Computer hardware makes up the physical components or parts of a computer, such as the keyboard, mouse, monitor, hard drive, memory, motherboard, printer, and so on. Software, on the other hand, is the set of instructions that is run by the hardware. This usually consists of computer programs, libraries, or other documentation that is stored on the computer.
Hardware is essential to running computer programs, but it can be difficult to determine when a computer’s hardware is failing as opposed to having a software problem that we can fix.
If you would like further assistance with hardware issues, you can definitely contact our Nerd Herd, Staff IT Support, using this article: When to Contact Our Staff IT Support team. While our Nerd Herd is a great resource for troubleshooting hardware, the computer manufacturer is usually the best point of contact for hardware issues.
Here are some common hardware components and the problems that they can encounter:
- Hard Drive: Hard Drives are storage devices used for storing and retrieving data. When a hard drive starts failing, the files on the hard drive may potentially become corrupted. This can also cause long delays when accessing files or saving to the hard drive. The operating system may stop booting entirely.
- Motherboard: The motherboard is the main printed circuit board (PCB) found in computers. The motherboard connects the other parts of the computer, including the CPU, the RAM, the disk drives (hard disk and others) as well as any ports or the expansion slots. Motherboard problems can be difficult to diagnose. If the motherboard has a failure, you may experience reoccurring blue screens or similar problems.
- CPU: CPU is short for Central Processing Unit. The CPU is generally a single integrated circuit chip within a computer that carries out the instructions of a computer program. A failing CPU may cause the computer to blue-screen when overheating or running too many processes at once, and may even result in the computer not booting at all.
- RAM: RAM is short for Random-Access Memory. RAM is used as short-term storage when applications are running. When RAM starts failing, an application may write data to only part of the RAM, producing an incorrect value. This can result in application crashes, blue screens, and even file corruption.
- Fans: Computer fans are used to keep hardware from overheating. If any of the fans fail in a computer, components may overheat causing CPU or graphics card problems. The computer may also shut itself down to protect from overheating and any further damage.
- Power Supply: The power supply is often a unit that converts power from the wall for the internal components in the computer. A malfunctioning power supply can be tough to diagnose. It may deliver too much power to a component, damaging it and causing it to malfunction. If the power supply malfunctions completely, the computer won’t power on even when plugged in and nothing will happen when you press the power button.
- Modem:A modem is a device that enables a computer to connect to the Internet. The modem makes a connection with the help of an Internet Service Provider (ISP), which typically provides Internet service over cable or DSL lines. Cable modems connect to a cable port on the wall, while DSL modems connect to a telephone socket on the wall.
- Router:A router is generally a small box that allows a computer or multiple computers to join the same network. Most modern routers offer wireless connections as well. While a router often provides access to a local network (LAN), it may not necessarily provide access to the Internet. In most cases, the router must be connected to a modem in order for the network devices to connect to the Internet.
Here are some general hardware troubleshooting tips that you can try if you are experiencing issues. If these steps do not resolve your issue, you will need to contact your hardware manufacturer’s support.
- Check that all the cables are securely plugged into the computer and monitor.
- Make sure the power cables are plugged into a power socket and the socket has been turned on.
- Try using a different power socket. If a power extension/strip is being used, plug the power cable directly into a power socket on the wall or replace the power extension/strip with one that works.
- Check if the power lights are on at the front of the computer:
- If the lights are on at the computer but not on at the monitor, then it's likely a monitor issue.
- If there are lights on at the monitor but not on at the computer, then it's likely a computer issue.
- If there are no lights on at the computer or at the monitor, then the local power source may be out.
- With laptops, try removing the power cable and the battery. Hold down the power button for about ten seconds, then put the battery and power cable in again. Press the power button again to check if the laptop turns on.
- Try restarting the computer. This can help resolve many simple issues.
- Press the Ctrl+ Alt + Del (Command + Option + Escape on Mac) keys at the same time to start Task Manager (Force Quit Applications on Mac). Look for any programs with the status Not Responding and select End Task (Force Quit on Mac). If asked to end the unresponsive program, choose Yes to end the program.
- If the computer is completely frozen and cannot be restarted/shutdown, hold the power button down until the computer turns off. Wait several seconds and try to turn it back on again.
- When unable to open or save to a USB or external hard drive, try removing the device and plugging it in again. Be sure to safely eject each device before removing.
- If an external device fails and a repeated clunking is heard, remove the device as soon as possible.
- If an internal drive fails and a repeated clunking is heard, shut down the computer as soon as possible to avoid further damage and losing data. There may be a problem with the hard disk.
- Make sure the keyboard/mouse is firmly plugged into the computer.
- Try unplugging one or both, and then reinserting into the computer.
- If using a USB keyboard/mouse, try plugging into a different USB socket.
- Replace the keyboard/mouse with one that is known to work.
- If no lights appear on the keyboard when the Caps Lock or Num Lock keys are pressed, the keyboard may be damaged or broken.
- If the mouse is still not working, make sure there is no dirt build-up covering the optical laser or roller ball on the underside. It may require a cleaning.
- If using a wireless keyboard/mouse, try pressing the reset button on the device or unplugging and plugging the wireless receiver back in. The batteries may also need to be replaced or charged.
- Make sure both the computer and monitor are powered on.
- Make sure the monitor is securely plugged into the computer.
- Make sure the power cable is firmly plugged into the monitor and the wall.
- Make sure the monitor is plugged into the correct display port. If there are multiple display ports, try each one, switching the monitor off and on between each move.
- Most monitors will display a status window when turned on. Check if the status window appears when the power button is pressed on the monitor. This shows the screen is working, so it may be an issue with the video cable from the monitor or the computer itself.
- Check the brightness & contrast levels of the monitor via the menu button, to make sure it has not been set too dark.
- Check that all cables are securely plugged into the computer and modem/router.
- Perform a quick restart of the modem.
- Connect the computer directly to the modem. To complete this step, plug one end of the cable into the Ethernet port on the computer and the other end of the cable into the Ethernet port on the back of the modem.
- If the steps above did not resolve the connection issue, there may be a larger issue preventing Internet access and you should contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) for further assistance.