Computer fails to start

The causes of computer failure to boot up can be broken down into four categories as follows:

Each of these categories holds a number of issues that computer fixers see on a very regular basis. The most common issues are explained on this page.

In many cases, problems can be fixed and your computer up and running again in a short amount of time.

Bad Electrical Connection

This is a very common causes of computer failure in older computers. The constant heating and cooling of the computer, atmospheric conditions and dust can all play a part. Most of the time the issue can be solved in just a few minutes.

This category includes:

Memory modules need to be reseated

It is a very common cause of boot failure that a memory module is not properly connecting with the motherboard. If just one of the many pins on the module fail to connect in the motherboard slot, the computer will not start. You will not hear the usual beep, nor will any text appear on the screen when you try to boot. The computer will be lifeless when you turn it on except perhaps for the case and CPU fans. Take the power cord out the back of your computer and open the case. Try taking out the memory modules and the putting them back (with a bit of a shove). This is called reseating. Sometimes you have to repeat the process a few times. The bad electrical contact occurs as a result of a gap opening up, or a bit of corrosion or dust getting between the electrical contacts. Reseating works in very many cases.

Video card needs to be reseated

This is much the same problem as with the memory modules, except the video card need to be reseated. Of course, your computer may not have a separate video card. Furthermore, if you have a laptop and it has a separate video card, then you can only get to the video card if you take the laptop base apart. Laptops are really unfriendly in this matter. Unless you have experience, or you can find a step by step guide to disassembling the laptop base, don't do it yourself.

Loose cable

Particularly if your have been moving a computer around, or you have opened the case for any reason, it is perfectly possible that a cable is loose or there is not a good electrical connection. It is always worth a try to recheck cables by removing and re-attaching each in turn. The cables to be mainly concerned about are the ones that connect the hard drive to the motherboard and the cables from the power supply unit that connect to the motherboard.

Power Supply Failure

Power supply unit is broken (desktop computers)

If you computer is completely dead when you turn on, that is no fans, no lights, nothing, the your power supply may have failed. This is not uncommon. Replacing a power supply is easy and not that expensive. If you are a novice, just disconnect all power supply cables, unscrew the unit and take it to a computer supplier. If you do this you will ensure that you get a new one that will have the connectors you want and the right strength in output Watts.

Laptop Battery

If you have a laptop, check that the battery is connected properly. Remove the battery and reattach with a bit of a hard shove in case there is an electrical contact problem. If this does not work, it might be that the battery has no charge. Either the battery is failing or the supply of electricity to the battery is failing. Take a look at the socket where the lead from the battery charger goes. If there is a thin pin in the socket, is it very wobbly. It is not uncommon for someone to trip on the battery charger lead and break the socket where the battery charger lead attaches. It is also possible that the battery charger has died. You can purchase a universal laptop charger for around $60 and a new battery does not cost that much if you order direct from China via Ebay or Ali Express.

Operating System Failure

Generally, if a computer turns on, LEDs light up, the hard drive makes a few noises and some text appears on the initial screen, then the probable reason for boot failure is the operating system.

Corrupt or missing file(s)

When the operating system fails to start and the hardware is not a fault, it will be because one or more essential files that the operating system needs to start have come corrupt or missing. The two most probable causes of this are:

  1. The hard disk is old and beginning to fail and/or
  2. An infestation of the computer with malicious software

If it is a matter of missing files or files that do not read, then running software such as Spinrite can make a difference. Spinrite will often repair files and make them readable again. Following a scan and repair by Spinrite, you may be lucky to get operating system to boot up again. If you are lucky, take immediate steps to back up whole hard drive using good software such as Acronis True Image. This software will create an "Image" of your hard drive which you must store on an external hard drive. You can then purchase a new hard drive and transfer the image, however you will need a hard drive docking bay. A docking bay in effect turns an ordinary hard drive into an external drive and therefore information (the image) can be copied to it before it is installed into a computer.

Many people faced with this situation resort to reinstalling the operating system but this is often not necessary. A good computer fixer/repairer may well be able to repair the missing or corrupt file problem. If the problem is repairable, and it usually is, you don't have to start all over again reinstalling every bit of software you had.

Attack of malicious software

Malicious software is a generic name of viruses, trojans, worms and rootkits i.e. the nasties you need to keep out of your computer. A word of warning, if it is the case that your operating system has been damaged by malicious software, then often it is very difficult to make repairs and get the computer to boot up again. It's not impossible, just difficult. Malicious software is so incredibly sophisticated these days that even good proprietary Anti-Virus software cannot deal with it. If you scan a hard drive that will not boot using a rescue disk provided by the makers of anti-virus software, it is likely that the malicious software will be detected and repairs effected. However, the repairs may not be 100% and the computer will still not boot. It is then necessary to find which system files in your computer have been changed/corrupted by the malicious software and this can be very challenging to find and fix.

Hardware Failure

Video card failure

Not all computers have a separate video card. It is easy to tell if your computer does. If the monitor lead connects to your computer in the same area where all the other leads plug in, then your computer does not have a separate video card. On the other hand, if you monitor lead plus into your computer in an area well away from other leads, the chances are that you do have a separate video card.

Video Card with Fan Video Card with Cooling Vanes
Video Card with Fan Video Card with Cooling Vanes

The trouble with video cards is that they often only have a life span of about three years. This is may be because they get very hot. That's why they have a fan or cooling vanes. If the video card fails, your computer may not start at all.

Fortunately, they are easy and inexpensive to replace. Most video cards cost around $40-80. However, you could just try plugging in the monitor to other (not in use) video monitor port (see yellow arrow).

Video monitor port on motherboard

If this works, then you know for sure that the additional video card is broken. But you can use the video component that is usually built into the motherboard but the picture may be less quality.

If there is no other place you can plug in your video monitor lead, then you will need to replace the video card.

Hard drive failure

Sometimes hard disk drives just break. If you hear clicking noises, then this is a likely scenario. This is a bad scenario! Mechanical failure of the hard drive usually spells the end of all your data on the disk. The only way that data can be salvaged involves taking the disk apart and this can only be done by specialists and it will cost very large sums of money.

Motherboard Failure

Working out that a motherboard has failed is really a process of elimination. If it is not the video card, power supply, memory modules, hard drive, etc, then the hardware failure is presumed to be in the motherboard.

For laptops, a failure of the motherboard often spells the death of the computer. This is due to the high cost of replacement. A new motherboard might only cost $100-150 if you buy overseas via Ebay or Ali Express, but it takes a good computer fixer about 1½hours to completely disassemble the laptop base, change motherboard and reassemble the base. The labour cost could therefore comfortably add another $100-$150. Still, if it is a good computer, many people may opt for this cost rather than the cost of a new computer.

For desktops, the situation is much better. Motherboards are cheaper and much easier to insert,




Copyright Leo Isaac 2010


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