Diagnosing And Troubleshooting Computer Hardware

What is Hardware?

Are these terms familiar to you? Monitor, RAM, CD drive, CPU, graphic cards are all hardware, or more accurately, computer hardware. These components make up a computer, working together with computer software to make a computer work.

Simply put, hardware is the tangible parts of your computer, parts you can touch, feel and so on.

Hardware Failures

As mentioned before, hardware and software work together to form a fully functional system, theoretically. However, rarely do you get a fully functional system all the time. There will almost certainly be malfunction of hardware, be it within the electronic circuits or even the whole component itself. Sometimes, the originating factor of the hardware failure is not the components of the system itself, but due to outside factors such as environmental disasters like fire, earthquakes and lightning storm.

Recovery of failed hardware components is not a big problem by itself. It is basically identifying and replacing the problematic component. However, hardware failures are most deadly, when it affects daily routine and affecting critical personal or business data. This is especially true of the most important component of a computer system when it comes to storage of data, the hard disk.

The following is a list of common hardware failures:

RAM Failures
Power Connector
Hard Disk
Overheating
LCD Failures
Motherboard
USB Box
RAM Failures
Bad RAM is somehow harder to diagnose as similar symptoms may be caused by software problems, other hardware problems or even motherboard failure. However if you experience any of these symptoms, users should check for bad RAM before attempting any other troubleshooting.

Symptoms:

Windows doesn’t start showing different error messages each time.
Windows crashes (blue screen) or freezes frequently.
Windows crashes as soon as you try to start a program.
Unexplained random crashes and freezes without error messages.
Power Adaptor
The common weak spot on any laptop is the DC power jack. If someone trips over the power adapter cable while it is still connected to the laptop, there is a high possibility that the power jack will get severely damaged.

On most laptops, the DC power jack is soldered directly to the motherboard and there are only three or four small pins holding it in place, which makes the power jack rather weak. Any sideways pulling of the DC power cord while attached to the laptop will usually dislodge at least one of these pins, breaking the solder around it. Modern laptops use quite a lot of power, from about 70W to 120W or even more. The bad electrical connection from the dislodged pin will cause sparks and heating that will eventually burn a hole through the motherboard and can even be a fire hazard.

Symptoms which indicates poor contact between the DC power jack and the motherboard:

The battery is not charging properly or stays at half charge despite having to use the power adaptor.
The screen flickers (the brightness is changing) while the power cord is plugged in. This is caused by the laptop switching between DC power (screen is brighter) and battery power (screen is dimmer).
The DC plug gets hot after a few minutes of use and may even smell of burning.
There are “scratching” sounds coming from the DC jack.
How to test for broken power jack:

1. Remove the battery 2. Plug in the power cord 3. Start the laptop 4. Gently wiggle the DC power plug on the back of the laptop
If the laptop shuts down abruptly (looses power), find the dealer to re-solder or change the DC power jack as soon as possible as the motherboard has already started to burn around the dislodged pins. The manufacturer might offer to replace the whole motherboard; however the price of a new motherboard together with the labor charge for installing it will usually cost more than the current value of that laptop and sometimes can the pricing can cost over a thousand dollars.

Replacing or re-soldering the DC power jack is not an easy job. It usually takes a few hours depending on the damage and the model of the laptop. To reach the power jack, the laptop has to be completely disassembled and have the motherboard taken out. Then if the board around the dislodged pin is badly burned, the power jack has to be un-soldered and the board has to be patched.

After that a different power jack has to be installed, attached to the case of the laptop and connected with wires to the motherboard, as the patched board wouldn’t be strong enough to support the original type of power jack that was soldered directly to the board.

Hard Disk

Hard disk failures are the most common computer hardware problems. And laptop hard disks fail more often than desktop hard disks due to the portability of a laptop as compared to the rather stagnant laptop. If user knock hard or drop the laptop even a few inches while the hard disk is being accessed or powered up, damage can be done to the hard disk.

