How To Diagnose And Repair Your Computer

dell-precision-computer-dell-logo-repairA computer problem can be caused because of two possible reasons. It is either a hardware issue or a software issue.

Before opening up the hardware we should isolate the issues that come with software failures.

So what are the issues that software have:

  • Computer is slow
  • Computer keeps restarting
  • Keyboard, mouse, printer or other peripheral devices not working properly
  • Peripherals command interpreted incorrectly
  • App command not working in only one app
  • Slow Internet
  • Computer Freezes
  • Attachments won’t open
  • Pop-up ads
  • Google performing oddly
  • Virus infections

What are the software issues that are making your computer slow and how to fix it?

Hp Laptop connected to power showing software error
Operating System Error Dallas

Sometimes a slow computer can be fixed by rebooting it or by seeing if it can be opened from an external drive. But if doing that does not work then here are a couple of suggestions that you could try on your computer to get it fixed.

  • One of the reasons that your computer becomes slow is because of the programs running in the background. Some programs that you may not need maybe running in the background like TSRs and startup programs. In windows, you can stop these programs by going to task manager. In apple computers, there is a utility called activity monitor.
  • Sometimes a computer can be slow because there may be an antivirus scanner on the computer or another security utility that is performing scans in the background and you may not be aware of it. Since scanning the computer is gonna take more CPU usage to search, your computer’s overall performance is decreased. So you have to check your security software too if your computer is working slower than usual.
  • One of the ways your computer may be slow is because of temp files which are temporary files that are stored in your computer’s hard drives. In windows, you can delete this either by searching on the start-up menu or clicking run on the start-up menu “%temp%”. After clicking the file or running the command, you are directed to a temp folder that would open and you can delete all the temp files that you don’t use. If you can’t seem to delete a temp file, you have to know that those files are being used. The easier way is also to use a utility called the Disk Cleanup to delete temporary files but sometimes the disk cleanup utility may not delete all the files in the temp directory.
  • You can also figure out why your computer is running slow based on the amount of data stored in the hard drive of your computer. It is best to at least have free disk storage of about 200-500mb space in your hard drive because it helps the computer in dealing with increasing the size of the swap files which increase in size to increase with the functionality of RAM memory.
  • One of the ways that you may experience a slow computer is if the data arranged in your version of the operating system is not arranged in the OS’s arrangement file type.
  • One of the problems for slow computer due to software issues is viruses and malware. If your computer is infected with viruses and malware because of their self-replication and corrupting other files, your computer may be running slow.
  • Most of all of the software issues can be solved by either formatting the computer and upgrading OSX or uninstalling the problem applications.
  • What are the hardware issues that a computer may have?

To gain a perspective as to what hardware issues may arise in a computer we need to know about all the hardware a computer needs to operate.

Hardware is categorized into two types:

  • Input hardware
  • Output hardware.

Input hardwarekeyboard-keys-missing-computer-repair

It is hardware that is used to input commands or data or information into the computer.

Output hardware

Windows User login screen on a dell laptop screen

It is hardware that allows the computer to give out the result or output from the information provided from the input hardware.

Since these are all physical components of a computer, a computer may have an issue with any of these parts.

List of computer hardware components

  • Motherboard
  • Central Processing Unit (CPU)
  • Random Access Memory (RAM)
  • Power Supply
  • Video Card or Graphic Card
  • Hard Drive (HDD)
  • Solid State Drive (SSD)
  • Monitor
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • Battery/ Battery Backup
  • Flash Drive
  • Printer
  • Speaker
  • Sound Card
  • Network Interface Card (NIC)
  • Hard Drive Controller Card
  • Modem
  • Webcam
  • Scanner
  • Microphone
  • Fan
  • Heat Sink
  • CMOS Battery
  • Daughterboard
  • Flex Cables
  • SATA cables
  • USB ports
  • WIFI cables or airport Cables

What are the symptoms of a motherboard failure?

Green motherboard detached from used computer has nothing connected to it.

These are the symptoms of motherboard failure:

  • The system does not display anything
  • Error code appears after turning on
  • There is beeping once or more times
  • The system cannot be opened and is locked
  • The system seems to reboot
  • In Windows, there is a blue screen appears
  • If one or more ports, expansion slots or memory module fails

The steps for troubleshooting a motherboard are as follows:

POST test: Power-on Self Test is done when you push the power button to start the computer. What it does is when the power button is pressed, power is supplied to the CPU which seeks instructions from the BIOS. The BIOS then gives commands to check the presence and functionality of the hardware in the computer. If the test is successful then the boot is successful but if the boot isn’t successful then POST error codes appear on the screen. Each code is different and every code indicates a different hard drive problem. To isolate if there is a problem with the motherboard we need to check the power supply is working or not? The voltage fluctuations are regular or not, BIOS settings are correct or not, if there is overheating, if the fan is working properly or not, check if capacitors might be damaged, chic CMOS battery, check the POST error codes and what part of hardware or software it signifies that is not compliant with the computer system.

