Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

My Computer Doesn’t Work — What Do I Do?

A checklist, of sorts

Power Button

Folks often ask what might be broken if their computer does nothing, but provide few clues. It's a long list, and I'll look at some possibilities.
The Best of Ask Leo!
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, that’s nowhere near enough information for me to even guess.

Let me run through a list of some things to check.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!


If your computer doesn’t work, things to check include:

  • Is it plugged in?
  • The power supply.
  • The motherboard.
  • The computer’s RAM.
  • The hard disk.
  • Expansion cards.
  • The video interface.
  • The video cable.
  • The monitor itself.
  • Probably more…

There are so many things that could be wrong, a technician might be your best solution.

A checklist of sorts

Is it plugged in? The description matches a computer that’s not plugged in at all. I’ve heard from some very embarrassed people when I’ve suggested they check the power plug.

The power supply.  This device, which converts wall power to the internal power used by computer components, could be broken or failing.  It’s usually located inside your computer, right behind the power connection. This is a possibility even if the fan comes on or some lights light up.

The motherboard. All the primary computer components are connected to the motherboard, which could have a problem. It’s rare, but motherboards have many components that are vital to the computer’s operation.

The computer’s RAM could fail, or it could be loose in its socket. With a severe enough memory problem, a computer will typically not boot at all, but lights might come on and fans might run. (An intermittent memory issue is more likely to cause crashes after the computer is running.)

The hard disk could have failed. Typically you’ll at least see some BIOS or UEFI activity, but there are failure modes that 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 if it’s functioning 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.

Complex devices have complicated failures

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 are so many things that could be wrong, there’s just no way to know, with so little information, exactly what might be broken.

My recommendation is take the computer to a technician who can diagnose where the problem lies.

There are steps 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 anything makes a difference is one typical way to start.

After double-checking that you’re plugged in, of course. Smile

Before you ask for help

Whenever you ask for help, gather information to provide to whomever you’re asking. Reviewing What Information Should I Provide When Asking for Help? is a good start, as it covers much of the information that could be valuable to and appreciated by whomever you reach out to.

Typically, those who ask this question without providing details are those who’ll probably be better served by having someone more knowledgeable look at their machine.

Do this

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

Podcast audio


60 comments on “My Computer Doesn’t Work — What Do I Do?”


      • This sounds like a setting on your browser. You don’t mention which browser you are using, but you might check Settings, or Internet Options. Look for settings on what happens when you open a tab.

  2. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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?

    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



    Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)


  9. 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. 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. 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. 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?

  13. 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.

  14. 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?

  15. 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??

  16. 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
  17. 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

  18. 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

  19. 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
  20. 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?

  21. 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.

  22. 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

  23. 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 ???????

  24. 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:


  25. 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

  26. 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

  27. 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?

  28. Dear Leo
    when click ``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

  29. 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?


  30. 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?


  31. 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??

    • 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.

  32. 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 me please.

  33. I built a pc recently but when i hit the switch at the back of the pc the fans spin for a split second and the power led comes on but when i hit the front power button nothing help?

  34. Very interesting reading. Actually I meant the comments, but the essay is great too. I suppose every person who does any amount of computer support has their favorite story. My brother in law ran a one man computer business but had to be gone sometimes. One day the owner of a store called and told his wife that he wants my brother in law to check his computer since it wouldn’t start. He really blew up when she admitted that he was in India right then, and wouldn’t be back for at least a few weeks (don’t remember for sure). He blew his top and hung up. So she called me and wondered if I could talk to him, which I did. He was very sheepish by the time I got hold of him a few minutes later. Apparently his power bar had given out and the computer was fine when he plugged it in directly. I assured him that I would be on call if anything happened and everything was fine. Normally my first impulse is to change the power supply unless its obviously something else. I often have a spare around and it doesn’t take long to swap out a power supply.

  35. I just installed Windows 10 and I have programs that no longer work correctly. How do I get them to work or how do I get ride of Windows 10?

  36. I have a laptop. one day I shutdown it. and another day I were turn on it. but my laptop is not working. there is no process on it. I have checked it from local service store. they are didn’t tell me anything please help me.

  37. Hi Leo
    I have laptop Asus.. It turns on .. Everything works… But my CPU DOES NOT WORK is stays at 1-4%….. So be cause of that my laptop does not do anything!

  38. while playing a card game the screen went blank and a small black square was on the screen,I turned the computer off,when trying to turn it on again the fan runs but never stops and noting happens???

    • Your question is very similar to the title question of this article. It’s not possible to diagnose a problem with the information you supply, as it can be any one of a number of things. All I can suggest is trying some of the things the article suggests.

  39. My pc isn’t responding
    When I switched on my pc it says to insert the windows installation disk and select the language and finally repair the computer…what to do?

  40. Hello one day when i was downloading songs on my conputer it suddenly shut down by itself the next day when i try to put it on it was not working the cpu is working their plugs also are working what has happened to it and please can u please tell me how to fix it up

    • How do you know that your CPU is working? It could be any one of many things and would need a technician to diagnose the issue hands on.

  41. Hi. I have an HP laptop that had a broken screen. I had it hooked up to a monitor and it worked fine. One day, I went to turn it on and it would not project to the monitor. Monitor said no signal. The computer had power and seemed to be doing everything it normally would. Since I have a cracked screen, I did not have many options. I decided to buy a hard drive transfer kit. So I removed hard drive from non-working laptop, hooked up all of the kit as directed, and when I plugged it into the USB of working laptop, the working laptop went dead. The hard drive I had hooked up got really hot within seconds, and there was a weird smell. My question: is there any hope of me being able to recover my files and pictures from the non-working laptop’s hard drive? Thanks.

    • There’s no way to know without looking at it. That’s why it’s so important to perform regular backups, preferable system image backups. This is not an “I told you so”. It’s “prevent this from happening in the future” advice.

  42. I have been having problems with my computer for a long time and I don’t what to do? Everytime I log on it clicks off to a blank screen!!! Also when I look up anything up on my browser it goes blank!!!!!!!!!!

  43. I had a PSU die on me. In this case, it was a quick diagnostic : There was a low but sharp noise coming from it followed by an ozone smell drifting out as the computer shut down suddenly.
    So, case #2.

    I also saw an HDD with the power connector plugged the wrong way and another IDE drive with the ribbon connected the wrong way. Both dead.

    I’ve also seen a few drives where the boot sector went bad.


Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.