Troubleshooting a Broken Computer

When computers fail, we are helpless. Sometimes the failure is due to a virus attack. However, other hardware failures could be the source of the problem. With new computers, some simple hardware component replacements fix ailing computers. These are simple replacements that literally anyone can do with a screwdriver and patience. The failed component to replace is the power supply, the hard disk drive, or a failed CD or DVD drive. This article helps you determine the source of the computer failure so that if it is a simple problem, you could repair your computer. Alternatively, you would know when to have a professional help you repair your computer after the problem is identified.

Troubleshooting a Broken Computer 1

Let us start from scratch. In this case, we have our malfunctioning computer powered off. The first step is to power it on and observe. When the power button is hit, do lights light up on the computer? On both tower computers and laptop computers, there are lights that light when power is applied. A good idea is to take a picture of your computer when it is running properly, so it helps you remember how it looks, what lights are lighted, and the lights’ color. Good power to the computer is often indicated by a green or blue light. Orange lights indicate a malfunction and indicate that the computer has power somewhere.


When there are no lights, the power supply is likely to be the source of the failure. Laptop external transformers can be tested and replaced. They run under $100. There are aftermarket replacements. The next test for a laptop and a desktop computer is to use a new external laptop transformer or a new power supply to test for the failed power supply.

Power supplies for desktop computers are available online and from local stores. They also cost around $100. A new supply does not need to be installed in a computer to test the power supply. Instead, just lay the computer on its side with the chassis open, place the new power supply on top of the old power supply, disconnect the old power supply one connector, and connect the equivalent connector into the computer one power supply connector at a time. Once the new power supply is connected, try powering on the computer. This tests the power supply.

A new power supply that provides more watts is fine. This means a 500 W power supply can replace a 300 W power supply. It is best not to reduce power supply wattage (replace a 500 W power supply with a 300 W power supply), but OK to increase it. Power connections to floppy disk drives can easily short out the power supply when the connector is not plugged in precisely. If the computer does not turn on, then disconnect the floppy drive power and try with the floppy drive power disconnected. Finally, all power supply connections are keyed and have a connector clip. When connecting the power connectors, make sure the connector clip is lined up correctly.

If the new transformer does not fix the laptop’s computer power, you can return the laptop to the manufacturer for repairs or buy a new laptop. If you buy a new laptop, the data can be removed from the old laptop’s hard disk drive and moved to the new laptop’s hard disk drive. With a desktop PC, un-bolt the old power supply and bolt in the new one. Replacing the power supply in a computer is cleaner and easier than replacing the spark plugs in a car.

Now let us return to our troubleshooting. The next possible error indication is that the computer does not boot, and there is no display. Monitors have a light on the bottom right. When this light is green, the computer is sending a video signal to the monitor. If the light is large, then the computer is not sending a video signal to the monitor.

When there is no video signal sent to the monitor, it indicates that the problem resides in the computer hardware. This suggests that we look inside the computer and check the Main Logic Board (MLB) capacitors (these are round tower-like components that stick up from the MLB). Main Logic Boards fail when they are five years or older due to the capacitors on the MLB failing. The capacitors burst to cause a complete failure of the MLB. When this occurs, the solution is purchasing a new computer.

Roberto Brock
the authorRoberto Brock
Snowboarder, traveler, DJ, Swiss design-head and HTML & CSS lover. Doing at the nexus of art and purpose to develop visual solutions that inform and persuade. I'm a designer and this is my work. Introvert. Coffee evangelist. Web buff. Extreme twitter advocate. Avid reader. Troublemaker.