What are the symptoms of CPU Failures?

CPU with little pins forming a shape on the cpu

CPU is the main part of the computer that handles complex calculations and data manipulations at extraordinary speeds to give output from the user’s input. What CPU does is it loads the user’s desired input from the OSX of the hard drive of the computer and executes the instructions given by the user. To go on about the symptoms of a CPU failure:

  • If there is a chance of CPU failure when you push the power button of a computer, you may hear the computer operating like the fans and the disks may be running but you won’t be able to see anything on the screen and the screen stays blank. Sometimes it may be caused by some screen connectivity issues too. Sometimes when you have a bad CPU you might get a blue screen indicating error codes stating in numeric value that the CPU is dysfunctional during the boot process or suddenly when you’re working on your computer.
  • BIOS also can detect the problem of CPU and BIOS tells us that the CPU is not working or in a bad condition by beeping five or seven times. BIOS checks out all hardware so the number of beeps indicates the problems of different devices.
  • Sometimes if there is a problem with the fan like the fan is not working or is damaged then the system will overheat which will end up heating the CPU. If the problem is temporary then the CPU may not be damaged but if the overheating problem continues, then the CPU will be damaged hence there is a change in the functionality of the computer which is a symptom of bad CPU.
  • If you check the computer’s motherboard and see burn marks on the circuit board near the CPU or a large scorching marks on the CPU then there is damage on the CPU due to overheating.
  • To check CPU there are certain programs like Core Temp for PC and Temperature monitor and Activity Monitor for Mac. These utilities are helpful to see the temperature of the CPU, what kinds of work the CPU is doing. By comparing the stats to what a regular CPU’s stat is you can see if there is a problem with your CPU.
  • The most ideal way to deal with a bad or scorched CPU is to change the CPU or the Motherboard. You can also help increase CPU processing by keeping the system clean, using a good CPU cooler, installing supplemental case fans, upgrading your case and positioning the system properly.

What are the symptoms of RAM failures?

PCSeviceDallas technician holding a ram on focus with lots of RAM in the background

RAM( Random Access Memory is a volatile primary memory of the computer. The more RAM you have on your computer the faster the computer is because you have more space for processing. The symptoms of a bad RAM card includes:

  • Your computer is frequently freezing, rebooting, and bringing up Blue screen of Death which is a blue screen that appears with numeric error codes that signifies that there is something wrong with your computer system.
  • Another sign of bad RAM is if your files are corrupted.
  • Another sign of a bad RAM is that the PC slows down after you use it for a while but it maintains the usual speed immediately after a boot.
  • In Mac when you boot and there are three beeps noise on startup, it means there is bad RAM.
  • If there is a problem with the computer even after you reinstalled macOS or operating system.

How to diagnose this RAM problem and how to know which RAM stick is the one with the issues?

PCSeviceDallas technician holding a ram on focus with lots of RAM in the background

In windows, there is already a built-in memory diagnostic tools which you can run from the start menu or run windows memory diagnostics. A dialog box will appear informing you to restart the computer and check for problems or check for problems the next time you turn on the computer. If you click the restart now option, your computer will begin to restart and the turning on the computer will go into a memory diagnostic program and will check to see the problems. Just wait for a few minutes and you’ll get back into your windows. After that search for event viewer. In the left-hand section of the dialog box that appears go and expand the windows logs and then you have to click the system and then right-click on the system and select filter current log. Then a new screen on a dialog box will appear then just scroll down on the event sources and you’ll find the memory diagnostic results and check on it. Then select ok on the box and you’ll be directed back to the previous event viewer box. Check the top middle section of the listings and you’ll see two messages at the top of the panel with an I sign. You have to double click on the information to find out the diagnostic result from the memory diagnostic. If there is a problem with the RAM then it will show up in the diagnostic.

To check anything about RAM on an Apple computer you can click the apple logo holding option key on your keyboard and go to system information and memory and find out the information about your RAM. You can also find out problems in your Ram by pressing D or option plus D as soon as you turn the computer on. By doing this you will go into Apple Diagnostics or AHT mode from which you can know what is wrong with your computer. Another way to test your RAM in Mac is by using MEMTEST86. You download the MEMTEST86 file and Etcher. Install the Etcher dmg to your applications folder. Launch Etcher. Click the select image and choose the downloaded MEMTEST86 file and then select a drive and choose the USB you inserted which is not occupied. After that select the option Flash. The next process is to shut down the Mac and insert the USB in. After that power on the Mac and make sure that you are holding the option button. Select the USB to boot. Wait for MemTest86 to initialize and if it doesn’t select Config and then Start test. It takes around 40-45 minutes for this process. In the end, you’ll get a summary of the report of your memory.

