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Nailing Down Your Computer Startup Problem

If your system simply won't start, there are a few things to check as the cause of the computer startup problem. Some of them may seem obvious, but sometimes it's easy to overlook the obvious things and assume you need technical computer problem help.

The first thing to check is whether or not the computer is getting power. When you press the power switch, do any lights come on? Can you hear the fans starting up?

No Signs of Life

If there are no lights or noises coming from the system when you turn it on, the first thing to check is whether your computer is plugged in. Double-check to make sure that the power cord is connected tightly to the back of the computer, as well as to the power outlet.

While you're at it, check all the other cables at the back of the computer and make sure none are loose. If you use a power bar with your computer, make sure that it is connected properly and is turned on if it has its own power switch. Not getting any power is - obviously - a major computer startup problem :-)

If the power is connected properly, the next thing to check as a possible computer startup problem is the power switch on the computer. Many newer computers have a master power switch on the back of the system, as well as the power button on the front. If the master switch on the back is off, the front power button won't have any effect. Most of the time the switch has a 0 and a 1 marking on it - make sure the switch is in the "1" position.

Losing Your Cool

If the lights on the front of the computer do come on when you turn on the power, your system is at least not completely dead. If they come on but nothing else happens, check the fan on the back of the computer. If it's not spinning, or if you can't feel any air blowing from it, the fan might have packed it in. These fans do wear out, and without the fan the computer can overheat pretty quickly.

If the fan isn't working, turn your computer off and don't turn it on again until you get the fan replaced. Most chips have safeguards against overheating, but even so the chip can be damaged by heat. If your fan is not working, there is already a chance that heat has damaged other components in the system, so this would be something best handled by a PC repair center. By finding this computer startup problem, however, you can tell them what you found and it will save them some time in troubleshooting.

Lights Are On but Nobody's Home

If everything seems to be working when you turn on the computer, but you're not seeing anything on the screen, it's possible that there could be a problem with the monitor. Make sure it turns on, and if not check the power connection for your monitor as well. If your monitor is getting power and the connection to the computer is okay, there could be some other problem with the screen.

Watch and listen to your computer when you turn it on. Does the light on your CD or DVD drive come on for a few seconds when you start it up? Can you hear a clicking or whirring sound coming from the computer after you turn it on? Is the hard drive light (usually the one with a little picture beside it that looks like a can or cylinder) either on or flashing?

If all these things are happening, your computer is going through its normal startup procedure and it's quite possible that rather than a computer startup problem, you really have a monitor problem. At this point you would need to either connect a different monitor to your computer or connect your monitor to a different computer to see if one or the other is at fault.

If you don't have a second computer system to test with, I would recommend you take both the computer and the monitor with you to the computer repair shop. They should be able to quickly test your monitor while you wait - all they have to do is plug it into a computer and see if it works. This could save you a second trip if you only take one of the two pieces in and it turns out to be the other one that's causing your computer startup problem.