COMPUTER TROUBLESHOOTING TIPS
Tip: With the computer OFF, unplug all unnecessary cables from the back or front of the desktop tower or the ports on a laptop, then restart the computer. This action alone may start your computer up normally.
I. TO TURN OFF THE COMPUTER NORMALLY:
For Windows XP:
1) Click on the Start, then on Turn Off Computer.
2) Click on Turn Off.
For Windows Vista:
1) Click on the round Start button at the lower left, then on the tiny Right Arrow button  at the bottom right-hand corner of the Start menu.
2) Click on Shut Down.
II. TO TURN OFF YOUR COMPUTER IF IT WON’T TURN OFF THROUGH START, AND TURN OFF COMPUTER OR SHUT DOWN:
1) First, try the "3-Finger Salute" or the Ctrl-Alt-Delete key combination on the keyboard.
2) If the "3-Finger Salute" doesn't work, press and hold the Power button on the tower or laptop for 4 seconds or longer. Or just unplug the power cord to the tower, or turn OFF the power strip or surge protector.
3) After the computer shuts OFF, press the Power button again briefly to restart it, if you want to use your computer again.
III. TO TROUBLESHOOT YOUR COMPUTER IF IT WON’T START:
Note: Never let your maid, housekeeper, or anyone else clean behind your computer, big-screen TV, or any other electronic equipment. Also, try to keep your pets from sleeping behind the computer or taking up residence behind the computer. They could easily dislodge or damage a connector or power cord to your monitor or computer . If you must clean behind the computer, be sure to turn OFF your computer and peripherals first. After you clean, check to see if all the cables are securely plugged in, then turn your computer ON again. Keep in mind that the very act of turning your computer around to check the cable connections can dislodge a connector, so be careful when doing so. It helps to label the connectors, although most computers now have color-coded connectors − for example, green for the mouse, purple for the keyboard, blue or white for the monitor, etc. It’s a good idea to keep a flashlight close by so that you can see the back of your computer.
1) If you see "Non-system disk or disk error. Replace and strike any key when ready..." on the screen when you turn the computer ON, this usually means that you started your computer with a floppy disk still in the 3 1/2" Floppy Disk Drive. The computer is telling you that there are no Windows 98/ME/XP/Vista system files on the floppy disk, so it can't start up on the disk.
Push the Eject button on the front of the Floppy Disk Drive, which is the part with the slot that's about 3/8" high and 3 1/2" wide covered by a little door when there's no floppy disk in it. This will eject the floppy disk. Then push any key on the keyboard, and the computer should start up on the hard disk instead of trying to start up on the floppy disk. If this fails to correct the problem, then you could have a bad hard disk in your computer, and it could be time to call your computer consultant.
2) Check the thick black, beige or gray power cords that plug into the back of the computer and the monitor. If it's a laptop, check to see if the battery is in the battery compartment and the AC Adapter/Battery Charger is plugged into the wall outlet/surge protector and into the back or side of the laptop.
3) Check to see if the light on the monitor is ON. A green or blue light is what you want to see. An amber light or a blinking light usually means that the monitor is ON, but the computer is OFF or in the Sleep mode. If the light is not ON at all, check the power switch. The power switch on the monitor could be underneath the frame or on the back of the monitor.
4) Check to see if the power switch on your surge protector or power strip is ON. Usually, a red or green light (or a blue light on newer surge protectors) will be ON if the surge protector or power strip is ON.
5) Check to see if the surge protector or power strip is plugged into the wall outlet. Verify that the light switch on the wall is in the ON position. Some AC wall outlets are controlled by the light switch on the wall near the door to your computer room. If your surge protector or power strip is turned ON and OFF with the wall switch, you may want to put duct tape over the switch so it can't be thrown and put a small sign on it saying something like, "Don't flip this switch!"
6) If the computer is in the Sleep Mode or Hibernation Mode (a deeper sleep mode that saves even more electricity), it may take up to a minute to wake up after you press a key on the keyboard. You may want to turn OFF the Sleep or Hibernation Mode if this frequently causes problems.
Note: Sometimes you must turn OFF the surge protector/power strip, or unplug the black or gray power cord and then plug it back in again to “reset” the computer so the computer will start up again, if the trouble is with the Sleep/Hibernation Mode. Be sure to turn OFF the Sleep/Hibernation feature to avoid the same problem in the future if this is the case.
7) If the computer makes a series of beeping noises when you turn it ON, but nothing appears on the screen, you could have bad RAM (memory chips), a bad hard drive, a bad video card, or a bad part somewhere. It's probably time to take the computer in for service or call the repairperson.
8) You can also try unplugging the black, beige or gray power cord from the back of the computer, then pressing and holding the Power button on the tower for 30 seconds. Plug the power cord back in and press the Power button again briefly once.
9) A sticking Power button will sometimes cause the computer to start, then shut down immediately, due to the 4-second rule (see Section II above). You may be able to fix this by spraying an extremely light "spritz" of WD-40 around the Power button, but in certain cases you may have to replace the entire case because the power button section or module cannot be replaced.
Some Power buttons just fail; most major manufacturers' Power buttons can be replaced or repaired. If you're pretty sure that the computer is getting power and still won't start up, it could be a bad power supply. The power supply module can be replaced (they usually cost about $10.00 to $100.00 or more), but you should probably have a professional do this.