What are the symptoms of power supply failure?

Alienware Tower opened up exposing hard disk drive, fan and wires

It is very difficult to diagnose a computer system with a bad/faulty power supply. Some of the symptoms of this are:

  • There are spontaneous reboots or irregular lockups when you are operating on the computer.
  • If the hard drive and fan would not work it is because of lack of power.
  • Since the fan would not work the system becomes overheated and the CPU’s gonna make the computer slower.
  • Getting electric shocks when you touch the CPU case or the laptop case.
  • Even when you press the power button there is no reaction from the system
  • There is visible smoke coming out from the computer system
  • You can hear popping sounds coming from the PC as it is turned on.

What can we do to find out if the power supply is bad or not?

AMD-Turion-64-processor-PCServiceDallas

We can measure output voltages by using digital multimeters and know if the power is being supplied to the system in the right amount. This process o checking the system should only be done when the system is on the load. After checking out whether the power supply is good or not, you can swap the power supply if it’s faulty but always be careful because even when the power supply is unplugged, the capacitors are still charged with a line voltage charge for a considerable period.

What are the symptoms of video card or graphic card failures?

Blue Screen Error

The most common symptoms of a graphic card or video card issues are:

  • Computer crashes can range from a lockup(meaning the PC freezing but not showing blue screen) to showing a blue screen, randomly restarting computer and computer shutting down inexpediently while running an application.
  • Because the graphics card is responsible for what is and how it is shown on the display monitor, if there is something wrong with the graphics card then the displays shown will also have problems like the screen will show threads in the display, little white dots will appear on the display, etc.
  • If your fan makes loud noises when you boot your computer or use application software that makes use of graphic cards, your graphic card may be a problem.
  • Randomly when using your computer you are notified of warning such as your video drivers have crashed and your pc restarts. If it frequently happens like this then you have a graphics card problem
  • Sometimes what can happen is if your graphic card is completely toasted then it won’t show anything, you’ll hear the fan and the hard drives but you can’t see anything on the display except a black screen.

What can be done to fix these problems?

  • We can change the drivers first because sometimes what happens is that if you have an old graphics card but you recently updated your driver then the computer will crash since your old graphic card cannot follow the sets of instructions provided by the drivers. You can install an old driver or the driver for your type of graphic card depending and it may work fine.
  • There is a cooling paste that is used on the graphic cards which help in the cooling process. Sometimes what happens is that the cooling paste becomes dry due to overheating and since the graphic card also overheats due to the cooling paste drying up. That causes problems.  Sometimes it may also be because of dust being collected in the motherboard that causes overheating or one of the fans not working.
  • Always check if flexes and cables are connected properly and that the graphic card is kept in their right slots.
  • Glitches and screen display not showing is also cases of display connectivity issues so try an external display monitor before opening your computer. Don’t jump to conclusions.
  • You can have an ultrasonic cleaning done on the graphics card.
  • The final plan is if all this doesn’t work is to replace the graphic card as a whole and get a new one that is compatible with your computer.

What are the symptoms of hard drive failures?

harddisk_datarecovery_pcservicedallas

A hard drive is a mechanically engineered device with lots of moving parts for reading, accessing, writing and storing information. So if anyone of these moving parts is damaged then the hard drive will begin to fail. Physical damage to the hard-driving such as dropping it, or spontaneous electrical surges and power outages or water damage or fire damage or it’s long usage and its age can be the reasons that your hard drives can fail. Some of the common symptoms for hard drive failure are as follows:

The first sign of a hard drive failure is if your computer frequently freezes or crashes or has reduced speed and performance. If you get freezes or crashes only once in a while in a long time, it may be something wrong with your OS, the longer you keep the computer turned off, your OS will start to act up or if you have an application that’s running without your knowledge in the background for a while, that program is taking lots of space for processing in your RAM and CPU which in turn is making your computer slower. These issues can be fixed by a simple reboot or reset. The significant sign that your hard drive is failing is if these freezes and crashes happen frequently.

If your computer is showing BSOD too often or pulling warning notifications like hard drive not found or no bootable drive found then it is another sign of hard drive failure. It may work sometime and may not work other times, but it’s just that your hard drive is still trying it’s best to work but due to either the bad cable or bad parts it doesn’t work and that is the sign of hard drive failure.

Another most prominent sign of a hard drive failure is if your hard drive takes a long time to access data. This may also be a case where you have bad connection cable but if your hard drive is old and these problems arise that is most probably the sign of a hard drive failure.

