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   >  Troubleshooting Intermittent Problems
   >  Diagnosing Hardware Failures

 

Introduction to PC Hardware Problems

What is a Hardware Problem?

A hardware problem is classified as a fault in an actual component (e.g. electrical failure) - or in the configuration of that component - leading to issues with the computer. It is distinct from a software or firmware problem, which is normally caused by a defect in the software or operating system code respectively.

A hardware problem is classified as a fault in an actual component - or in the configuration of that component - leading to issues with the computer

Hardware faults are normally more difficult to cure as they usually require the case to be opened up and investigated, rather than just applying a software patch.


How to spot a Hardware Problem

It can often be quite difficult to distinguish hardware faults from software ones. The following are things which indicate the problem is likely to be hardware related:

  • A problem begins to occur regularly even though no new software has been installed or the operating system patched prior to the problem beginning

  • The problem occurs when a particular device is accessed or used

  • The problem appears to occur unpredictably: for example, the computer freezing or rebooting apparently randomly

  • The computer fails to boot, shows errors on the POST (Power On Self Test) screen or emits multiple beeps at startup time


Fixing Hardware Problems

Depending on the actual issue, a hardware problem is normally fixed in one of three ways:

  • Downloading the latest driver for the problematic device
  • Altering the device configuration in the BIOS set up program
  • Swapping the faulty component for a new one

Keeping a Problem Log

An excellent aid to PC diagnostics is to keep a simple Problem Log: whenever you experience a problem, note down the following in a notebook or central place so you have a record of the problems that occurred:

Over time, this will build up and give you a picture of how often the problem happens and if there are any trends or similarities between them

  • What the problem was (-e.g. freeze, crash, application hung, etc)
  • When it happened (-e.g. date and time)
  • What you were doing at the time (-e.g. editing an image)

Over time, this will build up and give you a picture of how often the problem happens and if there are any trends or similarities between them (-e.g. running similar tasks, problems occurring at similar times, etc). This log will be your biggest ally in narrowing down the cause of any intermittent problems.


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