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Troubleshooting Why Computer Will Not Start or Boot Up

Computer power

Computer power

Common Reasons Why a Computer Will Not Start

Computer hardware diagnostics can be very tricky; this article is not an attempt to replace the repair technician but rather to weed out the common problems that simply may not need a tech to figure out. This article also assumes you have power from the outlet you are plugged into, and all external USB devices have been detached other than necessary components, such as keyboards, mouse, monitor, and power cable. With that said, here we go!

Power Cables

  • Check your cords.
  • Laptop cords often are able to be separated at the power block; make sure all ends are snug and attached to the wall, adapter, and in the laptop.
  • For desktops, make sure that the 3-prong cord is firmly in the wall outlet/surge protector and snug in the back of the computer's power supply.
  • If the cord is frayed or a pet has eaten through it, be sure to unplug from the wall before thoroughly inspecting them. If the cords are damaged, they need to be replaced. Do not use electric tape on cords that have exposed wire. Laptops, more than desktop power cables, are very lite gauge. If they have been gnawed through, adequate power may not make it to the computer or possibly cause a fire.
  • Loose connection, more so on laptops, than desktops, if a prong is damaged at the end where it plugs into the laptop, it will not charge or charge poorly.

Insertion Points: Laptop Power Jacks

  • If the cables are well and good, however, no power is visible on the laptop, it is possible you may have a bad power jack. This sort of repair requires a technician. Often, the entire laptop must be disassembled to replace or solder in a new jack. This problem is often found that you may have to hold the power cable a certain way to get power into the laptop. Be warned; it is still possible that the power adapter can be bad and causing a very similar issue. The only way to know the difference is to use a volt meter and see if the volts labeled on the power adapter is coming out, such as 19v.
  • For desktops, very rarely does a desktop power cord go bad at the insertion point in the back of the computer, although it isn't impossible if the cable got jerked or strained some way or another. Power cables should be very snug into the back of a desktop computer; there should be very little play or wiggle in the connection.

Power Supplies

Lights With Beeps

  • More often than not, this is caused by memory failure. If your system has more than one memory module, it is suggested to remove one module and let the other in to see if the system boots, do the same with the other module if nothing happens different. Please remember to remove the laptop battery or disconnect power before doing this for either a laptop or desktop. Be sure to ground yourself too. One zap of static electricity or removing a memory module while power is available can be the end of your system.
  • If the memory is okay, it is possible there is video, CPU, or motherboard failure. The easiest way to eliminate the display is bad issue is to attach an external monitor to your laptop. If you get a display, you have a bad screen. Desktops already have an external monitor unless it is an all-in-one system, in that case if available treat it as a laptop and connect an external monitor.
  • If the screen is good, the last two items left are the CPU and motherboard. This requires a technician skill level to diagnose, again because of disassembly of the computers.

Motherboard Failures

  • Bulging or leaking capacitors.
  • Loose or corrupted cables from the power supply to the motherboard.
  • Loose or corrupted cables from the motherboard to the hard drive.
  • CPU as mentioned above.
  • Memory as mentioned above.
  • Rare, however possible graphic processor or central processor cracked or chipped, see photo below.

Chipped GPU - Lower Left Corner

Chipped GPU, Lower Left Corner

Chipped GPU, Lower Left Corner

Memory on Desktop Motherboard

Memory on Desktop Motherboard

Memory on Desktop Motherboard

Hard Drive Failure

  • If a hard drive is the result of the booting failure, the system will likely tell you no boot sector found, or Windows boot error. Another common issue is the system stuck on the booting screen, for example, the Windows logo.
  • Strange clicking sounds, x-ray gun sounds, hard drive spinning up and slowing down to stop, etc.
  • The screen says unable to start recovery, or diagnostics could not repair startup.
  • If any of these issues have arrived, it would be best for a technician to assist with data backup if you have not had the opportunity to do so up to this point.


  • Software (operating system such as Windows) can give failure results similar to the hard drive such as not booting into the operating system, stuck on a screen, or blue screening on install.
  • Common boot up issues are caused by the following: software that was installed incorrectly, driver corruption, an update that failed, abrupt power outage and the system did not shut down properly. Let's not forget registry corruption or virus' / malware infections that can completely mess up a computer's boot sequence.
  • The above symptoms can be repaired, however, to address all possibilities in one article would be nearly eternal in length. Software corruption that causes a computer to not start should be diagnosed by a technician that can troubleshoot on a step-by-step scenario.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2016 Ryan Hutzel