Most Common Computer Problems (How to Fix Them)

Most Common Computer Problems

If you use your laptop regularly for work, school, or play. Chances are that at some point it will suffer from some of the most common computer problems. One of the biggest misconceptions is to think that you’re going to need someone with an incredible amount of tech savvy to get it fixed when things go wrong. The truth is you can probably handle most of your laptop’s issues on your own and even end up saving quite a bit of money. Learning how to troubleshoot and repair a laptop yourself will also cut down on the downtime it takes before someone can get around to looking into it for you.

1. Sluggish Performance

This is quite common.

SYMPTOMS INCLUDE:

System slowdown when multiple applications or tabs are open. Hang-ups. Longer than usual bootup time. Excessive pop ups. System crash. Slow downloads and slow file transfers.

If your laptop takes too long to boot. The simple solution is to conduct an audit of the startup programs and disable the ones you don’t use often.

To do that:

  • Place your cursor over the Task Bar and Right Click.
  • In the menu that pop up, select Task Manager.
  • In the Task Manager you will see a list of programs and process currently running on your laptop and how they’re utilizing system resources.
  • Click the Startup tab and Right Click the program you want to disable and select Disable from the menu.

POSSBILE PROBLEMS:

If disabling the program(s) you don’t regularly use hasn’t resolved the issue, you’ll want to check your laptop for:

1.     Virus or Malware

The most common laptop problems for a slow system are viruses and malware. In this case, the first line of defense is prevention. Updating your antivirus software and running scans regularly will go a long way in keeping your laptop clean. After the software is done, reboot the laptop and run any updates to guard against future infections.

2.     Hard Drive

If your laptop has a mechanical hard drive (MHD), disorganized information will zap performance. Data fragments and bad sectors means your laptop has to work a lot harder to find the information you request. Defragging restores performance to the hard drive, but it can sometimes take hours. To perform a Defrag:

    1. access the built-in Windows program called, Disk Defragmenter with the Programs menu in the Accessories or System Tools folder.
    2. Then, click Analyze to see if your disk drive requires defragmenting.
    3. Click Defragment to begin.
    4. If this doesn’t work, your hard drive might be starting to fail. In which case you’ll need a new hard drive.

3.     Other Hardware Issues

Sometimes a slow performing system is a result of hardware failure in the motherboard or processor or just a simple power problem. Repairing this issue on a laptop can really get involved. At this point, we recommend either sending your laptop in to get it fixed. Or replace the system altogether.

2. Laptop Won’t Start

Battery troubles, however, are an issue you can usually easily fix on your own – most of the time.

SYMPTOMS INCLUDE:

The battery stops charging properly. Maybe the battery isn’t holding a charge for as long as it used to. Or charges only after you re-positioning the AC adapter plug inside the power connector. Your laptop suddenly dies. And when you push the power button, nothing happens. The laptop runs only a few minutes when unplugged and dies. When you plug the AC adapter into the laptop, there’s no light on the laptop at all. Or you get a message saying the battery isn’t good anymore.

POSSBILE PROBLEMS:

There are a couple of reasons why there seems to be no signs of life from your laptop:

1.     Issues with the power cables

Fixing charging problems could be as easy as checking the connections. Check the power strip and power cable running to the laptop to make sure everything is well connected. Tighten any loose parts and try powering on your laptop.

2.     Failed battery

Most common laptop problems related to the battery are due to the fact that lithium-ion batteries can lose the ability to hold a charge over their lifespan. After a few years, some batteries can last only a fraction of their rated runtime. If your laptop doesn’t charge completely, try reconnecting the battery first. If that doesn’t work, try bypassing the battery by removing it from the laptop. Then plug in the AC adapter and turn it on. If this works, then you only need a new battery.

3.     The AC adapter failed

When your battery is completely dead, the most common reason why is the AC adapter. You’ll need a simple voltmeter to test it. If there’s no sign of electrical output, borrow an AC adapter from another laptop to plug into your laptop. If it works, then all you need is a new AC adapter.

