broken laptopWhen your car is on its last lap, the signs are usually clear. When your dryer is about to die, you’ll usually hear obvious signs. With a laptop, it’s not always as easy to tell. It won’t shake, rattle or (hopefully) smoke when it’s ready to leave this mortal coil. Your laptop is perhaps your single most valuable work tool. Problems like these are like problems with your car or home appliances: frustrating, time-consuming, and potentially very costly.

Before shopping for a replacement, you may be able to identify the symptoms of a sick system and perhaps even effect a cure.

1: The battery won’t hold a charge.
This is an issue with the battery, not necessarily your laptop. Replace the battery. This may be costly as laptop batteries often sell for $50 or more, but at least it will greatly extend the “life” of your laptop.

2: Keyboard keys that no longer work.
Just a single non-working key will interfere with your work. And if one key goes, it’s likely only a matter of time before others fail. Check eBay for replacement keys and keyboards for your exact laptop model. You might be surprised at how easy and inexpensive a DIY repair can be. If that doesn’t fly, it’s time to get a repair shop involved.

3: Frozen pixels or weird lines on the screen.
It depends on the number of pixels and size of the lines, but it’s probably interfering with your work and could be a sign of imminent screen failure. Look for a repair shop that will give you a free estimate on screen replacement. If it ranges into the hundreds of dollars you might be better off replacing the entire system.

4: Very slow hard drive access accompanied by clicking sounds.
This is serious. The “click of death” means your hard drive is nearing failure. Copy your critical data to an external hard drive immediately. Then look into replacing the hard drive, ideally with a solid-state drive (SSD). These have no mechanical parts and therefore won’t succumb to mechanical failure.

5: Random shutdowns and system crashes.
Here are five of the most common reasons your laptop is randomly shutting off:

A) Dirty Fan/Overheating
One of the first and most likely reasons your computer is shutting off randomly, especially when you’re playing a game, is an overheating issue. This is the bane of most computers, especially laptops, since the heat has nowhere to go. Fans that are in peerless working order are critical in aiding this issue. Try using a can of compressed air to blow the dust out of the laptop’s cooling vents. But if the fan itself isn’t working properly, you’ll need to get it repaired.

B) Hardware Failure
Another common reason for a random shut down of your computer is a hardware component failure, which is not unheard of, especially on computers that have been refurbished. If you’ve recently “added any new hardware” this is the time to remove it to see if the shut-down issue goes away.

C) Bad Power Supply or Power Supply Cabling
Check the power supply “brick” as well as both the cables. Is the “power” light strong and steady, or does it flicker? Visually inspect both the cable that plugs into the wall and the cable that connects to the computer for signs of wear. These cables tend to take a lot of punishment and often the conductors start to break. This is a relatively inexpensive item to replace for the majority of laptops.

D) Display Driver Crash
If you’ve tinkered with your operating system or have changed drivers on your computer, this too can be troublesome, especially if you’re playing around with BIOS. A driver crash can always completely shut down a computer.

E) Computer Virus
A more rare cause of a computer shutting down randomly can be a computer virus. Some computer viruses will actually shut off your computer, and then turn it back on.

I hope one or more of these tips has been of help. Of course as with any complex device, I’ve only scratched the surface. Contact me here or via and I’ll try to help you find a good hardware technician (not one of my skills beyond my own hardware). Or if you know a good local technician and want to give them a shout-out, please do.

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