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Computers 9

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8 - Can the problem be reproduced?

If you call a company's technical support line, one of the first things that they are going to ask you is if you can reproduce the problem. For example, when you launch a certain Windows based application, the computer hangs up. Before you contact support to help you with a problem, turn off the computer and any peripheral devices (printers, modems, etc.), then turn everything back on. If the original error was caused by a software application, try accessing the software again to see if you get the same results.

9 - Simplify the Parts

Separate the individual parts of the computer in your mind into components, then test the components as a whole. This will minimize the number of pieces that you have to deal with by eliminating components and parts that you know are functioning properly.

Components of the Hard Drive The components of a hard drive consists of the hard drive, a power cable, a data cable, and the controller card. If an error message indicates that you have a hard drive problem, try the following:

Turn the computer off, wait about 20 seconds for the hard drive to stop spinning, then turn the computer back on. It could be that there was a minor power fluctuation when you turned the computer on or while you were using the computer. A fluctuation in the power supply for only 1/200th of a second (4 ms) can scramble several bytes in the computer's memory and prevent it from working properly. Depending on the amount and types of devices that are using the same electrical circuit as your computer, this may be a fairly common event. Just rebooting the computer may solve the problem.

Try booting up the computer with a boot diskette and see if you can access the hard drive. If you can, you most likely have a bad file or two or a bad sector on the hard drive that is not allowing it to boot up properly. Although this is not a common problem, it does occur. At this point, backup any information on your hard disk that you do not have a current copy of. The next step would be to attempt to reinitialize the drive using the SYS command that hopefully is on your boot diskette by entering SYS C: from your A: drive. If this is successful, remove the boot diskette from the disk drive then reboot your computer.

If the same error appears, turn the computer off and remove the cover. Check the data cable (large flat cable) that connects the hard drive to the computer's controller. Make sure it is plugged in tightly and also check the power cable that connects the hard drive to the computer's power supply. These cables, particularly the power cable, rarely if ever go bad, but I have replaced a data cable or two. Replace the cover and turn the computer back on.

If the error still appears, you may have a bad hard drive. Hard drives do not last forever. The life expectancy of the current line of hard drives is considered to be around 3 to 5 years, but I've had them die shortly after installing them and also have some that have been running for over 10 years. If you have another hard drive available, try swapping it for the one that isn't working. Also, if you were thinking about adding a second hard drive to your system or upgrading to a larger drive, now might be a good time.

If swapping the hard drive doesn't help, then you have narrowed the problem down to the hard drive controller. If the controller is an adapter card, swap it out for a new one. If the controller is built-in to the motherboard, then your only option is to replace the motherboard. In the later case, unless you feel comfortable with tearing your computer apart, you may want to have your local service center do the work for you.