Symptoms:

The laptop starts as usual but when Windows starts to load it goes to blue screen with either “UNMOUNTABLE_BOOT_VOLUME”, “hal.dll is missing or corrupt” or “WINDOWSSYSTEM32CONFIGSYSTEM” (or similar) is missing or corrupt. All these error messages indicate a file system problem. Sometimes it can be fixed by just scanning the hard disk for errors. However more than half of these cases indicate that the hard disk is starting to go bad and is probably developing bad sectors.
The laptop starts as usual but Windows freezes on the initial “Windows XP” screen, although the blue bar continues to move, and users are able to hear feint but continuous clicking. Hard disks have to be replaced.
As soon as the laptop is started there are loud clicks or grinding sounds and Windows doesn’t load. Hard disks have to be replaced as well.
Shortly after starting the laptop a message appears (usually on a black screen) “SMART test failed. Backup your data immediately and replace the hard disk” or similar. Well, that says it all. S.M.A.R.T. is a self-test that is build into the hard disk.
In almost all cases the laptop can be started from a “live” bootable CD and everything works normal. In rare cases the hard disk PCB (printed circuit board) may get short circuited and even burn. In this scenario, the laptop won’t start unless the hard disk is removed.

A good tool to use to check for hard disk lifespan is ADRC’s hard disk checker. It will scan the hard disk for bad sectors and inform you if the drive is still of good usability.

Overheating

Overheating happens when inadequate airflow from outside the computer’s case across the CPU and motherboard and back out of the case usually via the power supply fan and other case fans.

Once the airflow is disrupted, heat builds up rapidly within the case. This causes components to either shutdown, if such protection is built in or performs erratically. Over the long term, overheating can irreversible damage components.

It is also advisable to keep the computer in a dry and shaded room, which is clean and little dust.

LCD Failures

The most common LCD or “Liquid Crystal Display” screen failure is the inverter, cable and backlight.

Symptoms:

The laptop appears to start as usual but the screen is black, if users move it, it turns on and works properly. Failed cable.
The laptop appears to start as usual but the screen is very dark, although it changes colour a little and users can see a very feint image. Failed inverter or cable 90%/10%.
Immediately after starting the screen has dark pink/red tint and turns dark after a few seconds. Failed backlight.
The screen flickers a few times but then turns dark, if users move it or tap it lightly on the sides, it flickers again. Failed cable or LCD 50%/50%.
Screen is either black or white (no picture) and external monitor works. Failed cable or LCD 30%/70%.
There are stripes on the screen (either vertical or horizontal) that change when users move the screen or tap it lightly on the sides. Failed cable or LCD 10%/90%.
Motherboard
Most motherboard related failures are due to the “On-board” regulated supplies and component failure within those circuits. The on-board power supply circuit had partially failed and was overloading subsequent components else the problem would be with the capacitors which are defective in the first place.

A motherboard failure on a laptop that is out of warranty would usually mean that it’s time for a new laptop. The price of a new motherboard is usually higher than the current value of the laptop.

Symptoms:

Plug in the power adaptor and try to start the laptop.

Nothing happens.
The “ON” light comes on, the fan spins, but nothing on the screen (black) and you can’t hear the HD working after 10-15 sec.
The “ON” light comes on, the fan spins, but after a few seconds the light goes off.
After pressing the “ON” button the screen stays black and you can hear a quiet high-pitched sound coming from the laptop.
Corrupted or improper device drivers and operating system
Invalid or corrupt device drivers can wreck havoc on a server, rendering the system unbootable in some cases. Device drivers may also conflict with certain application programs and cause problems with the computer system.

As Windows Vista has just made its launch, chances are some hardware is not supported or not supported fully by the new operating system.

Also, system updates, driver updates can also fix your “hardware” problems.

Controller Failure:

A controller failure can act much like a drive failure. However, when a drive fails, users cannot access that particular drive; when a controller fails, users cannot get access to all the drives, devices and any other components that is attached to that particular controller.

A controller fails because a component or components on the on the controller board fails. When users trying to boot the system, they cannot switch on, view, access, or even get hardware conflict messages.

Controller failure occurs due to one of the following reasons:

Devices/components not connected properly
Verify that the cables are properly connecting the device /component to the controller
If the component fits into a slot, see that the it is flushed in and not loosely connected.

