Troubleshooting Your Computer

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.

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Comments

  1. While playing Delta Force Extreme i randomly freeze.
    i can spin, shoot whatever weapon i am holding, but cant move out of place, cant chat, or use Team Speak. it occurs every few minutes and last from one to four long minutes.
    I have deleted Team Speak Overlay, i have deleted and reloaded the game and the Team Speak program.
    it doesnt seem to occur with anything else. i have changed settings several times within the game and ,,,oh hell, it just happened while typing this so now i am really confused. maybe its Firefox itself but DFX does not run through firefox, i dont think.

  2. Pierre-Paul says:

    I’ve been using liveCDs to help in diagnosing problems. I like to use PuppyLinux. This way, I bybass the OS installed on the hard drive. If everything works fine on the liveCD, I mount the hard drive and play around with the files. If everything works fine, I deduce the problem is a software problem.

    LiveCDs are useful to diagnose computer components not being used (main OS and hard drive) while still having access to all the computer commodities (internet).

    I like your article. I will try cleaning my wires and connectors.

  3. these are the two message that come on when I turn my coputer on, what’s the problem…

    A problem has been detected and windows has shut down to prevent damage to your computer.

    IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL

    Restart computer, press F8 to select advance startup option, and then select safe mode.

    Technical information:

    *** STOP: 0X0000000A (0XFFFFFFFE8,0X00000002,0X00000001,0X80D9044)

    Next message after restart:

    STOP: C0000218 {Registry File Failure}
    The resistry cannot load the hive {file}
    \SystemRoot\System32\config\SOFTWARE
    Or its lor or alternate
    It is corrupt, absent, or not writeable

    Beginning dump of physical memory
    Physical memory dump complete.
    Contact your system administration or technical support group for further assistance.

  4. i need HELP on my pc. i always have problem on booting. my pc restarts almost always when windows starts loading. then after restarting a menu fill pop prompting me on running on safe mode. ive been spending alot for pc repairs and i realy would want to do it in my own.

    and also sometimes my pc wont boot it just makes a randomly rapid beeping sound, friends tip me off un trying to unplug my memory and cleaning it with an eraser and re installing it again. is that ok, wont the carbon contact have problems in the long run??? pls help tanx

    • yes its ok to clean your memory it wont hurt your computerthats is usualy what happen if your memory is dirty it beeps, and also if you have a video card and your screen dont see nothing or its peech you have to do the same thing. clean it w/t alchol

    • u need to reformat ur pc dude may ur hard disk is corrupted

  5. Hi i have my computer problem. Which keeps on restarting everytime we play any computer games. please help me with this problem
    God bless

    • Richard Painter says:

      My computer restarts after about 10 minutes and continues to do this every 10 minutes or so.

  6. Hi,

    I have a problem with my son’s PC locking up. I picked it up from my wife’s house this weekend and I have been messing with the PC today myself. It seams to lock up intermittently. Sometimes it will run for an hour playing video games until it locks up, some times it will lock up during or just after Win XP loads. Most times it remains locked up for 15 minutes or longer until I reboot the PC. One time however, I ran a movie DVD on the PC and it locked up for about 10 minutes and then began to run again. Ran for about 2-3 minutes and then locked up again until I finally had to reboot again. I have built three PCs and have fixed a few of my own problems before, so I would consider myself to have moderate intelligence about computer. This PC I build for my son about 20 months ago. It has an Athelon XP processor and two sticks 512 MB DDR RAM. I’m thinking that it I may be having one of the sticks of RAM go bad, or the processor is possible the problem. What would your thought be?

    • I have just changed the board and processor in a Atlon 64..They tend to heat up..similar problem bought new board and proc ..from tiger direct for around $100.00..This Board also comes with Driver Software.I had to upgrade ram to DDR2..$50.00 …..But PC is like new again…O it,s 2 years old..Total repair $150.00

  7. I have question, rather than a reply. My computer intermittently restarts and does not give me an error message. I have re-installed Windows XP, changed my power supply and changed my ram. It is restarting a lot less, but the problem is still there. At times, it won’t restart for days, but the problem is still there. I am running out of options,,,,,,,,,,,please can anyone help.

