach the drive to another PC. Then you can install some variant of Linux on it (I would go with Ubuntu Server because I'm familiar with Ubuntu.) Be sure to install grub/lilo to the MBR of the laptop drive for the variant you choose. If you're not sure how to make this happen, post to the Linux forum here or find the support forum for the flavor you've chosen.
Once installed, put the drive back into the laptop and it should boot and run. From then on, you need to be able to remote in using ssh (Windows client: PuTTY) to manage the system. I have headless systems at home and at my son's place which I use as file servers and which I manage this way.