Devices/components not setup properly
Verify that the devices/components is being properly detected and setup in the respective controller setup screen

Bad connectors
Replace the bad connectors with new working ones

Bad components
Replace the component

Bad interface board or motherboard
It is recommended that these components be replaced or that the computer be sent in for servicing

Hardware Failure: The big issue
The big problem, as mentioned earlier, is not replacing or repairing the non-functional hardware, but the time lost, interruptions to daily routine (especially for businesses), and the loss of critical data. If you need a running system at all times, have a backup system as a fail safe, or even two. If users want to ensure that none of their critical data is lost in the event of a hardware problem with their computer, there is only one way to do it — Back up the data as often as possible.

There are many different ways to ensure that the data is backed up, and as technology becomes advances, back up methods become much simpler.

Let’s look for a moment at what a back up is. Backing up of computer files means that users are making a copy of the data that will be stored somewhere other than on the computer. Everyone should always have a back up of at least the most important files, because should anyone experience a hardware problem, they could still be able to access the files.

Many people don’t back up their files, because they don’t know what they need to back up. Start with those files that cannot easily be recreated. Then, move on to files to which you make frequent changes just in case you accidentally change something that you shouldn’t have. Back up your music collection – because this can be quite expensive to replace in the event of data loss.

Types Of Computer Repair Services

The modern world of today finds computer technology indispensable in the daily lives. Initially they were just hi-fi hardware gadgetry combined with software techniques which elicited awe from its users. Nowadays, it’s difficult to manage practical, social, and financial life without the inclusion of computers one way or the other.

The people of Scottsdale AZ and the suburbs within like Paradise Valley, Gilbert AZ, and Higley AZ etc, are also keen on using computers for their daily works requirement. Whether you do an online marketing job, are a student completing university-level thesis, a mother writing a cooking blog, or just an immigrant girl who wants to stay connected to her friends and family through social networking, a day without computer (and internet) can make it a pretty rotten time to pass. For this reason, Scottsdale AZ computer repair shops are found all around. You may be searching for Scottsdale AZ computer services when there is a compatibility problem between hardware and anew software or it can be system crash, on the other extreme, Scottsdale AZ computer repair experts will be happy to fix your jam. Typical computer repair services include:

• Hardware and software troubleshooting and repair
• IT services like network installation and configuration (LAN/WAN setup)
• Attacking and removing spywares/malware and viruses. Also installing anti-virus software for a proactive approach to external attacks.
• Hardware repair: Laptop/Mac/PC, printer, scanner, motherboard; CD/DVD ROM installation etc.
• Website development and presentation, graphic designing. Not all shops will offer these unless they have web designers with them
• Firewall and email security setup
• Windows OS installation and troubleshooting
• Data backup and recovery
• Tutorials to employees for solving small problems in-house

For the above mentioned services you can either call upon individual geeks from the Scottsdale AZ computer repair directory listings online or go for hi-fi companies with a panel of experts. It actually depends on your budget and technical specifications, that is, if you are a home user, an official team leader, or a business owner. Scottsdale AZ computer repair services will be open 24 hours and probably even on Saturdays and Sundays as most businesses like to get repair services on weekends to avoid business disruption. However, if it is urgent you can call the computer experts at your location though you will have to pay them hourly rate. Usually, the diagnostics is done for a flat fee for the first hour. After that the charges increase per hour with the complexity and urgency of the problem at hand.

Scottsdale AZ computer repair services believe in giving exact-fit solution to your problems which means you will be given a customized solution and not a general one. They will also resort to business-centered approach keeping your budget and business mission in mind. You won’t be asked to get expensive software only to push up the repair bill. The best thing is your weakest link will be identified and rectified. The root cause of the problem can be diagnosed and then a pro-active approach will be developed through software installation and quick-fix tips given to employees.

Information On Computer Repair Services

Computer products, including both hardware and software have taken our lives by a storm. The storm brings along the usual- topsy-turvy situations. Exactly when we were overwhelmed with the distinct mark technology made on our lives in the IT field, numerous problems emerged that made us ill-at-ease while enjoying the computer system in the comforts of our home. This is when Portland computer repair is to be looked out for.

If you are living in the state of Portland in US, the above scenario is not new for you. Like any other computer user in your country you are always a target of increased computer inventions. Whether you are a small business, large company, student, elderly citizen or an IT person yourself, sooner or later you need to refer to Portland computer repair services for the tremendous problems any new software or hardware installation brings along.

