|Your last option - an external enclosure and use as storage is viable; all your personal files etc would still be there and accessible from almost any OS.|
If you decide to go that path..., when you connect it the first time to another computer - copy "all" your personal stuff to external media (typically DVD and of course another external HD is also "nice"). That way you will have safeguarded your personal stuff from possible problems anon...?
As riider asks - have you connected an external monitor to the the vga o/p on your laptop? Likely you will need to use the F Key combination to switch the signal from laptop display only - to either laptop and external display, or external display only. What that combination is varies a little between makes (and occasionally models too) - and will in the manual for your laptop,