My computer doesn’t work, what do I do?

With very few clues folks often ask what might be broken if their computer does nothing. It's a long list, and I'll look at some possibilities.

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My son has a computer that is not working. It only has a blank screen. Also the light to the hard drive it not on. Is the hard drive broken? Can I get the computer repaired. Or do I need to buy another one?

I get so many variations on this question so often that I just have to address it.

In short: there’s nothing even close to enough information for me to hazard a guess as to what might be wrong. And it’s just not a simple yes or no question.

Let me run through a list of some of the things it might be.

Is it plugged in? Seriously, the information as provided in this and similar questions often doesn’t indicate that the computer does anything. As silly as it sounds, I’ve had some very embarrassed people get back to me when I’ve suggested that they check the power plug.

The power supply could be broken or failing. Even if the fan comes on or some lights light up, there could still be a power supply failure.

The motherboard could have a problem. It’s fairly rare, but the motherboard has many, many components on it which are often vital to the operation of your machine. Some component could fail due to static electricity, a power surge, or many other reasons.


Typically those who ask this question without really knowing what details are important to include are those who’d probably be better served by having someone more knowledgeable actually look at their machine.
The computer’s RAM could fail. Or it could be loose in its socket. With memory a computer will typically not boot at all. But lights might come on and fans might run.

The hard disk could have failed. Typically you’ll at least boot into the BIOS for this one, but there are failure modes that could result in a very dead-looking machine.

Any expansion card could fail in ways that could cause the entire computer to become inoperable.

The video interface could be dead. If your computer’s doing something, but you simply can’t see it, how do you know it’s really there or not?

The video cable could be unplugged or broken. Same idea: if you can’t see it, is it really there?

The monitor itself could be unplugged or broken. Still the same idea. Lights might blink, disks might whir, and your computer might be working, or not.

I could go on.

Hopefully by now you get the idea. If the computer fails to boot with no clues, no lights, no nothing, or even if the fan does run and some lights blink but you still see nothing on the screen, it could be anything. There’s no way to know with that little information exactly what might be broken.

My recommendation at this point is typically to take the computer to a technician who can often quickly diagnose where the problem actually lies.

Yes, there are steps that you can try yourself to further diagnose the problem depending on your level of comfort and expertise. Replacing components or removing optional components to see if it makes a difference is usually one way to start (after double checking that you’re plugged in, of course :-) ).

But it really depends on your level of expertise. Typically those who ask this question without really knowing what details are important to include are those who’d probably be better served by having someone more knowledgeable actually look at their machine.

There are 37 comments:

  1. LOIS HATCH Reply

    COMPUTER MOUSE DOES NOT MOVE; CANNOT OPEN WINDOWS
    EVERYTHING IS VERY SLOW. HAVE TRIED EVERYTHING; DELL TECHNICIAN TELLS ME TO SAVE ALL MY DATA AND RESTORE. CANNOT EVEN OPEN MY PROGRAMS TO SAVE THEM. DO I NEED TO TAKE THIS PROBLEM TO A LOCAL TECHNICIAN ALONG WITH MY HARDDRIVE?

  2. Jeffrey Bonanno Reply

    Hey, i bought this computer at a flee market for like 30 dollars. it is a TigerTV Athlon XP2200. Anyways there are some things it did not come with: RAM, Hardrive, Video Card and thats about it. i looked up the computer online to make sure that i put the correct parts in. I finally started the computer and it runs… but nothing coems up on the monitor screen. i know the video card is correct, it is a APG video card in an APG slot and i know the RAM is correct because i went on the web site and found the acual computer that i have. There is a possiblity the Hardrive may not work on that spicific computer… Are there any important parts that could be missing that could cause it not to work?

  3. peter Reply

    my computer goes onto the screen ” choose which way to start windows” i usually press on start windows normally, but then it always goes back onto nthat same screen. i try pressing other things like, start windows with safe mode but it still goes back to that same screen.
    what do i do ?

  4. vee Reply

    my mouse is not working,I’ve replaced it and it’s still not working. of course there’s nothing I can do because I can’t move the cursor w/o the mouse. please help

  5. Jenn Reply

    my computer doesn’t work, it won’t let me open anything. I just bought this laptop in December, it is a dell inspirion with vista. I cannot even connect to a network.

  6. shelly Reply

    My computer doesnt work when i turn it on… when i asked my family what happened they said my lil brother had been using the computer to check his email. He thinks he opened an email with a strang name and the computer hasn’t worked since… What do i do..

