Computer Repair

My PC stopped working! 5 Steps to take and diagnose hardware computer issues

broken computer pc repair

Here is a guide on what to do to narrow down what the issue with your computer might be and posibly fix it.

You just turned on your PC and it’s not working. It might be just very very slow, it might not have an image, it might not be turning on at all/ It was working perfectly fine last night or yesterday or x amount of time you used it last. What could be wrong?

As is with any piece of technology sometimes it feels as if your computer has a mind of it’s own. So what do you?

In this article we are going to assume you get no display at all. If you do get an image with an error message you can try Step 1 and Step 2. Tere are more articles to come on this subject.

Before getting started remember this rule of thumb: If it’s too hard to do you are doing it wrong. You do not need more force. You need to see if something is wrong and maybe you have missed a step, a screw, a tab, something else.

There is a worry about Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) so an ESD bracelet for grounding yourself, touching a metal object other than the screwdriver or computer case or wearing rubber gloves before getting started to make sure you are not statically charged.

Technology has evolved to the point where ESD is not as big of an issue as before, but it never hurts to be safe.

Step 1: Have you tried turning it on and off again?

Hear me out before you tune out and think this is a load of …

Sometimes a reset is what your PC might need. A full reset where not only do you turn it off, but you unplug it from the mains and leave it for at least 5 minutes. Press the power button a couple of times for 5 seconds at a time to make sure no residual energy is left in it or it’s power supply.

After you’ve done all of that plug it back in and try and power it back up.

This one was something I had to do to one of my personal PCs. It would randomly just not work. Did all of the above and voila it worked. It went on to serve me well for a few years before it got upgraded.

It’s tired, old and you hear from all sorts of IT support technicians, but it actually works. Sometimes of course. The simplest solution is also the best.

If it doesn’t then let’s go to the next one.

Step 2: Unplug all peripherals.

This step is actually quite easy, but it does involve taking the pc out from unde the desk, out from under that pile of stacked books or CDs, DVDs or in my case pile of long lost kids toys (maybe time for some spring cleaning?).

At the back of the PC you will find a bunch of wires so don’t pull too hard on the computer case as not to break them.

example-of-cables-at-the-back-of-a-pc

The wires will lead to your mouse, keyboard, speakers, broadband and monitor(s). The big black one leads to the mains and we already played with it so we can leave it alone.

Of course you might have a wireless mouse and keyboard in which case there will be a dongle or two there. also you might be connecting via Wi-Fi to your router so you don’t have an ethernet cable. You might also find that memory stick you were looking for a couple of years ago.

Unplug them all! Wait… first take a photo of it just to be safe and remember where it all went.

Plug your monitor back in. Turn the computer on. Does it have an image? Booting in windows? Great.

Start pluging in everything in one by one and see which one was the issue.

By this point it might seem like you have already done a lot of work. But wait, there is more.

So it’s still not working what to do now?

This next step gets a bit more involved.

Step 3: Open it up.

For this one you will need a philips screw driver.

Philips screw driver for opening computer case

At the back of the PC you will see 4 or 6 screws on the sides of the case (there are thousands of different models and manufacturers of computer cases so this might be different for you). On most cases the right side as you are looking at the case from the back is the one that you need to undo.

Once they are undone the side panel should slide off. If you are struggling it might be worth having a look at the instruction manual for the case.

Ok so you now see the inside of it and it might seem daunting. If that is the case just take a big breath and calm down a bit.

Take a photo of how it looks.

Most personal computers look similar on the inside.

Inside a pc case

You have the motherboard on which all the components are laid out. In the middle you have the cpu with a cooler on it. To the right of it you have the RAM which usually are 1 or 2 but there can be more of them. Under the cpu there should be a graphics card. If there is no graphics card and you still had an image before it stopped working that means you have an integrated one on the motherboard. You will also see the Hard Disk Drive (HDD) or Solid State Drive (SSD) which are the storage solutions. To see more about why it is a good idea to switch from an HDD to an SSD click here.

You should notice a “box” in which the power cable goes in and loads of other cables come out. That is the Power Supply (PSU).

These are the main components required for a PC to run.  There might be other components inside such as a second graphics card, a sound card (although these days the integrated one on the motherboard is all you need), a network card, and so on and so forth.

We will stick to the main ones in this example.

Turn on the PC and look at the components. Do the fans spin (cpu cooler and graphics card cooler and/or, if visible, fan on the power supply)?