10) Occasionally, a keyboard connector, which is sometimes purple in color, or a mouse connector, which is sometimes green in color, is loose. Use the keyboard or the mouse, whichever is still working, to shut down the computer properly first before you touch the loose connector or pull the tower out. Otherwise, you could damage the keyboard, the mouse or the computer itself if you plug the connector in with the computer still ON. Less frequently will a keyboard go bad. You may want to try a different keyboard, but you should always turn OFF the computer before swapping any parts.
11) Check the pins inside the connectors on the keyboard and mouse cables to see if any of the pins are bent. If any pins are misaligned, use a small jeweler's screwdriver or a pair of thin tweezers to bend the pin(s) back into position.
12) There has recently been a spate of bad "motherboards," video cards, and power supplies, as well as other electronic parts, due to bad "capacitors" manufactured in Taiwan. Capacitors are small electronic parts that store an electrical charge. The motherboard is the large printed circuit board inside the computer that contains the Pentium (or Pentium-like) chip, the RAM, capacitors, and other parts. Some of these motherboards were installed in a few major manufacturers' models and some are being replaced free of charge; contact your manufacturer to see if you have one of these motherboards.
There are also some companies where you can get these defective motherboards repaired, but, once again, it is safer to call a professional or the manufacturer rather than trying to fix this yourself − i.e., taking your motherboard out of the case and sending it in.
IV. TO TROUBLESHOOT A MONITOR:
1) Check to see if the light on the monitor is ON. A green or blue light is what you want to see. An amber light or a blinking light usually means that the monitor is ON, but the computer is OFF or is in the Sleep mode. If the light is not ON at all, check the power switch. The power switch on the monitor could be underneath the frame or on the back of the monitor.
2) Check the thick black, beige or gray power cord that plugs into the back of the monitor. Be sure it is securely plugged into the hole in the back of the monitor.
3) Check the video cable (it usually has a blue or white connector on one or both ends) that runs from the back of the computer to the back of the monitor. This is best done with the computer turned OFF so you won't accidentally unplug something and damage the computer. For a laptop, be sure the [green or blue] Power light is ON on the base of the laptop.
4) Check the pins inside the connector on the video cable to see if any of the pins are bent. If they are, use a small jeweler's screwdriver or a pair of thin tweezers to bend the pins back into position.
5) If the back of the monitor has more than one connector for video or data cables (i.e., the cable that is not the power cord), then look for a button on the front or side of the monitor that will allow you to switch between the connectors or inputs. One connector or input might be white, which will be for the Digital Video Signal; the other might be blue, which will be for the Analog (or old-style) Video Signal. The white connector will be much wider than the blue one and will have many more pins inside the connector.
Press the Input button to see if a picture of the Windows XP/Vista desktop comes back on the screen. You may see “DVI-D” or “Digital Video Signal” appear briefly on the screen, then switch to “Analog” or “SVGA” when you press the Input button.
6) If you see "No signal," "No input signal," "Check video cable," "Power Saver Mode," or words to that effect, and/or some red, green, and blue color bars on the screen, the monitor is probably working, but the video card in the computer is not working, or the video cable is not properly connected. The video card is a small printed circuit board inside the computer that electronically "paints" the picture you see on the screen. You may need a new video card. Video cards cost about $25.00 to $100.00 or more for a higher end one.
7) The best way to check to see if your monitor is defective is to borrow another monitor and try it. Be sure to turn OFF the computer and the monitor when you are unplugging your current monitor and plugging in the second monitor. If the second monitor shows a good picture, your video card is probably good, and your current monitor is probably defective.
8) If you see a dimming of just part of the picture, this could mean that an internal part in the monitor is bad, or that one of the light bulbs (or now, LEDs) behind the liquid crystal sheet in an LCD Flat-Panel monitor is defective. These light bulbs can be replaced, but it may make more sense to purchase a new LCD Flat-Panel monitor because of the labor costs involved in repairing the defective monitor, unless your monitor is a very large and expensive one or is still under warranty.
V. TO TROUBLESHOOT A PRINTER:
1) Check our Printer Troubleshooting Checklist after reading our instructions for Emptying the Print Spooler. A very common problem with printer installations is connecting the USB printer cable too soon and not when the installation program or setup poster tells you to.
The number one problem with using a printer is running out of ink or paper, then having print jobs stack up in the Print Spooler as you continue to click on the Print button. It is very important that you know how to Empty the Print Spooler for your printer model.
Disclaimer: Phil Matsumoto and EZInstructions.com will not be held responsible for any damage to your computer equipment or any data loss that may result from the use of these or any other instruction sheets or tips on this website.
Please back up your important data to flash drives, floppy disks, tapes, Zip Drive cartridges, CD-R disks, CD-RW disks, DVD±RW disks, External Hard Disks, an online backup service   or any other backup device on a regular basis. You may also want to physically print out your e-mail Address Book, list of Favorites (web sites), and important files and documents from time to time and keep them in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box or a trusted relative's house.
We cannot overstress how important it is to do these things! Computers, and especially hard drives, are not as reliable as most people think!