  7. lomy222 Reply

    I just baught a new computer yesterday , it worked fine but restarted itself a couple of times, when I tried to opene it today it doesn’t beep , the key board doesn’t start and the red light of power turn off after a minute , the fans still work and the fan lights work until I turn off it’s electricity , it’s pentium 4 , mother board MSI , processor 3.6 , ram 1GB , hard disk “western” 160 GB .
    what’s wrong with it ? is it the mother board ? shall I return it and refund my money?

  8. Leo Reply

    —–BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE—–
    Hash: SHA1

    There’s no way to tell what’s wrong with it from here. You
    should take it back to where you bought it for repair or
    replacement.

    Thanks,

    Leo

    —–BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE—–
    Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)

    iD8DBQFIJiwNCMEe9B/8oqERApFTAJ9vcGjw+B/emGUHPnRA5w4KlAiL/QCfaSSI
    EP5bibUzadNIF+yijIG1NrM=
    =fS2t
    —–END PGP SIGNATURE—–

  9. Anuradha Nayak Reply

    My computer screen remains blank even after switching it on. Monitor LED comes on for a brief period and goes off. All the time I can hear the Fan running. And yes the system is properly plugged to power supply. Some time back the system would start and enter BIOS. I realized the reason would have been a weak CMOS battery. But now the screen just remains off.

  10. Angelia Driver Reply

    I have a question. When I shut down my computer and get on the computer the next day. The computer does not have anything I saved. It does not remember any of the work I put on my computer. What do I do?

  11. Brandon Reply

    when i turn on my computer, the fan does start, the mouse light turns on, the 3 keyboard lights turn on and off, and dont turn on again, the screen doesnt show anything and there are no beeps, i have made no updates or changed anything, and the computer has worked before.

    The problem started today when my brother connected a cut off mouse usb in the computer and a little motor from a toy car to the cables.
    so the screen turned off and i shut it down.
    when i turned it on it had a long beep. so i cleaned inside and still doesnt work.

  12. alem Reply

    When i tried to shut down my pc properly,it doesn’t respond at all.What shall I do?

  13. Harmony Reply

    I’s having problems with my computer reading my camera’s memory card. i put it in and worked fine. then i took it out to put another one in and now its not working at all, ive tried everything but it says that the F drive isnt there. what do i do?

  14. donna Reply

    My computer suddenly shut s down and when i open it again my USB flash disk is no longer working it says that is it not formmated. I have no files back up of all files i saved on my USB how can i recover it all? pls. help me.

  15. bj Reply

    When I start my computer I see a black screen with faint images in the background , it’s like the light is dimmed behind the screen. Does this mean that my monitor is shot and I need to get a new one or is it a way to fix it myself? Can I Transfer the data fron that computer to another one? HOW?

  16. Emma Reply

    When I start my coputer, the monitor is started with lights and the fan, but there’s nothing on the screen. I tried restarting it, and it took me about 10+ times to get it to start the computer. Is it partially broken??

  17. Jesse Spence Reply

    i push the power button on my pc and no lights, no sound and no fans will operate i get absolutely no responce, what could it be?

    Please read the article you just commented on.

    - Leo
    23-Feb-2009
  18. j.j Reply

    Ok,im tired of my pc.What happened is i build a new pc and the first time i restarted everything work perfrectly.Then it just froze.mouse everything.and after i pressed the restart button the screen doesnt wane come on.

    The little green light on my motherboard comes on and my screencard works perfectly on other pc.but when i put it back in my pc(its a radeon x1950xtx) the little two red lights come on for a moment and then go of.

    All the fanns is working including my cpu fan.Every thing is working, and i took my ram and placed in a other pc and the ram works perfectly. But the H.D.D LED doesnt come on.and i made sure the front panel plugs is correctly.the power button work and the power LED.But neither the restart or thr light doesnt work.

    Please help

  19. jocelyn cano Reply

    well the electricity from my house left while i was on the computer and now i does not start it turns on but it says that it is havind difficuties starting because of a hardware change …..what do i do

  20. JclydeZ Reply

    when i start my computer black image and its always tooot

  21. Symour Reply

    my computer doesn’t respond ! T_T
    when I turn on my computer . after the ACER LOGO with ” DEL: BOOT blabla F12: blabla ” . it says there: disk read error occured press ctrl + alt + del to restart . what shall I do ?

    my PC is very new . I bought it last week only .

    my PC is Acer Aspire with Core2Quad processor

    pls help me

    Sounds like a hard disk problem. Take it back to where you bought it, it should still be under warranty.