4.     DC jack is broken

In this case, you have a working AC adapter. But the motherboard isn’t receiving any power to run the laptop. Try adjusting the plug’s angle in its jack. If a couple of lights come on but your laptop still won’t boot. You’ll need to replace the DC jack.

5.     Motherboard failure

If that didn’t work, the motherboard is the problem. The only solution is to replace the motherboard which can be expensive and not something you should attempt to tackle on your own… You may even need a new laptop.

NOTE: Try the following first before going the expensive route:

  1. Similarly, the trouble could be related to the electrical outlet. Try plugging your laptop into a different outlet to see if that resolves the issue.
  2. Or completely discharge the battery by running your laptop until it dies. Then, plug your laptop into a power outlet and don’t use it until it’s completely recharged.
  3. Finally, it may just be time to change the battery. You can easily order a replacement from Amazon and simply pop it in from the bottom or back of the laptop.

3. Laptop Won’t Boot

A common computer problem that’s also the most panic inducing is when the system refuses to boot up. The Solution requires removing the hard drive, placing it into an external enclosure and running CHKDSK (Check Disk).

SYMPTOMS INCLUDE:

The laptop refuses to boot no matter what you do.

POSSIBLE PROBLEMS:

A missing system file. Or a bad sector on the mechanical hard drive. Or perhaps the solid-state drive (SSD) is going bad.

By following the instructions below, you can determine if this is the case:

  1. Remove the hard drive from the laptop using the instructions from the manufacturer and place the drive into a USB enclosure. These are external housings for internal hardware, which you can pick up at Amazon for less than $10.
  2. Next, connect the enclosure’s USB cable to an open USB port on a working PC computer. If the file system is still intact, the hard drive should show up as an external drive and allow you to transfer data to and from the drive.
  3. Then, run CHKDSK on the drive by opening a DOS prompt: Start > Programs > Accessories > Command Prompt and type “X” (X is the letter of your external drive).
  4. Hit Enter and type “chkdsk /f.” Your system may ask you to dismount the drive. Typ “Y” and press Enter.
  5. The laptop should now display some information about your drive (file system type and serial number). Then it will scan the drive and fix any errors it encounters.
  6. An error report will print out to show you what changes were made to the drive. If the process was a success, put the hard drive back into the crashed laptop and power it on.

4. Shutdowns and Freezes

This is another one of those problems that seems scary at first. But shutdowns and freezes are usually signs of overheating, which can rob your laptop of performance and cause a host of hiccups. Every computer generates lots of heat, but laptops are especially susceptible to overheating due to their small size and limited ventilation.

SYMPTOMS INCLUDE: 

The laptop runs properly at first. But after sometimes it freezes, crashes or shuts down for no apparent reason. Or the cooling fan runs louder than usual.

POSSIBLE PROBLEMS:

This is likely happening because of improper cooling issue. You can tell because the bottom of the laptop feels hotter than usual. The fan and heat sink could be clogged with dust preventing the CPU from cooling down properly.

  1. You can fix this issue by opening the laptop and cleaning the fan, heat sink, air vents and everywhere else you see dust. Use cloth, or condensed air.
  1. To prevent future dust buildup, place a piece of Swiffer-like cloth over the inhalation vent. Careful not to cover the exhaust vent since that’s where hot air flows out.
  2. You can also try updating the system BIOS–it’s in charge of controlling the system’s hardware. Most manufacturers offer an installation file that updates BIOS files automatically, which often addresses heat management. Be sure the laptop is connected to the power supply when updating BIOS.

5. No Internet Connection

This problem is probably the most annoying because the whole point of a laptop is to be able to work wherever you want, which you can’t do if you can’t connect to wireless networks.

SYMPTOMS INCLUDE:

Not being able to establish a Wi-Fi connection or experiencing frequent time-outs while Web browsing.

