It happens all the time, you go away for a holiday and come back to find your computer lifeless. Or you leave your computer in your car overnight and find it acting abnormally the next time you power it on. Sometimes these kinds of disasters can be avoided with a little TLC for your computer.
There are many reasons why a computer will not turn on and usually very few clues indicating what could be causing the problem if there was no physical damage. This is not surprising when the only symptom is usually the simple fact that “nothing works”. Most people panic when this type of thing happens and they have every right to when you add to this, the fact that whatever is wrong could be an expensive part of your laptop or desktop computer to repair or replace – such as the motherboard or CPU.
Do not worry, all is not lost. Here are a few tips on how to troubleshoot your computer if it does not boot and also a few preventive measures you can take to avoid these kinds of situations entirely.
Don’t Panic! Your Data is Probably Fine
Many people assume that everything on their computer is lost forever when they are faced with a laptop or desktop that will not power on. Generally, the most common reason why a computer will not start is because a hardware component has failed or is causing a problem. But in most cases that piece of hardware is not the hard drive, which is the part of your computer that stores all of your files. This means that, your music, documents, emails, and videos are probably safe – just not accessible at the moment.
So there is no need to panic, take a deep breath and try to relax. There is a good chance you can figure out exactly why your computer will not start and then you can take measures to get it back up and running again.
Dead Computer…Your Computer Shows No Signs of Life
Here are some steps you can try if your computer will not turn on and is showing no signs of receiving any power for example, no fans running and no lights on the computer.
Important: You may or may not see a light on the back of your desktop computer if it is a desktop, depending on the kind of power supply you have and the exact cause of the no power issue.
Note: If you have a desktop, your monitor is probably fine. If the computer is not turning on because of a power issue then the monitor obviously cannot display anything coming from the computer.
- Remove any external device that may be connected to your computer such as printers, hard drives, iPods etc.
- Make sure your power adapter on a laptop or power cord for your desktop is good. The best way to check that is to use another one that works. Also, make sure that the actual electrical outlet is good. You can test that by plugging in another device in the outlet.
- If you have a laptop and the power adapter is a known good part then it is possible that you are having an issue with your power or DC jack. These repairs are fairly inexpensive and require soldering on a replacement power jack.
- Unfortunately the only way to test if the power jack is the issue is to open the laptop and check to see if the computer will power on by using jumpers on the motherboard or a voltage meter to see if there is power coming through the DC jack. I recommend that a professional do this step.
- On a desktop you can remove the side panel on the computer and test the power supply with a multimeter if you have one handy. This should indicate whether or not the power supply has power to run your computer. Power supplies go out all the time on computers, this can happen from power surges and even just normal wear and tear.
- If the power supply has power then you can try to re-seat the power cable to the motherboard in case it was knocked out of place.
- Also make sure that the power switch on the actual power supply is in the “on” position.
- Remove all the ram sticks from your computer. Try swapping the ram with known good ram on your laptop or desktop one ram slot at a time.
- On a Mac you can try a PRAM reset and on a Windows computer you can try resetting the CMOS memory.
- Try taking the battery out on a laptop computer, plug the computer into an electrical outlet and see if it powers on with no battery installed.
- After this step an experienced computer technician should be consulted to diagnose the issue. The remaining steps in troubleshooting a computer that does not power on are very extensive and require disabling several internal hardware components to narrow down the cause of the problem.
- The computer should be taken down to minimal configuration in order to pinpoint the issue. The only components necessary to power on a computer are the following:
- Power supply
- CPU fan
- One memory stick
- One graphics card
- Everything else should be removed or disconnected
Now try turning the computer on again. If it turns on at this point you can assume that one of the components taken out or disconnected from your laptop or desktop is the culprit and the exact part can be determined by reinstalling the components one by one until you get to the part that causes your computer to stop powering on.
If the computer did not power on in the minimal configuration state then there are a few more things you can try. You can clean the inside of the computer; sometimes accumulated dust can clog your machine up and stop it from working. You can also try swapping fans with a known good fan, overheating will prevent a computer from powering on. Sometimes the ram slots get dirty and need to get blown out with an air can or air compressor.
If this does not fix your computer there may be issues with your motherboard or CPU at which point you will have to determine whether or not you want to repair your computer or replace it.
Here are some guidelines to prevent power issues with your computer.
- Make sure to always use a power surge protector.
- When you do not intend on using your computer for extend periods of time turn it off.
- Blow out the inside of the computer through visible vents every couple of months to prevent dust build up.
- Try to keep your computer away from extreme temperatures. Such as your car on a cold night. If something like that does happen then try to bring the temperature of the computer to normal room temperature levels before powering it on.