  8. When i boot my pc, it automatically logs into my desktop ignoring the screen you would get with 2 users….my pc has 2 users and one is password protected, but it ignores this and logs straight into my desktop….however, if i log off to change users, then i will see both users and the password will work if i try to log into one of the accounts….how do i fix this?…thanks so much

  9. When i start my pc,after starting it will boot normal,but when desktop comes I get an application error “that,0*fffffff memory location could not written,
    Because of it my pc takes nearly 30sec to open any drive,so I formated my pc and installed again but problem does not solved, so help me and send me reply.
    thank you

    • this means that your hard drive has a problem.. the sector where the system was corrupted. however if you install the os again the problem will still occur. so my advice is to check and recover bad sectors on your hard drive by using the winxp cd if you have one. do it 3x okey.

  10. i have just built my computer…it is the first computer i built….when i tried to boot from my dvd drive to install windows it wouldnt boot up…the screen would just stay black…i setup the bios so it would boot from dvd andit shows the dvd drive in the bios…so i took my hard drive out of the computer and boot it in a working computer to install windows then put the hard drive back in my computer to try and boot from the hard drive and it wont boot from the hard drive aswell. is there something wrong with my motherboard or any connections???

  11. Joyce Shelly says:

    Computer screen is BLACK BLANK nothing will show. I’ve rebooted many times and it will go nowhere after being turned on. Whats up with this? Please help

    • i’ve been experiencing this problem for quite some time now. it seems like your cmos battery is dead and it needs replacement or worse there’s something wrong with your motherboard

    • are u sure your Monitor still works? Did u recheck Video cable for secureness?.

    • hey your problem is so simple i got three tips for you.
      1. open your system unit unplug your ram and clean it and put it again and reboot your system.
      2. and still your monitor dont display anything. unplug your video card and use your internal video out of your mother board and reboot your system…if this fix your problem. then your video card is the prob. just clean it and check if still works.

  12. NTLDR is missing..how can we fix that problem?

  13. Gary Bates says:

    im very new to pc use and have recently bought a delloptiplex gx 270 with windows xp. i had a problem with porn coming through on internet i have sorted this . in the process i think i have deleted something to do with the media player as it now makes no sounds. and the trouble shooter i used is no help. I think it comes down to the fact i need a disc to reload deleted media item. i have no discs as it was pre done. could you please tell me what i need to fix this Gary bates ( plonker ) i know thanks

  14. I have a problem and I was hoping for some insight. While I was sending a large e-mail my Dell pc froze. I tried to power down by holding in the power button. The system wouldn’t shut down so I unplugged it. I haven’t been able to turn it on since then. Any ideas what is wrong with it?

  15. My computer keeps respawning whenever I see the welcome screen at startup….Please tell me how to overcome this problem….I cannot risk on re-installing as I have some crucial data in my C drive !

    • maybe re-installing your OS is the best solution..just unplugged your hard disk and then plug it to another PC as a secondary then transfer whatever files you think is “crucial” then you re-install your OS..

  16. My friend called me tonight and said that sometime during the day possibly during an electric outage her computer came back on and her whole desktop is enormous and she can’t get it back to normal size. I tried the right click on the desktop with her and going to properties, but she can not reach the apply part of the window. How do you fix this problem/ Thanks so much for your help.

  17. Annette Breitkopf says:

    If the motherboard is the problem then what should i do then so that the motherboard will do fine? should i buy new one or what?

    • check if the cables that are to be connected are connected well..make sure it’s not loose,the same with your video card or memory..try checking your power supply as well maybe it doesnt generate enough power to run the motherboard or its defective..or you could always just buy a new one..hehe

  18. someone please help me with my problem !

    • there will be so many reasons.do one thing login at safe mode and try to copy ur important data.If the computer is fail to boot in safe mode remove ur hard disk connect in another computer as a secondary drive and copy ur data.After you copy ur data try to reinstall windows

  19. When I turn on my computer it lites up, and makes a consistant beeping noise, and the fan is running real loud, It doesnt boot up just a black screen, and beeping from the tower

    • unplugged your video card then put it back in make sure its not loose and try cleaning it with an eraser..try to do the same to your memory…

  20. When I try to log on it gets to the welcome screen with my owners icon’ When I select it states “logging on” then imediately goes to “logging off”. I can’t get past this operation.
    Please help

  21. the screen contrast increases automatically till it reaches to maximum and displays contrast 100, when i reducess the contrast it doesnot reduce. this is the second time it happened in my pc on the previous ocassion i had contacted technician he had formated the drives and reloaded the xp. what to do please suggest me

  22. all web based video the audio is very muffled. when playing avi or wmv files located on the computers hard drive they sound perfect. HELP

  23. Eddie Hunter says:

    I can’t turn on my Automatic updates, sometimes I can get it to come on but after about five minutes it turns back off? My son has Firefox on my PC I would like to get back to Internet Explorer.
    How do I get back to the way it was when I got the PC.
    I’ve got files that are two of the same, how do I clean my PC of double files?????

