Hard Drive Failure
A hard drive could stop working for many different reasons but generally speaking they crash because of a mechanical failure, electrical surge, a violent shake, or even because of a virus. If you start hearing loud sounds that you were not hearing before, be worried because those sounds could be coming from your hard drive. The hard drive is where all of your data and important information is stored. Hearing a clicking sound as you access your data is one of the first indications that your hard drive is about to die on you.
- A hard drive failure could happen to anyone at any time and the only reliable solution is to always have multiple backups of all your data. Make sure that you have all your important information backed up, or you could lose irreplaceable data or thousands of hours of your hard work.
- If all you seem to have are minor problems; and not the clicking sounds of death, you could use the CHKDSK utility within Windows to fix minor problems like bad sectors.
- If Windows tells you constantly that it needs to check the consistency of your hard drive, pay close attention because it could be trying to tell you that your hard drive is about to fail, especially if you are noticing that basic functions of your machine are slowing to a crawl, for example opening a simple folder from the desktop should not take any longer than 15 seconds even on an old machine.
Computer Won’t Turn On
Assuming that you have double-checked the power cable and switches, yet your computer still won’t turn on; it could be a critical hardware fault to blame. However, before giving up hope, try the following.
- Try a different outlet or try another appliance in the same outlet to determine whether or not the computer itself is at fault.
- Open up your computer, after unplugging it and make sure that the components are properly seated in their sockets. Things like loose memory sticks and add-in cards will usually prevent the computer from turning on. Components can become dislodged after a move, particularly in the case of desktops. Before touching any printed circuit boards, be sure to ground yourself by touching a metal surface first.
- Determine whether or not there has been a short circuit. Thoroughly examine the inside of the computer to see if there are any burned out components. If there are, they will need replacing. Things like power surges, overheating, water damage, dust and lightning strikes can all cause a short circuit.
Display Skewed or Low Resolution
If you notice a problem with your display once Windows has started up, it is most likely due to a problem with your graphics card drivers or settings or a loose/bad connection.
- Determine the make and model of your graphics card and download and install the latest drivers directly from the manufacturer’s website. Note that it is generally better to obtain the drivers from the manufacturer (usually nVidia or AMD) rather than the component assembler.
- Ensure that your display is running at its recommended resolution. All flat-screens have what is called a native resolution which is the one that they are optimally viewed at. To change your screen resolution, right-click on the desktop, click “Screen resolution” and choose the recommended setting from the drop-down box.
Computer Crashes before Windows Launches
There are many reasons why Windows may fail to start, but most of them can be fixed easily enough unless you have fallen victim to an especially bad malware attack or your hard disk is damaged somehow. Try the following if Windows fails to startup and/or presents you with a blue screen error message on boot.
- Repeatedly mash the F8 key as soon as you turn on the computer. In Windows 8, this should bring you to the new recovery mode. In 7 or below it will be a black screen with the start up options in white. Scroll down with your keyboard. Launch your computer in Safe Mode. In Windows 8, click “Troubleshoot” followed by “Advanced options” then “Windows Startup Settings.” Click “Restart” and choose Safe Mode when the computer restarts.
- Open your antivirus program, ensure that it is up-to-date and run a complete scan of your system to remove any possible malicious software infections.
- Use System Restore to restore your computer to an earlier time before the problem first occurred. You can also run System Restore from the recovery screen rather than booting up into Safe Mode.
Computer Running Slowly
There are literally countless reasons for a computer to run slower than it should do, but here are the most common causes and ways to fix them.
- Prevent unused programs from running automatically at system startup. In Windows 8, you can configure startup programs from the Advanced Task Manager (accessible from the right-click menu on the taskbar) and in earlier versions from the Startup tab of the MSConfig utility.
- Ensure that your computer is not overheating. Sometimes, the processor or graphics card clock speed will be throttled back to prevent damage caused by overheating. Your computer’s interior should be kept free of dust. Components should be cooled with adequately large heat sinks and working fans. Installing a case fan can also help tremendously.
- Open your antivirus software, ensure that it is up-to-date, and run a full scan of your computer to get rid of any possible malware infection which may be slowing your computer down.
- Optimize your hard disk performance by running Disk Defragmenter and Disk Cleanup. Both of these tools are accessible by right-clicking on your hard disk in “My Computer” and clicking “Properties.”
Smoke and Dust Overheating
Your computer has several fans on it to pull air from outside to cool down the system. If the air outside is polluted with dust or, even worse, smoke, rather than getting cooler, the computer becomes hotter. Cigarette smoke is worse because it has moisture in its particles. This makes the particles sticky and almost impossible to remove from your computer's electronic components. It's suggested to avoid smoking around your computer.
- The best dust/cigarette smoke protection is to keep your computer surroundings clean from both contaminants.
- Block all access points for dust and cigarette smoke. (i.e. don't leave your computers cover off for too long)
- Close all uncovered expansion slot openings. Missing expansion slot covers allow dust to accumulate in the system. Dust buildup inside your system's components can be cleaned by using a soft brush.
- A static-free vacuum and a can of compressed air are also recommended to keep your system dust free.
- Finally, if you have to smoke, be sure to do it away from your computers.