We'll show you how to deal with computer issues, from non-working keyboards to updating Windows and more, without having to call in the experts
At some point, your home PC may take an age to start up in the morning, run programs more slowly than it used to or regularly drop its internet connection.
Besides this, your mouse may stop moving the pointer accurately, the display could start switching itself off occasionally and the CD drive might make a funny noise – your PC may even suddenly sound much louder than usual.
In this case it’s natural to think ‘that’s it then’ and start scanning Computeractive’s pages and website for a replacement computer. That’s certainly what the manufacturers would like you to think.
But we have other plans for your old PC that will help put off the day you have replace it.
Just because your PC feels like it’s on the blink, doesn’t mean it is. In this article and the tips and tricks explaining how to fix common PC problems, we will show you how to extend the life of your current PC without spending a penny.
Since hardware is the area that gives most of us the heebie-jeebies, let’s kick off here. If you’ve got something that’s demonstrably a hardware problem – something that’s wrong with the PC itself, rather than Windows or your programs – here are some simple things you can try, organised by symptoms.
I can’t type or point
Keyboard not working? Turn everything off, unplug the keyboard, now blow hard into the connector, give it a wipe with a cotton bud and try again.
If it’s a USB keyboard, try a different USB port on the PC. If that’s no good, try borrowing a friend’s keyboard and see if that works.
If it doesn’t, try plugging your keyboard into their computer to see what happens – that way you should be able to work out whether the problem’s at the keyboard or the computer end of things.
Got a problem with your mouse? Do the same.
I can’t get on the internet
If your internet connection keeps dropping out, don’t waste time queueing on the phone to talk to someone who will only tell you to reset your router and connect it again.
Instead, turn it off, wait 30 minutes, turn it on and try again.
Still no good? Unplug the cables, clean the ends with a cotton bud, plug everything back together and try again – you’ll be amazed how often this does the trick.
I can’t tell the time
If you’ve noticed that your PC isn’t keeping such good time any more, you may have to replace the little battery that looks after the clock function.
Check your PC’s manual to find out where it is and then, following the instructions, open the casing and find the battery.
Make a note of any serial numbers or make/model type and perform a Google search for 'CMOS battery' to find the right one. When you’ve bought one, follow the instructions to replace it – there’s often a little tab that you can press to ‘ping’ the battery out, and then pop the new one in.
I can’t access my disk
Do you have an external USB-powered hard disk that’s playing up? In this case it may not be able to draw enough power from the connector, especially if you are using a USB plug situated in the monitor.
Try turning everything off, unplugging it and plugging it back into a USB port in the actual PC unit itself.
I can’t use my monitor
If your display keeps turning itself off or dropping into standby (so the green light changes to amber) you might think it’s broken. However, quite often, graphics cards will turn your monitor off because they are overheating due to all the accumulated dust.
Using the instructions that came with your PC, unplug everything and then – in a well-lit room so you can see what’s going on – open the system unit and find the graphics card.
It will probably be the largest vertically placed circuit board in there and will usually have either a grid-like metal box on it or a little fan. Follow the instructions in the manual that explain how to remove it safely and then, using a cotton bud or can of compressed air, clean off all the dust.
If the fan’s casing can be removed from the card, try doing this and cleaning inside. Then put the whole lot back together again and see if that solves your monitor problem.
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