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From Chapter 1, The Basics

From Chapter 1, The Basics

The very first thing you should do when "something" - anything - goes wrong is to think back very, very carefully to the last time you used both your computer and that specific program or piece of hardware. Are you sure you didn't change anything then? Are you sure that you haven't installed a new piece of software or updated an old one in the meantime? Have you plugged in - or unplugged - anything? Are all the appropriate leads plugged in securely at both ends? Is there a power cut? It may sound like a stupid question to ask but there's plenty of evidence that people miss the really, really obvious things whilst concentrating on the obscure and irrelevant. So, here's Dr Keyboard's List of the Really Obvious Things To Check When Something Goes Wrong.

1.     If you push the 'Start' button on your computer and nothing happens:

a.      Check that it's plugged into the mains electricity supply.

b.     Physically pull out and replace both ends of the power cord and check that the wall socket is working by plugging in something else.

c.     If you have a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply, a large battery which keeps your PC running in the event of a power cut) make sure it's turned on.

d.     Look at the front of your computer and see if any lights come on at all.

e.      Look at your keyboard - it often has small lights indicating that it's receiving power and that the Caps or Num(ber)Lock keys are depressed.

f.       Listen carefully to your computer. Can you hear any noises at all from inside? Modern PCs have several fans to cool them down - can you hear them? Check at the rear of the computer where the power cord is plugged in - there's normally a fan outlet there. Is the fan turning? Can you feel air coming out? NB: Before opening the computer case take suitable precautions against static electric discharges, see Chapter 4, Inside your PC, page XX for details.

g.     Is there power to the motherboard (there may be a telltale light for this or you may see the fan on the CPU turning if you open the case)? The power switch itself may be faulty or disconnected. Chapter 4, Inside Your PC, page XX

2.     If there is power but your PC doesn't start up:

a.      When you turn the computer on can you hear any sort of beep? Most computers go through the POST (Power On Self Test) when they count their components and beep if they're satisfied that all is present and correct.

b.     Normally the 'Everything's OK' signal is a single beep - anything more than this means that something is amiss and you should consult your machine's documentation to see what the particular pattern of long and short beeps it's emitting means. It could be that the video/graphics card is broken or badly seated, the RAM (Random Access Memory) is failing or that one or more disc drives hasn't been detected.

c.     If the beep pattern suggests, or you suspect, that something inside the case isn't functioning correctly either open it up yourself or take it to someone (e.g. a repair shop) who can do it for you. Appendix B - Resource Guide, Getting further help page XX NB: Before opening the computer case take suitable precautions against static electric discharges, see Chapter 4, Inside your PC, page XX for details.

                                                  i.      Check that all cards (e.g. sound, video, network) are properly seated and that their top lips are secured with a suitable screw to the case (Pic to come). Just resting them against the case may not make enough contact for them to work electrically. It can help to remove and reseat them sometimes. Do the same with RAM modules.

                                                ii.      Check that fans and other components are free from dust - use a vacuum cleaner with a plastic-tipped hose or a specialist canned-air cleaner.

                                              iii.      Check that leads from the power supply are plugged into all disc drives and the motherboard.

                                             iv.      On the outside of the case, check that all cables are plugged in for your monitor, power, keyboard, mouse and any other devices. These come in a variety of shapes and sizes:

1.     Most modern are USB devices which plug into small rectangular plugs on the back, side or front of your PC. These can be plugged and unplugged at any time.

2.     Before this came PS/2 mice and keyboards with small, round, seven-pin connectors. You should turn off your PC before plugging/unplugging these devices as they're not "electrically protected" devices and you could fry a vital chip if not careful, maybe even necessitating a complete motherboard replacement.

3.     Before PS/2 came AT keyboards and serial and 'bus' (round plugs with their own slot-in card) mice. AT plugs are large, round, five-pin plugs and serial mice have trapezoid nine-pin plugs, usually female, which fit into COM or RS232 sockets on your computer. Again, turn it off before plugging/unplugging AT or serial devices.

                                               v.      Power and keyboard cables are the most important - nothing works without power and most PCs will stop during their boot-up (start-up) routine if they don't detect a keyboard.

                                             vi.      Monitor cables - the signal cable plugged into your PC and its power cable - are also important since, even if your PC is starting up you won't know this if you can't see anything on the screen.

                                           vii.      If you've assembled the PC yourself or have had the case open, check that the 'panel' leads from the motherboard to the various LEDs, speaker and so on are all in place.

                                         viii.      If the computer passes its POST and gets part way into the boot (startup) process, do you see any error messages? You can usually pause the screens of information which scroll past on startup by pressing the 'Pause' key on your keyboard. If you get a blue STOP screen with lots of technical jargon, you have a BSOD, a Blue Screen of Death. Read what it says on the screen and follow any advice it gives. Note the reference numbers it gives and look them up on e.g. the Microsoft KnowledgeBase website. Appendix B - Resource Guide, Getting further help page XX

 

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