Troubleshooting Windows XP
Common Hardware Problems
General Hardware Troubleshooting Tips
Regardless of the problem there are a few steps that must be taken whenever troubleshooting a hardware problem. These may seem rather insulting to most people, but one must never forget to do them; if they are not done you might very well waste allot of time and possibly create a new problem from fiddling around in your computer chasing down a phantom. Here are some quick steps:
- Power Cords - Make sure that all of the power cords are firmly in place on all of the devices that could possibly be causing or attributing to the symptoms you are experiencing (i.e. If nothing shows up on the monitor make sure that the cords are attached to both the monitor and the computer itself). Then trace the cords back to the wall and make sure that the other end of the cord is attached to a power outlet or surge protector.
- Outlet Power - It is not uncommon to blow a fuse; if the outlet in question is not receiving power than you should not expect any of the devices connected to the computer to receive power. You can test this simply by looking at the device and seeing if any LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) are lit. If there are no LEDs lit, try pluggin in a device that you know works into the outlet, such as a clock or radio.
- Power Button - This step goes hand-in-hand with the last step. Many people don't think to check for this because many computer devices stay on all of the time (i.e. monitors, printers, power supplies), and as such do not check the power button. Also, some devices have two power switches on them, and both must be in the "on" position in order for the device to work (i.e. there is a power button both on the front, and on the back of most computers).
- Communication Connections - Once you've settled that the power to your devices is fine, the next step is to make sure that the device has all of the connections needed for it to communicate. This step consists of making sure that these cables are firmly connected at each end, and that they are connected at the correct port/interface. Do not forget to check internal connections; if your computer has been bumped it is possible for some connections inside to pop loose.
- Device Configuration - This steps provides both hardware and software configuration. There may be jumpers or switches on the hardware that need to be configured. If these accidentally got moved or switched the device would fail to work properly. Also, most hardware ships with configuration software (i.e. Wireless cards); make sure that the software configurations are compatible with what you are trying to accomplish.
- Follow Instructions - Computers are not evasive when they report errors; all too often we just do not understand them, or are confused by the amount of information that is given. Many times there are suggestions on how to fix a problem accompanied with an error message. Simply follow the steps the message suggests; even if the suggestion seems to be ridiculous follow it so that you can discard it as a possibility.
- Windows Recognition - If you go into the Control Panel, open the System dialog, click on the Hardware tab, and then open the Device Manager, you will see a tree-like structure of all of the hardware that is attached to your computer. Look under the appropriate category (Monitors, Graphic Adapters, etc.) and click on the item/items that you are having problems with then click on properties. The dialog that opens will inform you if the operating system is having any know troubles with the device.
- Update Drivers - If possible, try connecting to the internet and going to the manufacture's web site to download the latest drivers for your hardware (this requires that you now the model specifications of your hardware). Often conflicts can arise when you install new hardware and software; although these are unanticipated, once found the developer will fix the problem and post updated drivers.
- Refresh Device Manager/Reinstall Device - This step falls into the "I don't care what the problem is, I just want it fixed" category. Open the device manager again and delete the devices that are not working properly. You will probably be prompted to restart your computer, if not restart it manually. When the computer restarts the hardware you deleted will be detected again and be reinstalled with the default configurations. If you cannot find the device in the device manager try to uninstall all software that came with it and reinstall using the disks that were provided.
Specific Hardware Problems
Dead CMOS Battery
On an older PC, it is normal for the CMOS battery to fail at some point in time. They usually last for many years, with over five years being the norm, at least on older machines. On a new motherboard, this sort of problem is usually a sign of a defect, although, you shouldn't worry about it if it appears only the very first time the board is powered up or after you replace the battery. Often, a dying battery will first manifest itself intermittently. Sometimes, you will boot with no problem. At other times, you will see an error indicating that the system doesn't match the configuration or you will see that the Date and Time settings on your computer are wrong. When the battery fails entirely, these errors will either come up every time you reboot, or your BIOS may report an error number with a message stating that the battery is dead. The solution is replacing the battery -- for detailed instructions for replacing the battery see the Replacing Hardware page.
This is a very common problem, and most of the time, it has a very easy fix. Follow the below steps:
- Power - Verify that the monitor has power and the power cord is firmly attached. Detailed instructions for accomplishing this task can be found above.
- Video Cable - Double check that the video cable is connected to the computer. If the cable has become loose you may need to push it back in and tighten the screws that hold it in place.
- Brightness & Contrast - Check the brightness and contrast controls on the monitor; It might have gotten bumped or changed accidentally. It may sound stupid, but this was one of the most common causes for people bringing their monitor in for repair when my friend work at a computer store. Most monitors have a button on them to reset all of the settings -- try pushing that.
- Swap Parts - If possible, try swapping with another monitor that is known to work and vice-versa. If your monitor works on another computer, than the problem, most likely lies with your video card and/or motherboard. If your computer works with another monitor it might be time to invest in a new monitor.
- Push In Video Card - Open up your machine and firmly push down on your video card so that you are sure that it is making contact with all of the contacts in the slot. If you computer was jumped and the screw that holds it down was not tight enough it could have come loose.
If none of the above fixed your problem you may need to do more research on your problem are use one of the strategies listed earlier.
Dead Hard Drive
Hopefully, the only time you will have encountered this problem is after you have installed a new IDE device, because other than being misconfigured, otherwise, your data is most-likely lost.
Error on Boot
One of the most common error messages comes when you're trying to boot up your computer. If you get a message when you try to boot up your system:
- Make sure that your connections are secure.
- Check to find and then remove any floppy disks from drives.
- Start up again.
Error messages are usually pretty self-explanatory but if you encounter one that you don't understand, check the troubleshooting section of the owner's manual or software guide.