POSSBILE PROBLEMS:

While having no Internet connection could be the result of a wireless card that’s gone bad, it’s more likely the cause of something else.

You’ll want to check the following:

  1. Make sure your wireless card is on

All laptops have a physical button, a switch, or keyboard shortcut to toggle the wireless card on and off. When experiencing connectivity issues, first make sure this wireless toggle is switched on. You’ll know it’s on because you’ll see the light indicator which is sometimes on the keyboard deck of the laptop, or on the sides next to one of the ports. Try the shortcuts to turn it off and back on again. You also want to make sure the network you’re connecting to is broadcasting its network name or SSID.

  • Check your router

The reason you’re not able to connect to the internet may be due to the router. It might just need a good reboot. Unplug it, then count to twenty. And plug it back in, done.

  • Start again with a fresh connection

The settings for your network can become corrupt sometimes. You can fix this by going to your list of networks. Then try to establish a different connection from the previous one you tried connecting to.

  • Start your laptop again

Doing this will clear out anything left in memory, which can refresh your wireless connections too.

6. Noises When Running

So, the laptop turns on and works fine. Except for a constant metallic, grinding or rattling noise in the background. This is one of the most common laptop problems that can really send your heart racing. Whatever you do, DON’T IGNORE IT. There’s a huge chance that the sound is coming from the hard drive. The first thing you want to do is save all your important files and personal data.

  1. Then crack open the laptop case.
  2. Next, turn it on and pay close attention to the hard drive–you’re checking to see if this is where the noise is coming from.
  3. If it is, then the hard drive is nearly broken, and you need to replace it. If it’s not the source of the rattling sound. The culprit is most likely the fan, which may just need a quick clean, or replacement.

Another way to find out if the metallic sound is the fault of the hard drive is to remove the drive and start the laptop. If the laptop still makes noise, most likely you have a bad fan.

7. Laptop Repeatedly Turns Off and On

This problem can be frustrating. You turn your laptop on, and everything lights up the way it should. You even hear the fans running, but there’s nothing on the display. Or the system keeps restarting itself.

SYMPTOMS INCLUDE:

No image displayed when the laptop is turned on. Then after a few seconds the system turns off by itself. On again. Then off….

POSSBILE PROBLEMS:

There’s a good chance the motherboard is broken. But hopefully it’s just memory failure.

You can isolate the culprit through a process of elimination—start by reseating the memory modules or replacing them with new sticks of RAM.

Here’s what you want to do:

  1. Most laptops only have two memory modules. Remove all of them. You can find out how to do that by visiting your manufacturer’s website.
  2. Then, put one module back in your laptop and turn the system on. If one stick of RAM allows your laptop to function without any problem and the other doesn’t. Then that memory module is broken and needs to be replaced.
  3. But if reseating the memory and replacing them with new sticks of RAM doesn’t work. The problem is likely the motherboard. You’ll need the help of a professional from here on out.

Here’s a general guide for changing sticks of RAM:

While every laptop is different, most laptops provide easy access to the RAM sockets either on the bottom of the laptop or underneath the keyboard.

To change the RAM modules on your laptop, follow these steps:

  • Find out what type of RAM you need

Using the right type of RAM on your laptop ensures it will fit in your system and function properly without errors.

  • Determine how much you can add

How much room for expansion does your laptop have available? Every system is different, but on most laptops there’s at least one free slot where you can add extra memory.

  • Install the RAM

Again, each laptop can be different. But most RAM installations involve opening the case where the memory module is and popping in the new stick of RAM.

8. Scratched Display

Scratches annoyingly obstruct display images – it’s one of the most common laptop problems related to the display. But if its only slightly scratched, surprisingly it’s easy to fix.