The most common parts of a hard drive to fail and is the most noticeable is the read/write heads of the hard drive which can make reading and write to and from the sectors of the platters of your hard drive difficult resulting in files and folders beginning to disappear, file names being changed, more corrupted files, reappearing and disappearing of files. This happens because the hard drive is struggling to work and can’t read the data inside the hard drive properly.

If you hear your hard drive being more noisier and your computer heating up more then it is a sign of hard drive failure. Hard drives nowadays have a technology called S.M.A.R.T. (Smart Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology). This technology monitors the drive’s health and looks out for the hard drive’s potential failures and sends you warnings of the drive’s irregular or intermittent failures. SMART warnings depend on the computer’s capability and also the manufacturers because the system varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Hard drive sounds are one or two click and some random sounds here and there but when you can hear a clicking, beeping or screeching you can know that your hard drive is failing. The first click from the hard drive comes because it’s in it’s resting position and when it’s read/write heads move from it’s resting position to the platters, they make the noise. From the platter, they find the firmware and make contact and then they can read the data. But if there is something wrong with the heads then the contact would not be made and the heads will move to it’s resting position and try again. The hard drive repeats this procedure again and again until it finally makes contact with the firmware zone which is responsible for the more clicking sounds. The beeping is occurred when the spindle motor that spins the platter thousands of rpm fails or seized when the lubrication in the motor drys off and when the heads crash into the platter and stop the platter from moving it produces the beeping noise and when the heads stop the platter, the platter starts to vibrate excessively producing the screeching sounds because the read/write heads are dragged in the surface of the platter further damaging the hard drive.

The best solution for these types of situations is to replace the hard drive and send the hard drive to data recovery facilities.

What are the symptoms of SSD failures?data-migration-from-hdd-to-ssd

It is difficult to find out if the SSD is failing because unlike Hard drives SSD doesn’t make any sounds. One way to know is to install apps to monitor the flaws of the SSD to check if it is running smoothly or not. Crystal Disk Mark is used in Windows whereas MacOS users use Smart Reporter Lite to check SSD functionality.

Some of the symptoms of SSD failures include:

  • Having bad blocks on SSD which is like having Bad sectors on HDD.
  • Bad blocks refer to those blocks of the SSD that take a long time to access, read or write and end up in failure to do so. Symptoms of bad blocks are as follows:
  • A file cannot be written or read to the SSD
  • The computer shows a message saying PC/file systems need to be repaired
  • Applications freezing up and crashing
  • When you move files from one location to another, there are error messages displayed.
  • When accessing files, the computer runs very slow.
  • Frequently crashing during boots
  • You can only read and not write to disks.

How to extend the life of your SSD?

240 GB SSD connected to a wire for data recovery

  • Make sure your cooling in your PC works and is good and keep the computer away from extreme temperatures
  • Make sure there isn’t any intermittent power supply or electric fluctuations or outages.
  • Free up some extra space on SSD and avoid using bad blocks.

What are the symptoms of display failures?

broken_macbook_pro_screen_replacemnt_pcservicedallas

  • Your monitor may be flashing or stuttering or flickering. Maybe caused by loose cable, incorrect refresh rate setting or power deficiency to the display.
  • Your monitor may show vertical lines
  • You have dead or stuck pixels on the screen with different colors. It means there is a single dot on the LCD screen which isn’t illuminating and is one color and doesn’t match the computer’s screen.
  • If you have cracks, spots, and blotches on the display that came as a result of physical damage to the display.
  • If you see a buzzing noise or whine noise(noise means the display does not look high definition) from the monitor then it is the issue of the backlight. It can be caused because of power regulation to one or more bulbs in the backlight.
  • If you see incorrect resolutions on your display on the computer it may be an issue of a graphics card.

What is a heat sink? What are the symptoms of a failing heat sink or fan?

burnt_connection_flex_repair_motherboard_repair_PCServiceDallas

A heat sink is a conduction based hardware component of the computer that takes heat away from the computer’s CPU. Heat sinks are installed near the fans so that they can cool the heat sink and some fans also draw cool air from outside the computer and blow it through the computer which expels hot air out of the rear end of the computer.

  • If there is a loud noise coming from the fan due to overheating inside, that may be a sign of a heat sink failure or dust or other debris inside the heatsink which is consuming the cooling space of the heatsink intern reducing the heat sink’s cooling capacity. The loud noise fan produces is because the fan is working more harder than it normally does to compensate the heat sink’s reduced functionality.
  • One of the major signs of heat sink failure is if the heat sinks have high temperatures.
  • If your computer restarts again and again, then it is the way of the computer to protect it’s CPU because if the heat sink starts failing then the temperature will rise and there is a point that it reaches the critical temperature level that the system will have to follow protocol to protect the heat from damaging the CPU by restarting or shutting the computer down.