troubleshooting your PC & computer hardware problems
Problems with hardware components of your PC can be resolved only when they are first correctly identified. If a problem can't be identified, it is difficult and sometimes impossible to solve it. You have to systematically go through each of the symptoms matching them with the relevant possible causes, and eliminating them one by one. I will tell you now from lots of experience that anyone who consistently just jumps at random possible solutions, will find troubleshooting difficult. You have to use a step by step method of reducing all the problems until you find the real solution. You might think this will take longer, but if you do it quick, then you can really build up your knowledge of pc hardware troubleshooting quickly.
Motherboard and CPU problems.
A Problem with your pc motherboard or the CPU can result in a totally dead computer. If the motherboard or the CPU are not functioning then the computer will not start. Most technicians will not even attempt to repair a faulty motherboard, as you would have to trouble shoot individual microchips, and soldering joints. This is typically avoided as it takes so long, and you can buy both the motherboard, and the CPU, can be replaced cheaply. Your CPU can be damaged from overheating if the cooling fan stops or gets jammed due to excessive dust and dirt. If your CPU has failed immediately after installation, then the most probable cause is that the CPU has not been installed correctly. After the installation, make sure that your CPU is inserted correctly in its socket and that the cooling fan is working too. You might need to remove the CPU to check that its pins are not bent or broken. This will only be the cause if someone has tried to fix or install their own CPU that doesn't have much experience. Since most motherboards also have a temperature control, which means they will shut down when the cpu reaches a certain temperature, you will sometimes find that the fan will start to go round again with a simple hoover out of the dust that has gathered in the fan.
Power supply problems.
If a power supply is broken, the computer will not respond when you press the power button. If the power supply fans are stuck or have stopped working completely, the power supply will suddenly shut down or restart the pc during normal operation. The best thing to do with a broken power supply is just to replace it.
If you have a problem with your memory modules (RAM) they can be identified from the slowness of your pc, and also from the sometimes blue screen of death, if you are using windows. When one of the memory modules has failed, the computer performance will go down significantly. On most of today's computers there is an automatic self check done at the PC startup. However, don't just assume you have a memory problem if your pc runs slow. Check how much memory your pc has, and how much is being shown on startup, and how much is recognized by the operating system. If your still sure it might be a memory module problem, then you can try swapping them around, and giving the slots a cold air blast, to loosen up any dust that might have found its way into your PC.
Problems with display devices.
Display device problems can easily occur due to an incorrect configuration in your operating system, or a loose connection of the video adapter, or even a failed monitor. I have seen many monitors that have been thrown out on the street by people thinking that they don't work, and nearly everyone of them when i looked at the adaptor, had a single bent pin, that could easily be bent back into the correct position, and the monitor would work again. So its worth checking this. You might be able to also check that the monitor plugs into the onboard video slot, or install a video card in your expansion slots, and see if that port works too. Sometimes hardcore pc gamers have problems with their video cards, and instead they replace the monitor instead of replacing the video card, which can sometimes be broken due to overheating or a faulty on baord cooler.
Its a good idea to test the monitor on another pc, this will quickly help you to decide if its working correctly. If it is working and you haven't been playing around with the display settings the night before, then your display has probably just burnt out. This normally happens in older crt monitors, but can happen occasionally in LCD.
Problems with input devices.
The common input devices for PC's are keyboards and the mouse. Many problems with the keyboard are just caused due to dust and lunch time food that accumulates on and under the keys. You can try to fix the problem by cleaning it with a special keyboard cleaning product, or if its a certain key, you can try gently popping it out and taking a look. If that does not help solve the problem, just replace the keyboard. Mouse problems can also happen due to a dirty environment. If you notice that the pointer is jumping around the screen, you may either try to clean the mouse or replace it. If you have an old ball roller mouse, get rid of it, and get a laser mouse. This can be cleaned by just giving the laser slot a hard blow, and a little wipe.
Hard disk problems.
A working hard disk will make a smooth sound that comes from its internal spinning. Problems with your hard disks can be due to a faulty adapter card, a failed hard disk, or an incorrect or loose connection to the hard disk.
This is quickly one of the most easiest parts to figure out the problem. If your PC doesn't even boot up the windows or the operating system that you have. Then you have a big problem. Especially if it was working. You should however get some sort of error message on startup that tells you that the hard disk either cannot be recognized, or that there is no actual hard drive there.
If the screen shows its not there, then check all the plugs carefully, and try swapping one of the power leads around. You will also need to make sure that the right settings are on the pins of the hard drive to set it to slave or master, if the hard drive has just been installed. If you've already been using the PC and you find you have a problem, its usually that there has been a problem with the file system.
This means that you will have to wipe the hard drive clean, and lose your data. However if you have important data on your hard drive, then don't just jump in to do this. Make it a last resort. You can sometimes install a new hard drive, and then reconnect the one that wasn't working via an external drive to see what the problem is. Sometimes i have found doing this, and then running a scan disk or a defrag on the hard disk gets it back in full working order again. Your pc hard drive contains file system maps to all the locations of your files, and if some of the important maps to main system files get damaged then this causes the problems.
If the hard drive is defiantly goosed, you will find it either makes no noise, or it makes a strange clicking or jumping noise. This means you need to buy a new one, and you will have great difficulty recovering any data, although it can be done with the right tools.
Most problems with CD and DVD drives are related to the media that you put in the drive. Always make sure that you try a few different types of disks, including an original music cd to check if its working. There can also be problems with a newly installed disks which are caused by the incorrect jumper settings on the back of the drive. You can also have incorrect connections, so you need to make sure that your drive is actually recognized by the startup of the PC. Check that any children havn't tried to make toast inside the drive also.
Adapter card problems.
Most new motherboards have a built-in interface card for many functions that used to come from separate cards. Some of the common adapters include the network card, and the sound card, and the video card. If these are not working, you need to do a visual check first. Make sure that the card is slotted properly in the expansion slot. If there is a network or internet problem, check that the network cable is securely attached into the RJ-45 socket on the card and that the LED status indicators are flashing.