Friday, October 30, 2009

PC Troubleshooting 101 : Check the obvious first

A friend wanted me to look at his PC because it wasn’t working correctly. He wasn’t too specific. It would shutdown at random and wouldn’t start all the time. He gave it to me to take a look at it at home. I didn’t have time to check it out when he gave it to me. He said he heard a noise like something was loose inside. So when I brought it home and looked inside here’s what I discovered:


First we meet our patient, a Gateway PC about 4-5 years old with a Pentium 4.


Maybe you can spot the problem?


A little closer. What’s missing? The video card of course.



I wish all PC repairs were this easy. I’m not finished though. I reinstalled the video card and I thought I was home free. Upon restarting the PC would power up for a second or two and shutdown. I checked the power supply and that was good. I reseated the memory and that checked out OK. Checked the hard drive by unplugging it it had no effect. I was a bit stumped by this one. A bit defeated sort of started to fear the worst that the motherboard had bit the big one. I priced out motherboards and such so I could have as much information as possible when I talked to the owner. I left it at that for the day.

I came back about a day later thinking about how to go about this problem. I hadn’t talked to the owner yet so my options were still open. Just for the heck of it I turned the PC upright and I’m not sure if I adjusted the video card or not. I turned it on again expecting more of the same. To my surprise the PC continued to boot up. I was in shock and elated at the same time. Sure enough it booted to Windows XP and worked normally. I restarted it a few more times to be sure it wasn’t a fluke. So far to this point it still starts(as of writing this).

Of course I made the mistake of assuming I had seated the video card correctly. I ate a piece of humble pie and felt a little stupid. It’s a lesson in not overlooking the obvious things in troubleshooting a PC problem(or any problem for that matter). I still have the issue of preventing this from happening again. The PC is missing the plastic hold down piece for expansion cards. It won’t take much for the card to fall out again. Of course it can’t be a normal PC and just require a screw to hold down the card. A proprietary piece hardware is required. Meaning I’d have to find the exact same model(or very similar) Gateway PC to fix it. Unless I get lucky in finding one I’ll have to fabricate something. If anyone has any ideas let me know.

Well thanks for coming by and have a great day!

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