The good news for all those living in Portland is; you have a large number of computer stores for hardware and dedicated Portland computer repair services for software installation, upgrade, trouble-shooting etc.

Some stores are all pervasive; offering both new gadgets (hardware) and providing repair services for hardware and software up-gradation. They have a panel of technicians available 24 hrs so you don’t have to worry about arranging fixes on a Sunday or sitting back late to attend to them on tiring weekdays.

Some Portland computer repair services go as far as assisting your business in accomplishing a paper-free office, recycling and even re-use of your old hardware in socially responsible programs.

For small businesses with a minimal computer setup and individuals interested in cutting costs, computer geeks are also available for Portland computer repair services. They can come to your home at just a call and save you the trouble of manually taking your heavy hardware to the service station. For small-time problems like viruses, spyware, a stuck printer or PC problems, you can find individual technicians who work at low rates and don’t give you a salesman pitch of buying something from their stores that you need for useless up-gradation.

Comparatively bigger businesses who can hire full-fledged services must be sure to be on the lookout for Portland computer repair companies with a Microsoft IT certificate. This serves as a proof of their good and timely service and as a testimonial to satisfy your apprehensions. From repairing a slow running PC to requiring a company to handle your entire network, you can search for the right team. The services include; IT services and network support, malware/spyware detection and removal, replacement of your motherboard, RAM system and other hardware and software installation, upgrade, repair or just a simple tweak. Some companies charge ZERO for onsite services and Home Visits- for estimates, pick and drop etc.

Assembling and Troubleshooting Computer Services

With the coming of the recent times, hardware services have become incredibly important due to the fact that the modern human life seems to be wholly or partially dependent on computers. And the computers seem to stop functioning right at the moment when you need them the most, doesn’t it? The range of probable problems in the smooth functioning of the computer are frankly too wide to properly comprehend. Impairment in the system can cause major hiccups in the corporate machinery causing major problems and losses for the company, hence the market has come up with fast and effective hardware servicing groups who specialize in hardware service. Their services vary from LAN set up and control to hardware repairing to LCD monitor screens.

Computer Hardware – Assembling & Troubleshooting Services:-

Install all new hardware, systems, and software for networks, configure, maintain network services, equipment and devices, Manage user accounts, permissions, email, anti-virus, Installation: Linux & Windows like Windows NT Server, NT Workstation, Windows 2003 Server, Win2000 Server, Windows 2000 Advanced Server, Windows 2000 Professional, Windows XP, Windows 98 and Other Software. Smooth up gradation of CTCL Servers should be taken care. As & when any compulsory upgrades are been sent to members Problem solving related to network connectivity, Operating system, H/W failure and software issue. Security Patches installation, antivirus and application software up-gradations Troubleshooting Problems through VNC, Remote Desktop Connection or Net meeting. Installation of Windows Patches, Antivirus and Updations. Troubleshooting of computers and other Peripherals.

While some of the small scale companies specialize in hardware and computer installation while some others specialize in web design. These companies offer their services to the corporate companies for a reasonable price and in exchange the companies are benefited. Mostly what happens is that big IT and professional companies hand over the responsibility of the smooth functioning of their computers over to some small scale private firm who take care of the all the computers of the particular company, keep them updated and well in shape in exchange of a service charge. Now these small scale companies can be found almost anywhere in the world now, they are many in number and variant in the services they provide. Some of these firms are even wholly dedicated to network and LAN support, both hardware and software, they even take charge of the proper cabling and wireless network arrangements of the companies. There are a large number of websites on the internet that offer a huge number of these companies all together for one to choose from, but wisdom lies in choosing the company with the highest number of satisfied customers and a good reputation in the market. However mostly these companies with a some what superior fame in the market than some others usually are comparatively more expensive than other not so famous hardware service providers. They will charge you more for doing the same task in the same fashion than some other company in the market that is not so well known.

Hardware service providing companies are mostly concentrated in the technological or IT hubs of the country. These companies even provide their own set of preferred hardware and accessories like scratch pads, computer pen drives etc which they think will be beneficial for the proper and effective functioning of the computer system of a company. These services can also be very easily availed by private computer owners in case their PC’s malfunction or are damaged. The phone number and email addresses can easily found at various online sites and advertisements.

