Oops. It won't boot. What do I do now?
One of the most chilling sights in modern life has to be the BSOD or the Blue Screen Of Death. The sight of it may signify that not only you may have a very expensive repair bill in your immediate future, but that any or all of your precious data, from your honeymoon digital photos to the correspondence with your divorce attorney, may have disappeared into the electronic ether forever.
The fact that your computer is currently refusing to boot to the desktop can have one of thousands of different causes, most of them impenetrable mysteries. What you can do, other than crying helplessly, is to undergo a logical troubleshooting process which many times will resolve the problem and get your PC back to its healthy normal desktop with no lost data.
1) Is the computer plugged in? You'd be surprised how many calls to the help desk could be avoided by just checking whether the electrical plugs or other cabling are securely connected. My ex-brother-in-law works for IBM and he was once called in at 7 am to rush to his city's Board of Education as the main servers wouldn't boot. He arrived to find that the janitor had hit the main power cord with a mop and pulled it out of the wall.
2) When you push the power or reset buttons does the computer react at all by starting to whirr? If not, you most likely have a fried Power Supply Unit. Fortunately they can be easily replaced.
3) Does the inside of your case look like a full vacuum cleaner bag? Static ground yourself and vacuum it all up or blast it out with a compressed air can. Dust can contain metal particles that can short out critical circuits.
4) Have you recently added hardware or software to your system? If so, you may be suffering from some incompatibility. If it's hardware try removing it and restoring the configuration to what it was before. If it's software and it's keeping you from booting, try using an emergency boot disk to get to your safe mode desktop and then running a system restore to an earlier point before you started messing with it.
5) Could you have caught a nasty virus? Use the emergency boot disk as above and run an updated viral scan from quality software. You'll be surprised what you may find.
Aha... you say... but where do I get an emergency boot disk? Rather than following the rather obtuse official Windows instructions, you can just google "boot disk" and your version of Operating System and you will be presented with many options of free downloads that you can write to a CD or in some cases even a floppy! These boot disks are a lifesaver when you need them as they will most likely get you to the desktop in some fashion which will allow you to run any diagnostics you need from there. I suggest you download and write one today, and put it into a very safe place. If you wait until your PC is dead as a doornail, you will have no option other than to go find a working PC and download it from there.
Failure To Boot can be terrifying but it doesn't have to represent a point of no return. Taking some careful basic steps now may save you from rushing out the door, PC case under your arm, on the way to donating the savings you had set aside for your Hawaii vacation to your local geek squadder.