Don’t panic if they don’t spin up imediately as you turn it on, or start and stop. They usually respond to temperature (controlled by BIOS). You do need to concern yourself with the fans all being at 100% all the time and no display. This is what the next steps are for.

Step 4: Start taking it appart.

First turn it back off if you haven’t done so already. Do not put your hand inside the computer whilst it is still on. Turn the power supply off from the button at the back of it or unplug it from the mains. Make sure you discharge any ESD as described above. To be 100% sure do not work on carpet and put the computer on a desk or table.

So at this point everything might seem a little bit too much, but take a step back and think about it. You’ve taken a photo of it already. You have identified the crucial components inside it. You know what everything is and where it should be. So there we go you are 90% on the way.

Obviously some of you reading this might already know all of this. But it never hurts to go back to the basics.

As most computers have an integrated graphics card on the motherboard let’s start with the dedicated graphics card.

How do you know if you have a dedicated graphics card? It’s there under the CPU/cooler. It looks like this.

example of graphics card

To see if you have an integrated one on the motherboard look at the back of the PC again. Look at the cable that goes into the graphics card and see if you have a matching one a bit higher up above the USB Ports. Unplug the cable from the graphics card and plug it in there.

It’s held on by one or two screws to the case and a tab on the motherboard at the back of the graphics card where it plugs into the motherboard.

It might also have 1 or 2 extra cables on it from the power supply. Unplug those too.

Then take the graphics card out.

Pull the graphics card out completely.

Make sure you don’t yank it out. Again remember the rule of thumb. 

Turn the power supply back on/plug it back into the mains. Turn the PC on.

Is it working? If yes then there is an issue with your graphics card.

You can test the graphics card on another PC if you have access to it to confirm the issue 100%.

If the answer is no. Next step is RAM.

example of RAM

You’ve gone through the trouble of taking out the graphics card. Leave it out. Goal is to get it to display.

Turn it off again and turn off the power supply from the back.

As stated before the RAM is on the right side of the CPU and this only works if you have 2 sticks of them or have replacement ram in case you just have one stick.

close-up-of-RAM-on-motherboard

Right so let’s assume you have 2. Have a look at the motherboardand the sides of the RAM. The sticks are plugged in and held in by tabs on each side.

Push on the tabs and the stick of ram should just pop out. It will not jump at you it will just unsit from the slot.

Take one out and leave the other one in. Plug it all back in and start it up.

Is it working. Good. That might very well have been the issue.

It’s still not working? Rinse and repeat for the second one. Plug the first one in and unplug the second one.

It might be an issue with the slot itself so try swapping them from one slot to another.

Still no joy? Ok let’s go to step 5.

Step 5: Forums.

All of it has been really hard work. You’ve been at it for maybe a day. You are exhausted. I understand. Leave it for a day or 2 or a week. It’s up to you.

But do not give up. Your PC problem can be fixed. Doing some more research will maybe reveal something specifically related to your makes and models of Motherboard, RAM, CPU or Graphics Card.

There are boundles examples of forums that can be used to research so many tech issues and fixes. Two of the ones I have personally used are Tom’s Hardware (https://www.tomshardware.com) and Linus Tech Tips (https://linustechtips.com/main/). As mentioned there are so many more I cannot posibly list them all, but these are the main two I default to on so many ocaasions. Believe it or not even the experts have to do more research and don’t kwon everything (and yes I did refer to myself as an expert).

You can either search for issues similar to yours or just post a question on there.

Of course the recommendation is to first look through similar subjects on there, but if you have gone through all the steps above write a question detailing the issue and the steps taken to diagnose it. There might be someone out there that has had the same issue as you and is able to help.

These are the 5 steps that you can take to solve the issue with your computer.

You will notice I didn’t mention anything about CPU or Motherboard. If there are issues with any one of them it might be time to upgrade the PC. If it is an older one.

Throughout the article I have tried to encourage you to do it yourself, but of course if any of this seems overwhelming CdR IT Support is here to help you. We can sort these issues out for you and diagnose and test everything properly. All you need to do is contact us.

3 thoughts on “My PC stopped working! 5 Steps to take and diagnose hardware computer issues

  1. C’est vraiment intéressant, vous êtes un blogueur très compétent. J’ai rejoint votre flux rss et je suis impatient de chercher plus de votre merveilleux message. Aussi, j’ai partagé votre site web dans mes réseaux sociaux! Lauren Cosimo Junina

  2. Pode-se aprender algo novo aqui todos os dias. Eu sou um regular para a maioria desses blogs, mas ainda não sabia sobre um par deles. Amara Andres Gazo

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