|Hardware Repairs, Upgrades, and Troubleshooting:
Identifying dead components: Part or all of a computer's functionality will cease when a piece of hardware fails. Testing is usually begun by searching for obvious hardware damage inside the case: components destroyed or charred by electrical shock, physically broken pieces, smoking parts, melted chips, etc. Remove any obviously broken expansion cards, drives, cables, or parts and replace with a new component. If you have any questions about what replacement part to use, simply remove the component (i.e., power supply, hard drive, video card, etc.) and bring to your vendor.
If you're not sure what parts are bad, you can begin by swapping known good parts with ones installed in the system, to find and identify a bad piece of hardware. If you replace the memory with a new RAM chip, for example, and the machine consistently runs well with the new chip, and consistently locks up with the old one, you can be reasonably sure that the old chip is bad. This same type of swapping test can be used to check virtually every component in the system. If you have more than one bad component in a system, you may want to start by taking out all but the most fundamental components, to make sure they are working properly: MB, CPU, Memory, video card and monitor. If the computer does not respond properly with only these core components attached, each of the components should be tested in a known working machine. Disconnect all drives and cards, and then replace one at a time, until the problem part is found.
Typical hardware problems, situations, and considerations to know:
- When you hear a hard drive "click" loudly and repeatedly, without any response from the drive, it usually means the hard drive is dead (i.e., you need to buy a new one). Hard drives, CD ROMS, fans, and other components containing moving and spinning parts do die over time. Protect yourself from this common disaster by regularly backing up critical data and applications on your computer!
- When your computer continuously locks up, gives illegal operations and fatal exceptions after having been on for a period of time, the CPU fan may need to be replaced. An overheated CPU or system component will create that type of problem.
- If a drive stops working, make sure that the ribbon cables are connected, pressed firmly in place, and not cut or damaged. Make sure the power supply connections are tight (you may try changing cables, just to make sure you're not dealing with a bad connector or cable), and be sure that the BIOS settings have not been changed or erased. A hard drive will not work, for example, if the BIOS has the wrong IDE parameters saved. This can happen if the BIOS battery on the MB loses power or is unplugged, or if someone accidentally makes changes to the settings.
- Make sure that all expansion cards are physically installed completely and securely within the PCI, ISA, and AGP slots. Cards can become loose, shorted, and disconnected from their slots when the machine is moved or shifted physically. This happens often when a computer is shipped by mail, or otherwise moved long distances.
- If nothing happens when you turn a computer on, make sure that all of the power cables are plugged in and turned on. Also, make sure that all peripheral devices are securely fastened to the computer and properly plugged in and powered up. (Many a computer tech has made a living "fixing" computer systems by tightening loose power cords inside and outside the case….)
- If the computer beeps when you turn it on, and nothing happens on the monitor, make sure that the memory and video card are firmly seated in their sockets on the mother board, and make sure that the cable from the monitor is securely fastened to the video card output. Multiple beeps from the internal computer speaker during startup is the traditional warning that the video card or memory is not installed or working properly
- If particular pieces of equipment stop responding in Windows, try reinstalling the drivers for them. Better yet, download the newest version of the driver from the manufacturer, and update it on your system (try going to www.windrivers.com on the Internet, to search for new drivers).
- Installing and running a diagnostic utility to help find hidden hardware problems is one common solution which users rely on. These types of programs can be useful. More often, however, they slow the system down by using resources and running in the background, and they typically add bulk and clutter to the hard drive and operating system. It is suggested that these types of software not be used. Learning to troubleshoot hardware and software problems, replacing drivers, reinstalling the operating system, and removing software conflicts is typically far more effective than adding third party software to clean up a mess.
Most computer problems are Software based. Once you understand how a computer is put together, you can move on to troubleshooting operating system and software based problems. These are the types of problems that you run into every day. See our tutorials entitled Optimizing The Windows Startup Files and Software Troubleshooting And Repair for more information on software troubleshooting and system opimization.