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Detecting & Resolving PC Hardware Faults

Not all PC problems are right down to software, and an enormous range of problems – from occasional glitches to complete system failing – can in fact be triggered by hardware faults. Here’s how to identify and cure some of the most common. Many computer users automatically believe that every problem they experience to be credited to a software insect must, but often the cause is far more basic. If you have bought your personal computer as a whole system from a dealer, now’s enough time to take benefit of their tech support line. You should seek advice from the manuals for the various components of your system as well.

However, your personal computer is most probably to fail when you’ve just transformed something, for instance when you’ve installed a fresh stick of RAM, a soundcard, hard drive, or a fresh CPU. You shouldn’t be tempted to upgrade several components at once. Similarly, don’t be tempted to handle several fixes simultaneously. The chances are that the problem is due to a single cause, and the best way to monitor this down is to gradually get rid of the alternatives, one at a right time, until you find the culprit. Make sure you take some notes on what you’ve tried, as well as recording the precise wording of any error messages that appear, since these will help you in your search.

The worst problems to locate are intermittent ones, given that they have the annoying habit of disappearing as you make an effort to solve them soon. In this case, jot down what you were doing whenever the nagging problem happens, and you may notice a common factor. I’ve suggested some things to try in the ‘Intermittent Hardware Problems’ box. One of the most serious random problem is a spontaneous reboot, which may be caused by a faulty or intensely packed PSU (see main text), bad mains interference, or overheating, of the CPU particularly.

This is often caused by failing of the CPU enthusiast, but this is easy enough to check – just open up the case if the fan is still spinning. Sadly, some spontaneous reboots can be caused by software also, sometimes credited to a bug, or a virus perhaps, but where software-based anti-piracy safety has been applied also, since this might work ‘outside’ Windows at a fairly low level. Hardware-based protection such as dongles could also occasionally cause such problems due to a negative connection, although if you ask me this is uncommon.

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However, if software protection is the cause of a arbitrary reboot, one giveaway is it normally only occurs when running the particular software application in question. Next, check that the internal cables are secure, utilizing a similar technique. Be sure you include IDE cables, the floppy drive cable, and everything the connections between your front panel switches and LED indications – this may resolve a hard drive problem or arbitrary reboot. If your PC won’t show up, you need to establish how far it’s getting prior to the problem occurs. If you see communications on the screen in that case your power source is probably working OK.

One other PSU issue that’s of particular interest to musicians is fan noise. Although we all want quiet PCs, it’s vital that the cooling enthusiasts in the PSU and on the CPU keep on working properly. Should anyone ever hear any squealing noises, it may imply that one of your fans is about to fail and needs replacing.