Archive for October, 2013

Common Failure Symptoms

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Much like your vehicle can give off a weird popping, clicking or some other sort of noise or reaction that tells you for sure something has gone wrong and needs attention, computers can do the same. In this article, I hope to help you figure out what something could mean – and that in no way unless specified is it a definitive answer because like other mechanical failures, one symptom could be a result of several different problems.

 

 

Symptoms

Starting with symptoms, we’ll begin with noises. For example, to begin with a very loud noise coming from your computer tower or laptop could mean that one of the case fans is working very hard. This would more than likely mean that there is extensive dirt buildup in between the fan’s blades or even deeper – or that the internal temperature of the computer is getting too high and the fan simply cannot catch up. Some fans are temperature-based as programmed by the BIOS and can react as necessary so the loud fan running could be acceptable if it calms back down after a short while. Either way, if there is a lot of loud fan noise coming from your computer, it needs to be physically cleaned out.

Clicking noises are tricky and can mean several things. Listen to the frequency of clicking, and the volume. Louder clicking noises could easily translate into a failing case fan, and depending on the fan’s speed this noise could be quick or moderate timed, but shouldn’t be very slow. Very slow to moderate speed clicking that is faint or hard to hear could be something much more serious – as this is a likely indicator that a hard drive is either failing or has failed. The clicking noise in this case is usually methodical and repetitive, where a failing fan’s clicking can swoon or change in tempo.

If you press the power button on your computer only to be greeted with nothing more than a black screen and your computer sends out rhythmic beeps in patterns like 1 – 3 – 2 beeps (within the range of 1-4, 1-4, and 1-4 usually) the computer is having trouble starting (obviously) and is trying to tell you why. This is most common with Dell computers, and can be interpreted by a computer repair technician. If you hear these “beep-codes” either take your computer into a repair company or do a Google search for as specific as you know how on your computer’s model and make (provided it was purchased from a brand name like Dell or HP).

Having a CD or DVD in your computer as it starts up may make the optical drive spin loudly (especially older CD-ROM drives) and can sound bad, but this is not the case, it is just rapidly accessing the disk as some computers are programmed to start-up to a CD or DVD instead of the hard disk. There is nothing wrong with this very loud muffled spinning noise unless it’s happening frequently while you’re attempting to use the CD or DVD-ROM drive. In this case, the drive is more than likely failing and will need replaced.

Now we move on to visual symptoms. If you start your computer and it seems like nothing is happening at all, your monitor is on but just stays totally black and you may or may not be getting the beep-codes as mentioned earlier, this could be a variety of issues. For one, make sure your monitor is secured to your computer. The cable that comes from the monitor is likely a VGA (blue, small tip), a DVI (white, wide tip) or an HDMI (thin and usually colorless tip) cable. Ensure that your monitor is both plugged into an outlet to receive power and that it is pushed firmly (and screwed down if not an HDMI connector) into the slot. Some computers have a video card in addition to their onboard video, so if you’re not getting anything from the slot your monitor is currently plugged into, search for another similar port somewhere else on the back of the computer. If you have a laptop and this is happening, this could mean either the GPU (the graphics processor) is loose or failing, or that the whole motherboard could be entering a state of failure.

Then, your computer might be sluggish as it operates. It boots up fine, maybe a bit slower than usual, but it takes forever for things to open and it can be frustrating when a program that used to take seconds to load takes minutes. This is more than likely less of a hardware issue, and more of your computer being loaded down with unnecessary or unwanted software. It can, however, be a symptom of your hard disk or RAM beginning to fail – especially if your computer suddenly becomes slow. If it became slow over a long time, that’s more of a symptom of excessive software.

If your screen is fuzzy or miscolored (on a desktop computer), there’s really two things this could be and hopefully the problem is the first answer. Firstly, your connection from your monitor to your computer could be skewed slightly, or loose. Ensure that the cable is plugged in and secured tightly. If that doesn’t solve the problem then the problem lies within the graphics card, or your motherboard – depending on where your monitor gets its signal from. With a laptop it’s almost more certainly a graphics processor issue, but it could also be simply that the monitor cable is loose on the inside (and this will require opening through the device and procedurally stripping parts away until you can get to the cable).

 

Faulting Components

This section will be what the symptoms are per faulty part, rather than per symptom.

Faulting RAM will cause slower computer load and processing time, can cause your computer to not start at all past the power button being pressed, can cause Windows (or any other OS) to simply not load or present a Blue Screen (or other error screen) and produce “beep-codes” or a long steady beep.

Faulting Hard Drives will cause slower computer load and processing time, programs to not function or load much slower and can cause Windows (or any other OS) to simply not load or present a Blue Screen (or other error screen). Faulting Hard Drives will sometimes have some sort of clicking sound, usually low and faint.

Faulting Power Supplies will cause the computer to not start up at all, can cause random shutdowns or restarts (possibly without any error logs being generated) and can have a loud fan sound coming from the back of the computer – where the power cable goes in.

Faulting GPUs (Graphic Cards and Onboard Chips) will cause the computer to not start up at all, can cause your computer to not start at all past the power button being pressed, can produce “beep-codes”, programs to not function or load much slower, Windows (or any other OS) to present a Blue Screen (or other error screen) in any intervals and can provide “visual artifacts” which are weirdly-colored sections, pixel blocks, or stripes on your monitor.

Faulting Processors will cause the computer to not start up at all, can produce “beep-codes” or a long steady beep. Typically, if a processor is to blame, the computer won’t do much more than fail to start up, as next to the motherboard it is one of the most important components.

Faulting Motherboards will cause the computer to not start up at all, can cause your computer to not start at all past the power button being pressed, can produce “beep-codes” or a long steady beep, random shutdowns or restarts (possibly without any error logs being generated) or Windows (or any other OS) to present a Blue Screen (or other error screen) in any intervals.