If you’re going to be building computers, adding devices to your computer, altering BIOS settings, or just installing and deleting programs on your computer, then you’ll want to learn the basics of troubleshooting. You might notice that I didn’t say computer troubleshooting. That is because troubleshooting is an independent skill. I learned to troubleshoot as an electronic technician. And most of those same techniques work fine for troubleshooting computers.
Troubleshooting is really a kind of detective work. If you notice, the TV detectives spend a lot of time asking questions and thinking over the facts. And that is where a good troubleshooter starts, asking questions, not with tearing apart their computer, swapping components, or running diagnostics programs.
My intent here isn’t to give you heavy technical troubleshooting instructions, but to provide you with common sense techniques that will likely save you a lot of time and trouble if you follow them.
Take note: I am assuming a basic to intermediate knowledge on the part of the computer user for this article. In other words, that you either build computers or add components to it, like hard drives or CD drives. I also assume you have a basic understanding of the boot process. Finally, I assume you know basic electrical safety rules.
A Typical Scenario
Let’s say one evening you turn on your computer and it starts, seems to boot fine, but stops dead at the point it should start loading Windows. What now? You panic of course. Like most of us you haven’t saved copies of your most important documents for months. And since Windows isn’t loading from the hard drive, you “logically” assume there is a serious problem with the hard drive. It must be physically broken or the data is scrambled.
Since you’re in panic mode you tear the hard drive out of your other working computer and try to boot the first computer. The same thing happens, it stops at the point of loading Windows. What a relief, at least the problem isn’t with the hard drive, your data is safe – there is probably a fault with the motherboard in the first computer.
To make sure, you test the hard drive from your first computer (the one that wouldn’t load Windows) in your second computer, it works fine. That confirms it, there is a problem with the motherboard on the first computer. Probably the hard drive controller, you think, being the expert.