  24. paul brown says:

    every time i try to turn on my computer it turns the moniter to standby so i cannot do anything to fix it because i am not able to see the problem any help would be wonderfull thanks paul

  25. Amit Kumar says:

    When I start my PC it takes around 15mins and runs with normal speed after starting.Pls tell me how to delete files left behind after install/uninstalling programes. I am unable to change my screensaver, messg is administrator disabled the display.

  26. malinda powell says:

    I can’t connect to the internet on my home computer. there’s a symbol at the bottom in the right, that when I click on it says cable unplugged I cant’ find this cable.

    • check your network cable …make sure cable is hooked into your network card or modem on rear of pc… and that other end is secured into a Modem or router or telephone jack…then reboot gl

    • check your internet cable . first check your modem ya wifi i dont know your connection is wired ya wirless. full service are there for internet service provider. if you checked you internet staus then you check your cable and lan . cable jack also check. easy way to check you lan you hire to lan connector.
      i think u solve this problem.

  27. I need help. I have dell vista desktop. my computer has some problem I couldnt solve it. it starts fine but when it comes to user logging and when i type my password,it sound like it will bring th screen but it just shows my background picture. it seems like nothing comes up. I test the entire system but it didnt find anything. I dont know what it could be.

    • i know your problem some virus in your system. your pc should be restart then go to safe mode logging in administrator then go to my computer right click go to in manage then open user account. delete your account and restart again. login and and to see your data is safe . i think ur problem is solve.

  28. Here’s a strange one.
    Every time I power up my computer it takes two attempts. The first try runs at least through the blinking lights on the CD player. The power supply comes on, the CD is checked for boot, and then the whole thing just sits there – blank screen (no initialization whatsoever) with the PS fan quietly whirring.
    Then,
    I simply hit the reset (warm reboot) and it starts up normally – every time!
    I haven’t a clue. If anyone out there can send me in the right direction I will become a one man walking marketing phenomena for this site.
    Fully puzzled….

    • What hardware do u have in there? the reason why i ask is that it sounds a little like your power supply might not be powerful enough to power your rig properly.

  29. Bill Jordan says:

    Hi,
    I have a 3-4 year old gateway desktop with XP. Tried to start it this A.M. light come on and fan turns on inside CPU, but no sounds from the hard drive. Monitor shows nothing (like CPU never turned on) Any ideas ?

    • try opening pc and checking hard drive connector….or try a secondary hard drive..if it spins..then first hard drive could be bad…to prove this connect non spinning hard drive in a sec pc.. if it doesnt spin…well u know it,s bad

    • dont worry maan….dis pblm is due to smps is not working properly.1st u hav to check ur smps,hav idea for testing ur smps..ie shorted the wire of green and black…then see ur fan..its running then ur smps is good otherwise smps is not working….thats all…try it..bye

  30. Everytime i install a program it works good while the pc is on, but when i turn it off and back on the next day the program that i installed is gone but windows xp works fine

    • after install verify that prog is added to programms on pc…and run a hard drive chkdsk…..

    • hello alonzo i think this is a problems of start up manager beause every time you off you computer then start in again that show you software again see to insatll. you instaoo tune up utilits software then go to increase sytem performance incide go to start up manager then delete for software in start manager. i think u solve this problem.

  31. My internet pages won’t load sometimes. The circle at the top just keeps spinning. My Internet provider said everthing was working properly they said it was my computer but when my daughter hooks up her laptop same thing happens to her but when she’s on a diffrent network her computer runs fine. Does anyone think it’s my computer or is it my network?

  32. network…sounds like firefox…lol..try using internet explorer to access online…i have that same problem too.

