Posts Tagged ‘computers’

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.

Business and Government Get Hit by Identity Theft, Too

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

While consumers are fighting their own personal wars with identity theft, companies are also inventing new ways to deal with the increasing threat. Banks lose millions of dollars every year by having to compensate identity theft victims, and so they’re developing new ways for consumers to protect themselves.

Who's you online?

Who’s you online?

Money Matters

Companies that have a single reported security breach may find themselves with billions of dollars in damages, as well as a troubled reputation that will linger for years to come. USA Today reports that businesses lose between $150-$250 for each card number stolen from their files. This amount represents the required legal fees, consultants and administrative costs. This may not seem like a lot, but tens of thousands of credit card numbers can be stolen in a single breach.

Government Dealings

Companies aren’t the only ones dealing with the challenge of identity theft. The government has also been affected. The state of South Carolina had its security system breached in 2012, resulting in 3.6 million Social Security numbers being exposed, thestate.com reports. And in a 2006 security breach at the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department, the personal data of 26.5 million veterans was downloaded to a laptop that was later stolen (and later, recovered).

Once information is accessed by a hacker, it can be uploaded online. At this point, nothing can stop the information from being traded on the Internet, and those who have been affected may have no choice but to petition for a change of their Social Security number. This is not an easy process and can sometimes take months. Government agencies are especially vulnerable to security attack, because so many of them run legacy computer systems.

Retail Threats

Retail establishments are at increased risk for identity theft, because they rely on third-party vendors and merchant payment processes for many of their services. Consumers are more likely to experience identity theft during the holidays, in part due to new and seasonal workers employed at retail locations. This means retail stores need to be cautious about running background checks on their new workers.

Consumer Precautions

While banks, governments and corporations are working hard to lessen the impact of identity theft, the bulk of the responsibility still falls upon the consumer.

  • Avoid using paper statements, and thoroughly review your statements every time you get one
  • Consider signing up with an identity theft protection service such as LifeLock. These companies will monitor your account activity and alert you if they see anything suspicious
  • Never release your credit card information online until you have verified the recipient
  • Teach your children about Internet safety
  • Don’t leave your mail in your mailbox overnight, and always shred documents before discarding them

Have you ever been a victim of identity theft? How did it affect you? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Dirt and Dust – Are you destroying your computer?

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Fundamentally, computers are complex machines. They can perform many tasks of modern life, but are susceptible to the same flaws as any other machine would be. Dirt and dust are mortal enemies of machines and have several troubling consequences, home and office computers included. In a list of the ten most common reasons for computer failures published in 2008, number six was dirt and dust while heat rated number eight, even though heat can also be a side effect of a dust buildup.

What exactly is it that dust and dirt do to your system? First, it would help to understand what dust is – dust is a mixture of particles such as plant pollen, cloth fibers, paper fiber, and tiny specks of dirt, skin cells, and hair from both pets and humans. Some dust is capable of conducting electricity as well and can short out your computer. It is entirely a deadly combination of gunk capable of serious damage.

Dust will find a way into any part of your computer/laptop, and every part it settles on can be affected negatively. For example, dust can diminish the lifespan of your components, increase power consumption, clog your fans, and insulate and short circuit the electronics. This would cause excessive heat damage, damaged or destroyed cooling fans or damaged parts. All of these problems could lead to dire results such as costly repairs or replacements of individual parts or the whole system.

There are several warning signs however – slowness of the operating system (throttled speed) or louder fan activity for no apparent reason to name a few. It is highly recommended to get your computer or laptop checked for dirt and clogs, and having this maintenance done will help prevent critical and costly failure.