    - Leo
    29-Jun-2009
  22. Jon Wrigley Reply

    Hey Leo, quick question

    I have a problem similar to this one, and I’m sensing it’s probably my power supply, but when I boot my computer, my scroll light and ONLY my scroll light flashes on and off. Also, on either power setting in the back, the ‘power’ light turns on, everything’s awesome… then it turns off, and nothing happens. I just wanted to know if the scroll light meant anything, and if putting in a new power supply is most likely going to work?

  23. Susan Sandberg Reply

    What do you do if your hard drive was taken out and put back in and your computer doesn’t work?

  24. james Reply

    My computer was working, i opened it up cheked it out, put it back together and it wasnt working, i opened it up tried to fix it randomly done stuff it was sort of working again and now i switch my computer on the fan starts, the motherboard light comes on the cd rom opens but nothing else works i personally think its the processor. i dont think my computer broke i just dont know what to do.

  25. jorge Reply

    im having promblem with my windows xp it turns on to the dell logo but it freeze for 5 min sometimes it say’s F1 reboot,F2 setup utility or some tiimes it says primary hard 0 disk not found with primary hard disk drive 1 not found

  26. Abhishek Reply

    i didnt use my computer for one year.and now when i press the turn on button the lights just blink two times but the computer doesnt turn on.wat to do ???????

  27. Sandy Reply

    Hello ~

    Great information here! My desk top computer won’t boot. Here is what my screen says at the point it stops:

    Press F11 to start recovery
    ITLDR is missing
    Press Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart

    I don’t have a clue what an ITLDR is or where it could have gone! Of course, I have tried pressing F11 and Contol, Alt Delete. The computer “clicks” when I press F11 but that is the only response that I receive.

    I’m not terribly IT savy – PLEASE HELP!

    You didn’t indicate which version of Windows you’re running. If Windows 7 then it’s “startup repair” will resolve the issue. I found this on that: http://www.sevenforums.com/tutorials/681-startup-repair.html

    Leo
    06-Apr-2010

  28. nash Reply

    i turn the pc on, it goes through the start up screen, finds everything, no problems, then stops, does not get to the logo screen. I am using windows xp service pack 3

  29. Lisandro Leon Reply

    My computer won’t turn on
    The screen remains black
    The fans whir as the computer was hot and the light with the cylinder on it won’t light up
    Help!!!!

  30. sunil yadav Reply

    i have a computer that is not working. It only has a blank screen. but the light to the hard drive it is on. Is the hard drive broken? Can I get the computer repaired. Or do I need to buy another one?

  31. semih Reply

    Dear Leo
    when click `careerbuilder.com`by internet doesn’t open and i always received the following error messages “Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage and diagnose connection problems”before calling you I tried many searching and changing on my pc but couldn’t solved it!
    thanks for your answer…
    my best regards
    Semih USLU

  32. Nichole Reply

    I have a windows Vista. The last time I used my computer it worked fine. I started back up a week later and the monitor status popped up on the screen saying no Input Signal on both the VGA Input and the DVI input, which Ive nevered used the DVI input. It will stay on for a few seconds and then it saids monitor going to sleep. Ive tried everything, including unplugging and plugging everything back. Any ideas of what might be wrong?

    No signal can mean many things, but is all boils down to the monitor not getting anything from the computer. More here: What does “No Signal” mean?

    Leo
    18-Oct-2011

  33. ED Reply

    my modem doesen’t light up all the way the last light just flickers, creating my internet conection to be slow. how can i fix this?

    thanks
    Ed

  34. miss husna Reply

    hello sir,
    my computer also have the same problem,,how to handle it,,it does not working about one years,,does it will become more serious because the period broken is too long,,it still have a chance to repair it??

    • Mark Jacobs Reply

      The length of time it hasn’t been working shouldn’t make any difference. The same problems will be there and there’s no reason why they should get worse over time if the computer isn’t used. However, that the longer you wait, the less your computer will be worth, and if the computer is more than a few years old, it might turn out that the cost of repair is more expensive than the value of the computer.

  35. Nazmul Houque Reply

    Dear sir,
    While I’m operate my computer, few times it working properly and then
    it’s automatically stop all programs.Mouse also not woking. so what I’ll do.help me please.

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