  33. I really need help. My computer has been giving me crap for forever. Its a Windows XP laptop. I start it up, and it takes forever to load, then when I think it loads, and click on somthing it just freezes, so I have to try to restart it a million times, it does chkdsk, and everything, but it still does that. So I do the goback thing, and it works fine, but a couple days later, same thing. I keep loosing my important files, and its really stressing me out. please help. thanks

  34. My 2 year old, wellcared fo Acer Notebok 5100 has been running slowly so I transfered all my info onto an exterior harddrive, then I inserted the disk that came with the computer for reformatting (I’m not that computer savvy but I think you know the disks I mean that redo everything that came with you computer when you bought it.
    It only will get to 5% completed until it goes dark again. I have tried taking the battery out and putting it back in as someone told me that sometimes helps. I have it plugged into wall socket,cords seem fine. Any suggestions? If it is motherboard problem, how do I know which one to get? I’ve tried putting AMD turion64 MK36 into various parts searches and no results.

    • clean and retry cd or try another os cd and ….gl

    • Thanks for your reply. I ended up deciding that it might be overheating so I put it in the freezer for 15 minutes, then left it in the freezer while I ran the restore disk. Worked like a charm. It installed all the way, but then I had to wonder why it was overheating if the fan was working. I took that back plate off……and yikes the fan was FULL of fuzz. (I don’t even put my lap top on my lap!) I carefully cleaned the fuzz out, had enough to make myself a poodle. I then covered the workings of the computer with a piece of paper and taped it so no dust could get in. I blew the fan area clean with an aerosal air blower. My computer has never worked so GOOD !

      • hmmmmmm thats risky in the freezer..happy u didnt ruin a circuit….mines heat up too a 4 month old Acer….i,ll check now regular the fans air vent…but no freezer…that can ruin the poor thing…ty for the reply

        • Didn’t leave it in there like a rump roast…just long enough to cool it and then to see if it would load up the disk (15 minutes) which told me the problem actually was overheating. The relative humidity is probably high in the freezer but probably no higher than some gulf coast states like Texas. So in that small amount of time I doubt it got below 40 degrees which is the temperature around here outside the freezer every morning.

  35. After booting up my system works normal for the first 10 minutes and then shuts down on its own. I have to reboot the system and then it works fine the rest of the day. This has happened every day for 3 weeks. Any ideas.

    • i would advise a system restore…hit start button to accessories….then click on system tools and find restore….back it up about a month…..and it will reboot….gl

  36. i was wondering would anyone have any advice
    i have a problem with one of my desktops
    when you turn it on, same mode comes up
    whether you click ‘start windows normally’ or leave it
    it then restarts itself and loads windows xp
    once windows xp loaded, a quick blue screen of death is flashed for a quick second
    and it then restarts itself and loads windows xp and samething happens itself
    over and over again
    any ideas whats wrong or how to fix it?

  37. Your Computer cant load win xp…damaged some how…hate to say it but u need to reinstall windows..u also said it flashes the blue screen of death….thats definitly a sign of a crashed hard drive….u can try resoring with a windows boot cd….but reinstall is more perfered a reinstall will also let u know if u have bad sectors on Hard Drive GL

  38. yes…………….The constant blue screen means something with the OS Programm cant be loaded…try reinstall if u get errors there then sounds like bad hard drive …………….gl

  39. hi
    i’ve tried reinstalling xp
    which did work by the way
    when i came to set up the wireless internet
    it didnt see the wireless card
    i installed the driver for the wireless card, it didnt pick up the the router
    so i uninstalled it and reinstalled the driver again
    and it still doesnt detect the router
    theres nothing wrong with the modem or router
    because so far i’ve got 2 laptops already set up on the same router
    any ideas?

  40. I have a laptop (IBM ThinkPad), running windows XP Pro service pak 3. Every time I try to download software the computer shuts down, ie., roxio, belkin wireless, adobe.

  41. Jack Harris says:

    Hi, I have a problem that’s stumping me. My computer boots normally, and shows the WinXP load screen, but at the point where my background pic should come up and/or the Windows login dialog should start, both my screens go blank.

    I can load Windows in safe mode with no display problems, which leads me to believe it’s not a video card problem. Can anybody advise me?

    - Jack

  42. Andrew Dunn says:

    My PC forgets the DAY< DATE AND TIME after the power has been off for the night. Something about BIOS error?
    What is the problem and will it cost big bucks to fix?

