Thursday, May 24, 2012

Computer Troubleshooting–Computer Will Not Start

I plan to do a number posts on troubleshooting computer problems, so start with, a computer that will not start up.  I am going to cover just the physical booting of computer; for example, you press the power button and nothing happens!  Outside of swearing, lots of four letter words, and threatening the computer, what do you do?  I suggest reading through all the suggestions first before starting.

  • Ok, this may sound kind of obvious, but make sure you have power!  This is relatively easy to test, just plug a device you know works into the outlet or power/surge strip the computer is plugged into, if the device works then you know computer as at fault.  Do not be the guy that contacted customer support because his computer would not power on, because the power was out (supposedly this is a true story)!  Just to note, most motherboards have a little light on them that indicate that are getting power.
  • Along with the last suggestion, if you have reason to suspect a power problem, you can replace the power cord for the computer.  The computer should have a standard power cord that can be picked anywhere or even from other devices.
  • For the third troubleshooting step we are going to unplug the computer’s power and if you have a laptop pull the battery out.  Leave the computer and battery out for approximately a minute, then plug everything back in and see if that corrects the problem.  In my experience this fixes most computers that stubbornly refuse to boot for no good reason.
  • This next step simply takes the third troubleshooting step to the extreme.  In addition to unplugging the computer and if you have a laptop, removing the battery; also, remove the little coin battery on the motherboard and unplug the main power supply’s connection to the motherboard.  Leave everything unplugged and out for a couple minutes, the plug everything back in and try powering on the computer.  Just to note, if you have a laptop, removing the coin battery may be next to impossible without disintegrating the entire laptop, in which case you may want to try some of the other troubleshooting steps first.  In the third picture below, the coin battery is located under the graphics card.
  • motherboard power24 pin power connectormotherboard coin battery
  • Reset the CMOS/BOIS.  You will have to look up in  your computer’s manual how to do this or do a web search.  Some motherboards use dip switches, others pins, and also actual CMOS reset buttons, you will have to consult the manual to determine what your computer has.
  • Unplug everything from the rear of the computer, all USB devices, computer monitors, internet ect.  Try powering the computer once everything is unplugged.  If unplugging everything fixes the problem, power the computer back off by holding in the power button until the computer shuts off.  Then plug everything back and see if the computer works, if not then one of the devices is probably malfunctioning and you will have to test one by one which device is causing the problem.  I actually had this one time where an external USB CD/DVD burner was somehow preventing the computer from starting, it was not until I unplugged the device that I could power the computer on.
  • Unplug and remove all components from the motherboard, including RAM, CPU, Hard drives, CD/DVD ROM drives, and add-on cards (graphics, sound, modems, ect.).  Also unplug the power from all these devices.  Once everything is unplugged (except for the power button!) try powering the computer, while the computer will not work it should at the very least power on.  If this works, then you will have to determine which device is failing by plugging them back in one by one.
  • Check and make sure the power switch is working.  I have also had this one happen to me, the power switch failed.  You will have to consult your computers manual to determine where the power switch is and where it plugs into the motherboard.  If you have an electrical tester you can test the button using the OHM’s setting on the electrical tester.  Depending on your computer, if you have a reset button; you can plug this into the motherboards power switch and see if that button will work.  This is what I have able to do with my computer, I unplugged the power switch and plugged in the reset switch which worked.
  • Test the power supply or switch out the power supply.  If you have a power supply tester (cost about $20-30 for a cheap one) you can test if the power supply works and is outputting all the correct voltages.  Alternatively, if you have another power supply, you can also switch out the power supply.  If the power supply is working and none of the other suggestions have worked, then the motherboard is most likely dead.
  • A general inspection of the components may also reveal the problem.  Look for any blown components, components with burn marks; or any smoke pouring out of the electronics.


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