Section 2.0 Troubleshooting, Repair, and Maintenance

SubSection 2.2 Common Hardware and OS Symptoms

OS Related Symptoms


This error is commonly known as "Stop Error" or "Blue Screen of Death"
This error is commonly known as "Stop Error" or "Blue Screen of Death"

So you are working on your computer, and all of a sudden your screen blinks and switches to a bright blue screen full of white letters and numbers. Now this is usually the part where most people panic and think, “What just happened to my computer?!” or, “I think I just got a virus!”. Relax... this is called a Blue Screen. You might have also heard it called “Blue Screen of Death” or a “Stop Error”. Now there are different types of issues that cause this error, and depending on what caused it determines the severity of it. This screen is the computers way of letting you know, "Hey, there's a problem with my hardware or software." Most of the time this problem can be fixed by restarting your computer, and from there you can go back to working on your computer again as if nothing ever happened, no problem. However, there are times when, unfortunately, it's not that simple, and you have to go through certain procedures to get it back to normal again, otherwise it can harm parts of your computer.

In a way you should be grateful for this popping up on your screen, because if it didn't then things would probably be a lot worse for your system. This usually occurs when a bug gets into the core of your operating system and tampers with your software a little bit. You could say it confuses your system and throws it off track. When this happens, your computer takes precaution and dumps all of your information into a "dump file" where, most of the time, you would be able to recover it later when the problem is fixed. When your computer is done "dumping" your files you get this lovely blue screen shown in the picture above that puts a stop to everything you are doing just to let you know that something went wrong. If it weren't for this screen popping up and stopping the computer that little "bug" would have thrown your whole system out of whack. The bug can come from a poorly-written driver, faulty RAM (memory), faulty hardware, overheated components, or overclocking, which means your computer is working harder then it should.

If you look up at the picture above you will notice that the bluescreen usually specifies the type of error (ex. STOP 0x000000e2). Here are some links you can use in case you run into this problem and need help fixing an error:

List of Blue Screen Error Codes

Fixing Blue Screen Errors

System Lock-up

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Have you ever ran into a time when you were on your computer and everything freezes on you? You click and type and click some more but nothing happens? It gets you pretty upset doesn't it? This is called a System Lock-up. A system lock-up usually happens when you have: a low amount of RAM (memory), software issues, driver issues, operating system issues, hardware failures, or your computer is overheating.

The link below provides information on how to cope with these issues if this frequently happens to you. Check it out :).

System Lock-up Tips

Input/Output Device

Input and Output Devices are hardware necessary for functioning with your computer such as monitors, keyboards, speakers, mice, webcams, printers, etc. Input devices such as keyboards, and mice allow you to interact with the computer by either moving the mouse, or typing on the keyboard. You are sending information to the computer. Output devices like printers, speakers, and a monitor interact with you based on a command you have given it. Speakers produce sound for you to hear, the monitor gives you a picture, and printers give you documents. They interact with YOU.

Here are some common troubleshooting methods and diagnoses if you are having trouble with any of these things.

Input/Output Device Troubleshooting

Application Install

An application can be described as any type of software that can enhance your computer. Applications can range from games, anti-virus software, drivers, web browsers, to media players.

When you install an application to your computer it is rather simple. All you have to do is: make sure your computer has the proper specifications for the program (this information is usually provided on the website), and follow the directions to download or install the program (which are also provided on the site as well). And there you go! your application install should start immediately after you take those steps.

At times you can run into problems with installing applications. If there is a start or load failure this might mean that the application is not compatible with your operating system. You should research the application to see if a patch is available that allows it to run on your operating system. You might need to upgrade the application to one for which the coding works according to the application rules of your operating system. You could also try restarting your computer, or uninstall the program and re-install it again to see of the problem persists. Make sure no updates need to be installed onto your computer; this could possibly affect the application as well. You can check your computer updates in your control panel.

Start or Load

Computers don't always boot normally like they're supposed to. There are a plethora of things that can cause this. Below are some links that might be able to help you if your computer has problems loading or starting up.

How to Fix a Computer That Won't Start

Start-up Modes for Troubleshooting

Windows Specific Printer Problems

Hardware Related Symptoms

Excessive Heat

Do you feel like working hard when you're hot? You feel tired don't you? You have to cool off somehow so you can work better and even avoid getting
The internal parts of your computer can actually melt your components or catch fire if the internal temperature is high enough
sick. Well a computer feels the same way. Computers are sensitive when it comes to heat. That is why they have vents; it helps them cool off. Just like heat can harm our body, it can harm a computer system as well no matter desktop or laptop. A computer that is overheating will have reduced performance, and if it's hot enough, the inside components of the computer can be damaged too, especially your CPU (Central Processing Unit). The CPU is the brains of the computer so if that gets damaged, your whole system will cease to work. Damaged internal components can eventually be destroyed if overheating happens frequently. Your computer might even shut down on its own if the system is too hot. If you put your hand on the case of the computer around where the motherboard is and you feel that it is hot, that is not a good sign. ALWAYS make sure your vents are clear of dust or other objects, and if you are using a laptop make sure you use it on hard surfaces so that the airflow will be better. The link below provides some other tips on how you can prevent your computer from overheating.

