How do you troubleshoot a broken computer?


When a tower goes bad most people want to immediately shut their computer off out of fear it may cause more damage before they can get it fixed. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth! By shutting down your computer when something is wrong with it you risk losing all of your saved documents and other opened files because once turned off everything currently open in your computer is automatically saved. Troubleshooting a broken computer can be a daunting task. The question of “what’s wrong” is the hardest part to answer, since there are so many different things that could cause your computer not to work. However, some basic steps can lead you in the right direction and fix your problems.

So what do you do if something crashes when your PC is on?

Software issues:

It may be as simple as a software conflict. Troubleshooting the issue using software tools is known as “debugging” and is not necessarily an easy thing to do for those who are unaccustomed to this process. One of the first steps you would want to do in debugging your computer problem is to run an antivirus and anti-malware scan on your entire system with reputable programs such as Windows Defender or MacKeeper.

You will also need to make sure that no other hardware drivers are causing the problem by disabling all non-essential hardware like video cards and sound drivers (if applicable). While doing this keep track of which devices you deactivate because most likely only one or two devices will be responsible for the errors.

A quick and easy way to test this is to restart your computer and hold the relevant key (or keys) which corresponds to the deactivated hardware down as you boot up your machine. If one device is preventing your system from booting up correctly, then it should be obvious because it will load extremely slow if at all. The usual suspect here would be USB 3 controllers since they are notorious for making PCs fail to boot (and thus appear dead).

Hardware issues?

Here are some basic steps

  1. First, if you haven’t already done so, turn off your computer.  (This will help prevent any possible electrocution – duh :)) Then remove the power cord from the back of the tower and wait for about 30 seconds before moving on to step, but if that doesn’t work then find the small reset button on the back near all of your ports and insert a pin or paperclip into it. Doing this will send an emergency shut down signal to your entire system and allow everything in your computer to close before powering itself down. It’s important to note however that doing this will not save any files that are open currently in programs such as Microsoft word, google chrome, firefox etc…
  2. Next check to see if there is any light coming from the power button on either the front or top of the tower; this means that it hasn’t completely shut down. If the light is on, press the power button again to turn it completely off.
  3. Take out all removable components from your tower (CD’s, USB cords, etc.), then restart your computer and watch closely for error messages that pop up. If an error message does come up, write down what the message says. This will help you find out what problem lies internally with your computer.
  4. Lastly, if nothing else helps when troubleshooting a broken computer don’t be afraid to call a computer repair professional. It is better to be safe than sorry and spending a little money on someone who knows what they’re doing is well worth it when you consider no data or important files will be lost in the process.


If you’re a bit tech-savvy or kind of an explorer…let’s dive in..

Once off, take a deep breath and don’t start hitting anything or taking it apart just yet, instead take a minute to reflect on what could have happened to cause this problem.

To figure this out you will need to identify the main components of your computer system and how they work together.

The first component is going to be your motherboard which can be found mounted inside your tower covered in heat sinks and cooling fans along with every other piece of hardware attached to it that controls all of the vital parts of your computer like a mouse, keyboard, monitor and other important peripherals (graphics card, soundcard, etc…) There should also be several ports located around the motherboard allowing you access into every component physically installed into your computers such as USBs and other expansion slots for performing upgrades.

The next most significant part is going to be your Processor (CPU )(e.g Intel) which comes with a pre-installed cooling fan and heatsink that disperses the heat away from it giving off a wind tunnel sound you can often hear when your computer is working hard.

Next, you have all of your RAM sticks installed on one side of your motherboard in either dual or tri channel mode, these components are memory storage for short term use so that your CPU can store data while performing tasks such as opening up files and programs at a much faster rate than if they were done from a regular hard drive. Take note of the color sequence on your RAM sticks, this is important for making sure they are inserted properly.

Finally, you will want to make sure that all cables connecting these components are plugged in or attached. For example, your wireless keyboard and mouse will need their USB port to work once you turn your computer on. If there was no power button on the front of your case, then hold down the “on” switch located directly below where the cord enters the back of your motherboard

If you’ve checked on the above..let’s continue..

First, one should attempt to turn on their computer using the power button. If this fails to work, then there is most likely something wrong with the motherboard. If this happens, immediately try plugging it in again and turning it back on. If this still does not work after multiple attempts, then check if all of your cables are plugged in correctly and securely. This includes anything from USB cords to headphone cords. This may seem like an obvious warning but most accidents happen simply because someone neglects this simple step.

If your computer comes under warranty, contact the manufacturer for information on how to send it out for repairs since they will most likely replace parts for free without requiring too much trouble from you, unless of course, your warranty has expired by then which unfortunately it often does. You may also consider upgrading some parts of your computer, such as the CPU and motherboard if it is a bit old. Having said that, another possibility could be that something unexpected has occurred during the power outage such as a spike in voltage or too much current drawn by crucial components, which can fry out components of your motherboard or CPU rendering it useless.

Contact a repair technician

For any other hardware faults then you will have to contact a professional Melbourne repair service that fixes computers.

Your computer technician will assess the damage and if the issue can’t be fixed – possibly ask you to invest in a new computer. Buying a new computer can cost thousands so try upgrading some parts first before going out and buying a whole new machine because oftentimes this works just fine.

I am a computer engineer holding a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, complemented by a Master's in Business Administration from University of Strathclyde, Scotland. I currently work as a Senior IT Consultant in Melbourne, Australia. With over 15 years of...