Tips To Follow Before You Buy Computer Hardware

For a computer to perform as efficiently and effectively, good hardware configuration is a must. From the very basic functioning to running the most advanced softwares, the hardware set up holds the key. The component of a computer hardware usually includes keyboards, monitor, mouse, printers, scanners, Central Processing Unit (CPU), disk drives, digital flash drives, audio and video cards, motherboard, processor, graphic card, memory chips, RAM and cables. For proper programming and functioning of the computers, it is necessary that the above mentioned hardware is in proper functioning. However, while you are seeking to buy computer hardware, you need to recognize the several options you have at bay.

Although there are traditional ways you can opt while you look to buy computer hardware, you must also explore the dimension that online domain has brought forth. Today, there are innumerous hardware shops which operates online and facilitate online buying and selling of hardware products. The growing trend of online shopping provides you an array of options of choosing a large number of hardware products that are available under different brands and series. So, you may visit a large number of products with scrolls and clicks of the mouse.

If you favor visiting a hardware store to find out the suitable hardware product, then there are comprehensive benefits as well. Not only the fact that you can have a good look at the stuffs you are buying, there are technical staffs at your service who will intimate you with any of your latent queries.

Regardless of the fact that whether you decide to buy computer hardware online or from a dealer, there are certain things that you ought to take care of. In the following paragraph, we will discuss some of the key points that are necessary for you to remember before finalizing a deal.

1. Validation – Whether you are buying hardware articles from a retailer or via online, proper validation is an absolute necessity. This validation is in regards to whether a company selling computer hardware products is a registered one. There are few stores and websites which profess to deliver high grade products but in reality may ultimately fraud you by dumping the cheap computer hardware articles to you.

2. Reputation – Before you decide on the final buy, make sure that you have gained knowledge about the history of the company. In this regard, you may take references of the customers these companies have served and verify the record of their services as well the quality of products.

3. Reviews – It is a common fact that the online stores that sell computer peripherals and hardware accessories generally lists the impressive comments of the customers and upload them on the website. So, in order to derive the unbiased side of the story, you can rely on the reviews. These reviews which are written by professionals and experts uphold the unprejudiced views about a company, the services they render and also the customer’s comments. Thus, before you decide to purchase hardware or computer peripherals from a traditional store or via internet, make sure we have made a thorough glance over these reviews.

4. Quotes – If you wish to avail hardware articles at budget friendly price, then always ask for quotes from the company. Almost all the online hardware shops have a separate page wherein you can request a quote and they will get back to you through e-mail. So, before closing a final deal, make sure that you have availed quotes from multiple companies. High prices seldom determine quality of a product, so devote time to avail something that will suit your budget as well as leave its mark in terms of quality. The same applies when you decide to buy hardware from regular computer stores. Make sure that you have visited such multiple shops and have acquired the approximate costs and then decide accordingly.

While you wish to avail hardware products, at a low price, you need not necessarily have to compromise with quality. So while buying hardware, look around every possible niche, research every brand and finally make invest your resources to make sure that you get the best thing for your system.

Optimising Returns From Computer Hardware Maintenance

Organisations incur high costs and quality issues on computer hardware maintenance. One of the common complaints is poor service by the IT supplier. Companies prefer to outsource computer hardware maintenance, as their in-house IT teams are either not adequately staffed or do not have the expertise to handle computer maintenance problems that are complex in nature.

Some companies engage hardware support service providers who are experts in handling the particular brand/brands of IT assets that are owned by the company. For instance, an IT supplier dealing with Dell products will offer services like ‘Dell server support’ and ‘Dell hardware support’. Therefore, it is a good idea to engage these suppliers, if you are using Dell products.

There are several advantages of engaging a service provider who services the specific brand/brands of IT assets used in your organisation. Their turn-around time is much quicker. Similarly, they can help in internal process improvements and build best practices. Their experience in dealing with the particular brand/brands of IT assets will be of help. They can also offer additional services like ‘break-fix’ and ‘out-of-hours support’.

