Five cheap PC hardware fixes

By | November 6, 2009

Okay, I understand Windows 7 has come out, and some of us are probably thinking of getting a new PC altogether, but before you head to a computer store to get a new system, how about upgrading your old computer? As long as there are no terminal problems, why not put off getting a new system, and save some cash?

Here are five common hardware problems affecting desktop computers. Now, if you can fix them yourself, not only will you save a buck or two; you might want to consider yourself as having earned some bragging rights.


  • A  “senile” computer.

Every time you reboot it, it forgets the date and time, and sometimes settings like whether it should boot off a network. The problem might be the CMOS battery – a wafer of silver metal the size of a dime attached to your motherboard. Usually it’s held in place by a clip of some kind. A new CMOS battery costs like a dollar or two to replace.


  • Computer making lots of noise.

A computer that runs loud usually has a bad or dirty fan. Fans are necessary to cool the parts of your computer that get hot, and are usually protecting something much more expensive. We’re talking either the fan on the case itself or inside, the fan over the CPU, or the graphics card. These fans may be as cheap as ten to twenty dollars to replace, and take a few minutes with a screwdriver. Just be sure to mark where the fan plugs in before you remove the old one!


  • Computer can’t read a CD or DVD.

If the removable-media disk drive suddenly can’t find the disk when you insert it, it’s usually because dust has accumulated on the CD drive’s optical sensor. This can be fixed by the simple remedy of blowing air on it!

At your office supply store, ask for “canned air” which costs all of six to seven dollars, and is actually a chemical designed to spray out at high pressure to clean computer equipment. Just be sure not to turn it upside down when you spray, because it will spray ice! Open the drive, pump a couple blasts in, and try it again.

NB: Canned air is also called a gas duster.

  • Components or the whole machine not working.

The first thing every tech support desk worker asks is “Is it plugged in?” Save yourself the embarrassment and check (every time). All the way around the outside, and on the inside, find where every wire ends, and push it’s connector into its socket firmly. You’d be surprised how often just having the mouse plug a hair off, stops the mouse from working!


  • Computer doesn’t start.

Alright, this is the worst case out of the five, and there is a whole bunch of possibilities. If the computer does not run – not just not boot, but it doesn’t even light up or make noise or beep when you turn it on – it could be something cheap like the power cord or something more expensive like the motherboard.

However, cheaper components like the power switch, cord, and surge protector are more likely to outlast several computers, while the most likely culprit is usually the power supply unit – the part the cord plugs into and, inside, has a spiderweb of wires plugging into your motherboard and disks. This is a little hard for the home user to replace, but you can at least tell the shop to check that first.

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