How to Prevent Your Computer from Overheating


A noisy computer can mean a variety of things. Your CPU fan might be dirty, your computer is working more than it should, your hard drive might be going bad, or it could be something in your CD drive that isn't working properly. Whatever the case, you should see what the problem is and fix it immediately. You might not want to risk ignoring the noise because if it has to do with your hard drive then there is a possibility that it could fail soon. You might want to back- up your data before it's too late if that is the case.

Here are some troubleshooting tips that might be helpful to you.

How to Troubleshoot a Noisy Computer


Odor coming from your computer isn't necessarily a bad thing most of the time, but it sure isn't normal. especially if it is a burning smell. If it smells like something is burning around your computer then it probably means your processor is overheating. If this is the case, you should turn off your computer immediately and let it cool down. If the problem persists you should call a technician right away to avoid any damage or data loss.

Status Light Indicators

Status lights are the lights you usually see flashing on your notebook computer, desktop tower, or keyboard. These can help you determine certain things about your computer.

Let's start with the desktop tower. On your tower there are usually two lights by the power button; a green one and an orange or yellow one. The green light indicates power. When you push the power button and the green light turns on, that indicates that your computer is running. The orange light indicates the hard drive. When your computer is running you might notice that this light flashes on and off repeatedly. This indicates that your hard drive is working; the faster it blinks, the harder it is working. If you look behind your computer tower you might notice that there is a light flashing where your Ethernet cable is plugged into. This is the cable that looks like a telephone wire. When you see that this light is on, it means you have a network connection. Another status light you might notice on your desktop computer would be the one on your monitor screen. This light is usually on the power button. When the monitor is on and receiving a signal the light is a solid blue or green color, but when the monitor is on and not receiving a signal, the light usually flashes or is a solid orange color.

Depending on your computer, the lights might be different colors; they might be blue or white as well. The most typical colors for the desktop tower however are green and orange.

The lights on your laptop can signify many different things, and they can be many different colors too. The lights on your laptop can indicate power, it's state of charge, sleep mode, and whether your Wi-Fi is on or not.

You have status lights on your keyboard as well. These lights turn on when you push the "NUM LOCK", "CAPS LOCK", and 'SCROLL LOCK" buttons.



An alert is a message generated by a hardware device to let you know that something is going on. Alerts usually pop up right on your computer screen so they virtually are hard to miss. Alerts can also be sent to your computers bulletin board if there is one on the operating system. Viruses, software updates, and messages are all type of alerts.

Visible Damage


Visible damage is damage you can see. If there is damage on the outside of your case then it shouldn't be a big deal. However, if you find that there is visible damage to the inside of your computer system or any of its wires, you should immediately replace them.

User Documentation and Resources


User/Installation Manuals

User installation manuals can be very helpful if you want to try and solve a simple problem on your own. Reading the manual can help you avoid any unnecessary phone calls to a tech professional and it can also teach you what you need to know about maintaining your system in top condition. Always read the user manual before you deal with any computer. Every computer system is different, so sometimes the same maintenance procedures will not work for another system.

Internet/Web Based

When you're having a problem with software or hardware on a computer running a Microsoft operating system, an excellent troubleshooting reference is Microsoft's Help and Support Web site. This site contains problem and solution references for the Microsoft client operating systems you'll be supporting, such as Windows 2000 Professional, Windows XP versions, and Windows Vista versions, as well as many other Microsoft application and server operating systems. Sometimes, the Web site provides a hyperlink to an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) site, where you can download patches and new releases.

A component of the Help and Support Center is the Microsoft Knowledge Base, which explains many Microsoft error messages. You can enter the specific message in the Search box and retrieve a description of the error's cause and a solution for resolving the problem.

- (CompTIA A+ Certification Essentials, 2009 Edition)*

Microsoft Help and Support Web Site


Forums are online discussion groups. These enable various people to gather at a central location online to discuss common interests in an open format. Members of the forum can exchange information and ideas.

A generic form might be created to discuss general network issues. A forum most often contains information on problems and solutions. This makes it useful when you have a problem because you can visit the forum and see if anyone else had a similar problem and found a resolution. These postings are not usually verified by a vendor or manufacturer as providing the best solution to a problem; they are just what worked for a particular person. An example is a Web site at ; it's a site dedicated to Windows operation system and desktop applications, but it's not a Microsoft-affiliated site.

Vendor-sponsored forums do have experts on staff to review the postings. They can also help members by gathering information about the problem and guiding them through the troubleshooting process. Most vendors then post summary of the problem and step-by-step instructions for resolving the problem. An example is, which is a Web site dedicated to Microsoft products and technologies.

-(CompTIA A+ Certification: Essentials, 2009 Edition, Revised)*

Training Materials

Training manuals can save you a lot of time and frustration when it comes to working with anything. Before you work on a computer, be sure you read a training manual before hand if it is your first time or if you aren't sure of what your doing. Certain computer parts can be dangerous if not handled or disposed of properly. Touching certain components of the computer can also cause damage which can result in data loss or a non-functioning motherboard. Do not assume you know what you are doing and try to fix things on your own. If you ever need help consult a professional.

- Created by Priscilla Lugo