They are also well-versed in working across different hardware platforms. Their SLA compliance rates are between 95-100 %. This may sound unbelievable. However, several business cases have proved this. On the other hand, the money saved from engaging this category of IT suppliers is quite high. They can also train the in-house team to perform hardware maintenance activities, quickly.

The other bonus of working with these IT suppliers is flexibility. They can provide break-fix and hardware maintenance, both on a full-time and part time basis. Most IT projects fail because of poor hardware maintenance. Hence, working with these IT suppliers helps to improve maintenance standards and reduce downtimes. Improved maintenance standards can result in speedy execution of projects. This can improve the customer- satisfaction levels and help to win more deals. The profits also soar! Spends on computer hardware maintenance can be reduced, drastically. This will not only delight the CIO’s and CEO’s but also the CFO’s. This can result in reduced spends for the IT department!

Traditional outsourcing models have not been successful. There are also several limitations like loss of business control and lack of accountability. There also tends to be a compromise on quality, in an effort to reduce hardware spends. Moreover, the resources of the IT supplier may leave at a short notice. Hiring and training resources is very expensive. It is also time-consuming. This may delay projects, in the absence of proper back-up plans.

The co-sourcing mode of engagement is an alternative model that enjoys patronage by many organisations. In this model, the IT supplier’s resources work with the members of in-house IT team. There is no loss of business control and the IT supplier can provide additional resources during the peaks of demand and also roll them back during the troughs of demand. So, why not consider engaging a co-sourcing partner to offer computer hardware maintenance services?

Computer Tips To Help Small Businesses Operate Profitably

Computer Tips To Help Small Businesses Operate ProfitablyWhen working properly, computers enable small businesses to make big business profits; however, get booted off your computer and you’re suddenly starving. In most instances, computers usually act up due to lack of care by its owners. Here are four computer tips that’ll keep you up and running smoothly.

Tip #1 — Back up your computer’s data no less than once a month.

Too often a small business is thrust back to infancy because it didn’t take time to back up precious data; information that took hours upon hours to create. Information that’s irreplaceable, such as customer databases or employment contracts. Keep in mind you’ll want to back up your written data as well as check books such as Quicken and email address books. If your computer has a CD writer, it’s simple and quick to back up your data. Simply select the files and folders you want to back up and copy them to the writer.

Or if you have an older computer, copy your most important files to a floppy disk. Either way, don’t stop there; now take the CD or disk and store it in a fire-safe box! To expedite the process, organize your files within folders so you can quickly grab and copy one or two folders.

Tip #2 – Don’t turn off your computer every evening.

Too frequently computer users turn their computers off every evening. This is unnecessary and not recommended. A computer’s components are at their most vulnerable when turned on and off. When a computer has to heat up [turn on] or cool down [turn off] it’s at this precise moment components fail. It’s recommended you turn your computer off once or twice a week or only when necessary, such as from a power outage. However, don’t do the opposite and never turn your computer off, since many anti-virus programs require a computer reboot be performed before new virus patches take effect.

Tip #3 — Automate anti-virus software so it updates automatically no less than once a week.

Depending on your software, you may need to prompt it to update. Unfortunately, there are people with too much time on their hands who desire to attack and make your computer unusable. A computer user is not ultimately protected from viruses and spyware [pop-ups, cookies, etc.] unless you’re using a combination of anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a firewall, a piece of hardware that protects computers from being hacked. You must have all three pieces in order to ward off viruses, lurkers and attacks. What’s more, most of the attacks are very quiet. You don’t know someone is on your computer. Instead, they secretly store information, such as child pornography or music MP3s on your computer, since it’s illegal, and redirect child-porno or MP3 seekers to your computer instead of theirs.

Tip #4 — Install a firewall if you keep your computer constantly on.

Using a broadband or DSL connection dramatically increases your exposure to being hacked. It only takes an average of 15 minutes being online before a home-based computer is attacked. The only true way to protect a computer from a hacker is to install a hardware firewall. It’s a misconception that software-based firewalls ultimately defend computers. This is simply not true. Computers must have a hardware firewall for ultimate protection, such as a SonicWall or Netscreen firewall, a component installed between a home user’s cable or DSL connection and their computer.