Beware that this strategy isn’t perfect, but you’ll be able to get some of the scratches; you’ll need a dab of toothpaste. You read that correctly:

  1. You want the paste as the gel variety doesn’t have the abrasiveness required for this to work. Rub the toothpaste between your thumb and forefinger until it feels slightly gritty or sandy.
  2. Then, gently rub the toothpaste over the scratches in a circular motion for a few seconds. Don’t rub too hard so you don’t rub off the display’s surface coating.
  3. Next, wipe the area clean with a soft cloth.
  4. Finally, look it over. If the scratches aren’t gone, repeat the process.

9. Blank Screen

A blank screen issue is when the laptop starts properly, but the image on the display is either non-existent, or faint. When either one fails, the backlight stops working. You’ll need a new working inverter or a known good backlight lamp.

SYMPTOM INCLUDE: 

The screen turns on and the power LED lights up, then the light turns off. The screen is still on, but the image on the display is very dark. Or nothing appears but a blank screen when the system is powered on. Or the display is completely black.

POSSIBLE PROBLEM:

The possible underlying issues are either memory failure; a failed motherboard; or a failed CPU. Or this is most likely due to either a failed screen inverter or backlight lamp (CCFL) failure.

NOTE: You can also read about how to troubleshoot backlight failure from laptoprepaire101.com.

10. Garbled or Distorted Images on Display

Video issues come from software that requires the latest graphics card drivers to work. Laptops ship with the latest driver files, but some systems are outdated by the time they’re sold. That’s why updating your graphics card drivers frequently is critical.

Many laptop makers offer installation packs with the latest drivers and automated tools to update your laptop. If you can’t find drivers at the manufacturer’s website, or your system comes with an integrated graphics chip from Intel. Try the graphic card manufacturer’s website, like ATI or NVIDIA (you can also try Intel’s support and downloads page for integrated graphics cards).

SYMPTOMS INCLUDE: 

Jumbled or distorted images or video reproduction.

POSSIBLE ISSUES:

It could just be that the graphics card failed.

You can find out by hooking your laptop to an external monitor or TV. If the image or video still appears distorted, the graphics card most likely needs replacing. But if the problem only happens on the laptop screen, the issue is probably related to:

  1. A poor connection between the video cable and motherboard or the video cable and display.
  2. A failed video cable or screen.

11. Repetitive Beeping on Startup

When you turn on the laptop, there is no image on the display. But it’s making repetitive beeping sound. In some cases, you can “fix” the problem temporarily by pressing the keyboard keys. But you may have stuck keys, which means you’ll have to replace the keyboard.

NOTE: See the most common laptop problems as they relate to keyboard issues below for more help.

12. Keyboard Issues

A laptop’s primary interface is its keyboard. As such, it suffers the brunt of abuse from typing or spilled food. You may be able to fix a key that becomes separated from the keyboard by getting individual replacement keys.

But if you have a few missing keys, it makes sense to replace the whole keyboard which will be a better value since it will only cost a little more. You can get a refurbished keyboard for an even better deal.

Replacement keyboards are usually covered under warranty. But since they can be purchased relatively cheap, refurbished and new keyboards are both known to have bad keys. Most come with at least a 30-day warranty.

SYMPTOMS INCLUDE:

Loose or dislodged keys. Worn out keys. A stuck or broken key. Keys that don’t work at all or type the wrong characters.

Removing the old keyboard

Laptop manufacturers provide quick online guides for replacing hardware on their support pages. simply type “keyboard replacement” into the search bar or check the manufacturer’s knowledge base.

Removing the keyboard typically only requires removing some screws from the bottom of the laptop. And unlocking the keyboard either with the button or snap mechanism securing it to the frame.