  43. I have a IBM thinkpad. My son was using it and every few minutes it would pop up that a virus had infected the system. Now It will start up and we are able to choose the user and then it will not load the desktop. SO I tried to work in safemode and it will not load. Is there something we can do or what can we do.

    • u said some virus in my computer yes some virus in your system i think u not saw your own data. so u use xp pre loader cd and back up of you own data then new install os. ok by

  44. when i try to continue on different websites all i get is blank screen at the bottom of the screen it says done. Example: can go to my bank website click on netteller then all it is is a blank screen.

  45. we recently installed/upgraded our pc protection with NORTON 2010, but now the pc is ok in itself, but when we login to facebook we can’t get our homepages to load, but we can get to our wall pages, also when we are on youtube and things like that there are no videos to watch it’s there but it not showing the video itself, and the pc will no longer display the sidebar on our pc homepage…..is norton blocking all of this………..or is it just a coincidence, and the cause is something else????….thx for your help.

  46. Bruce Weiss says:

    When I start my computer I am able to get sound from my speakers.When the computer goes into sleep mode and restarts there is no sound.I have to reboot to get any sound.

  47. Bob Kelly says:

    My computer crashed and I ordered a new recovery disc. I ordered win vista 32 bit, but later, checking on the HP site, I am now under the impression that I should have ordered 64 bit. After installing, I try playing Oblivion. The mouse is eratic and the game is constatntly acting as if it is trying to catch up. Oblivion played on this laptop fine, smooth and quick before I loaded Vista Home Premium 32 bit. HP support says that the 32 bit is not the problem. Help!

  48. Problem solved.

  49. hi
    I have a serious problem. I use an acer aspire 3000 laptop. Since yesterday, when i open it, it loads windows(xp) then freezes for 1-2 min, showing the desktop image, until the task bar and desktop icons are shown, but then i cannot use the keyboard and touchpad. If i try to shut it down, it will freeze! I used antivirus to scan and found nothing. I reinstalled windows and i still got the same problem. In safe mode, everything is fine though.
    Can someone help? Thanks

  50. Trying to help a friend – she was trying to post on Craigslist when suddenly the computer just crashed.. When she turned it on again, it went to a porn site and wouldn’t let her go past it. After re-booting again, she can get to the internet – kind of, but when a website is typed in, like google. com, it tells her it isn’t safe and takes her to a website to buy anti-virus software. We tried a bunch of different websites that we know to be safe, but we always end up at the website to buy anti-virus software. How can we solve this?

  51. Carlos B. says:

    when I turn on my P.C , every thing star normal but, after type my log in password to load windows, log me off over and over.
    I was firing with virus, I thing that I deleted some win32 the night before.
    What should I do now?
    Please help me!!

  52. just get a lighter and burn it as i did to my computer

  53. When i boot my computer it won,t open windows it reads diskette drive o seek failure press F1 to continueF2 to enter setup. how do i fix this?

  54. That login loop is caused by the virus you still have a dll file in windows that is causing the problem. Do a inplace re-install of windows, it will not delete your programs. You can look up inplace install for your particular windows.

  55. im glad i found this site,,,,sure it will be useful ,,,,can u help me wd my prob,,,,if i start pc,,sometimes it goes blue screen and says system halted,,,error..what will i do? pls , help me….

  56. When I turn my computer on, it will start up windows but at different points it will just shut itself off. It doesn’t happen at the same point everytime. Sometimes it stays on for a few seconds or maybe a minute. And then the computer shuts itself off and the monitor goes into power saving mode. Any idea?

  57. Boniface says:

    The “standby” {on start turn off} mode of my Computer is inactive, what shall I do to make it active

  58. HELP! My comp was working perfectly when all of a sudden it made a continous beep sound and the screen went blank. naturally i rebooted my comp but it wouldnt go past the HP screen and it still made the weird noise. It wont even let me press F1 etc or go to the start up menu. ?????? what do i do>>>>

  59. I think disable floppy drive in bios

  60. after my computer sets for a while it go
    es black and the green power light starts flashing what would cause this? I have recently performed a destructive recovery reformatt.

  61. When i turn on my computer it goes to the windows didnt shut down properly screen and than it goes to the Windows xp screen and then to the motherboard screen and starts all over… is it fried ??? how do i fix it!!!???

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