Computer not working properly? Follow these computer troubleshooting steps to determine what’s wrong….
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Computer not working properly? Follow these computer troubleshooting steps to determine what’s wrong and fix your computer.
Knowing how to effectively troubleshoot your computer is something every PC builder should know. Even with a basic PC build, things can go wrong. Sometimes this happens right from the start, after assembling the machine. Other times you’ll run into problems later, when the components have actually been used.
In either case, determining faulty hardware can feel like stabbing wildly in the dark to find a solution. But if you stick to some basics when troubleshooting your computer’s hardware problems, you can dramatically increase your chances of finding a solution.
What is troubleshooting?
Troubleshooting involves identifying the root cause of a problem and then finding a solution. Troubleshooting a computer involves a variety of different steps and thought processes. Done right, it can drastically reduce the time it takes you to find a fix for your PC.
Use a process of elimination
There are so many things that could potentially cause computer problems, it is essential to rule out as many as possible. Determining what the problem is often means confirming what the problem is not. This is one of the fundamentals of successful PC troubleshooting.
A typical example would be removing a RAM stick and trying to restart your PC. If it works, then either that RAM or the slot it was in is the cause of your problem.
As you’re ruling out potential causes, it can also be helpful to take notes to help you keep track of what you’ve tried.
Perform a visual inspection to spot computer problems
Computers can sometimes be a mystery, but sometimes the cause of a problem is immediately obvious just by looking. Open your case and see what’s happening on your PC.
A typical problem with older, well-used computers is that everything is covered in dust. This can cause components such as your processor and graphics card to overheat. When this happens, your computer may malfunction or it may shut down to protect itself.
Also watch out for disconnected cables, physical damage, and anything that looks unusual.
Troubleshooting Computer Cables
For a wide range of computer failures, the solution is simply to reconnect or replace a cable somewhere. It could be the monitor cable, kettle power cord, SATA cables or something else.
First, check that they are all plugged in correctly. No change? Then try a spare cable that you know works, or test one that potentially doesn’t work on another computer, if possible.
Reinstall and reconnect components
Over time, your PC’s components may change position slightly, especially if you move your computer to a new location. This can cause problems, where the metal contacts of your components don’t fully connect to their slots on your motherboard.
To eliminate these problems, remove your RAM and reinstall it. Do the same with your graphics card, PCI-E cards, and anything that plugs into your motherboard. Restart your computer and see if the issue has been resolved.
Eliminate software as cause
What may appear to be a hardware problem may be caused by your operating system, a faulty driver, or some other software-related failure. Dismissing it will bring you closer to the real problem.
Try restoring your system to an earlier point, if possible. Uninstall apps you recently added. Restore the drivers if you made any changes to them.
You can also try running a different operating system from an optical disc or USB flash drive. There are many flavors of Linux that you can run this way. If they start successfully and everything works as it should, your problems are probably not hardware related. In this case, your best option may be to reinstall or reset your operating system.
Take note of error messages
Error messages can give you vital clues as to what is going on. Write them down, photograph them, or copy and paste them into a document – whatever works for you.
Sometimes they will give you a clear idea of what needs fixing. Otherwise, enter the message into a search engine and see what happens. Often you will find forums, articles and other pages that address exactly the problem you are having.
Listen to your material
Part of your computer hardware may be giving you audible signs of malfunction. Traditional hard drives already produce a quiet click, for example. If that changes significantly, your drive may be failing.
You also need to be careful about your fans. If they spin, that’s fine because it means your board has power. But if they’re particularly noisy or constantly running at full speed, your PC may be overheating somewhere.
Think about when the problem occurs
Intermittent problems may seem to occur randomly, or they may only occur when you take particular action. Establishing this is a useful computer troubleshooting step that can help you find a solution.
You may only encounter a problem when running a certain application, for example. Or it may only happen when your PC has been running for a long time. Many problems only appear after a system or driver update.
Think about it logically. What has changed recently? What were you doing when the problem occurred? How you troubleshoot your PC will often be based on the answers to these questions.
See what your operating system says
Assuming your hardware issues aren’t preventing you from logging into your OS, this may help. In Windows 10, for example, Device Manager can alert you to potential hardware issues such as missing or incompatible drivers.
Windows can also run disk scans and diagnostic software. It can also run a selection of troubleshooting steps, which can tell you what’s wrong with your computer. These can be found in the Troubleshooting section of the Windows 10 settings screen.
Check your BIOS or UEFI to troubleshoot computer issues
Before your operating system even loads, you can run software built into your motherboard. It’s called a BIOS or UEFI, and it’s used to configure your motherboard and components. It can also provide clues about hardware issues.
Don’t make any changes if you’re not sure what they’re doing, but watch out for things that are obviously wrong. Check if the BIOS can detect your hard drive, for example, but don’t start playing around with voltages and other advanced settings.
Make sure your power supply is working
If your computer won’t turn on at all, one of the first things to check is the power supply. Look for lights on your motherboard, fans, and other components. They can give you a quick indication that your diet is working. You may also see your fans spinning when you try to start your PC.
If your power supply emits strange smells, especially a burning smell, that’s another good sign that it’s at fault.
Laptop users should check that their battery is charged and that their charger is working.
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