  1. Start by locating a replacement keyboard for your laptop. This can be accomplished by performing an online search for your laptop model and entering the word “keyboard” beside it. Again, Amazon might be your best bet for replacement laptop keys.
  2. Some laptops have a locking bar located above or below the keyboard to hold it in place. Others might have you remove screws from the bottom of the case to release the keyboard. And still others require you to open the whole case to get at the keyboard. A quick flip through the laptop’s manual will show you the answer.
  3. After you’ve pried open the locking bar at the top of the keyboard, pull it off. Then, unscrew the keyboard.
  4. Be delicate. Lift the keyboard slightly, but don’t remove it completely. You’ll want to make sure to remove the ribbon cable connected to the motherboard or the connector on the motherboard first so you don’t damage it. Carefully flip up the connector. Once the keyboard is safely unplugged, lift it out.
  5. After plugging in the new keyboard, slip it in place and screw it in.
  6. Finally, snap the lock bar back in place. Then try all the keys to make sure they all work correctly.

13. Green or Red Dots on the Display

The pixels remain green or red without lighting up properly with the other pixels on the LCD. This can be taken care of by the manufacturer’s warranty. Unfortunately, some manufacturers require as many as 10 to 18 dead pixels to be out of whack before they’ll consider replacing the laptop’s display, which can be a nuisance.

SYMPTOMS INCLUDE: 

Green or red dots on the laptop screen.

The surprising solution for dead pixels or pixels that become stuck is you can simply message them away:

  1. You’ll need soft material, like felt cloth.
  2. Then, gently rub around the dead pixel in a circular motion. This will usually get the pixel to light up properly.
  3. Once you find the right location and pressure that illuminates the pixel, hold your finger there for up to two minutes, and there you have it. No more stuck pixel.

14. Liquid Spills

If you’ve made it this far in the article, CONGRATULATIONS! We thank you so much; you’re AWESOME!

Liquid spills are yet another one of the most common laptop problems that can catapult any user into a desperate state of panic as you frantically blot the laptop dry, praying and hoping the spill didn’t seep into the internals.

Here’s what you want to do:

  1. You don’t want the spill to contact electricity. So, kill power to the laptop ASAP if it’s running.
  2. Then, quickly remove the battery and power cord.
  3. Wait 10 minutes to be sure any stored electricity in the capacitors have bled off. (Do not use the laptop until the internals have been carefully inspected for liquid damage.)
  4. If the spill is sticky or acidic in any way, and you think it trickled into the chassis. Disassemble the laptop and clean individual components separately.
  5. Keep any liquid away from the display as you remove parts. Then, use an electronics parts cleaner or a bit of hot water and soap to remove residue.
  6. If you perceive it was only a surface spill, leave the laptop intact and simply dry off the affected area. But if it’s the kind of liquid that leaves residue, flush the body of the laptop with water avoiding the display at all costs.

NOTE: The hotter the water, the more effectively it will remove any stickiness or residue. And the quicker it will dry. It should be no hotter than what you can stand. And not hot enough to cause problems to hardware.

  1. Ever so gently, shake the system to get all the water out of its many nooks and crannies (air vents generally act like water canals to channel water inside).
  2. Next, use a can of compressed air; a reversed vacuum; or a blow dryer (set on low) to get the inside of the laptop as dry as you can. Tilt the system to its side to help drain the water out. (Be mindful of the display.)
  3. It’s a good idea to let the machine sit near a fan, heating or cooling air vent. Be patient. You want to give it at least 72 hours to allow time for the system to fully dry out because any liquid left when you turn the laptop on will likely kill the system.
  4. Once you’re sure the laptop has fully dried out, put it back together if you disassembled it.

Hopefully it starts up and everything is okay. But if it doesn’t start up, you’ll likely need a new laptop.

To Sum Up

Don’t get us wrong. We’re not knocking anyone in the IT or Geek Squad-type business. This is a large and diverse group of people with years of education and experience behind them to work on your laptop. But let’s face it, these professionals are often quite very busy. And in the time it takes for them to look into your issue, you could’ve fixed the problem yourself. Who knows, maybe by investing a little time to educate yourself, you could even solve some of your laptops more complicated problems. You can start by cleaning out the hard drive of all the stuff you no longer need.