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This chapter is from the book

Computer Chaos

Some problem solutions may seem overly obvious, but they are things you should always double-check. With children, pets, and other distractions, you may miss the warning signs of a computer acting up.

Likewise, you should understand that you can treat this section as a reference that you can flip back to at a later date. Perhaps some of the topics should have been reserved for later if you've not yet had a chance to get fully up and running on a new computer, but we want to give you the ammunition you need to solve any problems that may come up early on.

My Computer Won't Turn On!

Before you panic, a number of things can remedy the problem. Ask yourself any of the following first:

  • Are all other electronics in the area working? If not, you could have a blown fuse, or you may have a general power failure on your hands.

  • Are the monitor and the actual PC (the big box with the power switch and disk drives in it) plugged in and turned on? They both have power switches, so it is possible the PC is indeed starting up; you just can't tell because the monitor may be turned off.

  • Is your power strip in the ON position? A child and sometimes even a pet can easily switch them off, as can a object falling from your desk, so it is worth a peek.

  • Is the power to your PC driven by a light switch? If so, verify that it is in the ON position.

  • Double-check to make sure all of the cables are securely in place.

  • Check to be sure your mouse and/or keyboard is fully connected and then try moving your mouse back and forth or pressing one key and then, if no response, another. Screensavers can lock up and take some time to respond once you return and try to activate the system.

  • If you still get no response, try unplugging the computer and plugging something else into the power strip. If the other item works, you can assume the power strip is fine, but there may be a problem with the PC's power supply. That warrants a call to your PC's technical support because a blown power supply isn't repairable by an untrained person.

My Computer Froze! What Now?

Nothing's more unnerving than your computer freezing on you. No matter what you do, nothing happens; even Ctrl+Alt+Del (the keyboard shortcut to restart your computer) may fail. Before you start inventing new curse words as you yell at your PC, try the following:


If possible, try to get into any open word processing documents or spreadsheets to save your work. The next steps you take may result in data loss if you don't. Of course, if your system is entirely frozen, you may not be able to get anywhere. (You did back up your hard drive recently, didn't you?)

  • Try pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del, but do it only once! (If you execute the shortcut key combination two times in succession, the system resets without giving you the chance to save anything.) The Windows Task Manager dialog box shown in Figure 3.3 appears, listing all open applications. If an open application is causing the problem, you will see the words Not Responding next to the application's name. Click the name of the problem application and then click the End Task button. If this doesn't fix the problem, return to the Windows Task Manager dialog box to see whether a second application is not responding.

  • Figure 3.3Figure 3.3 The Status column lets you see where the problem lies.


    Hopefully, the problem application wasn't one containing unsaved data. (Usually, it is a web browser with a memory leak or some other innocuous problem.) If it was an application like your word processor or spreadsheet program, there may be no way to recover your work. Office XP programs boast an AutoRecover feature which should, in theory, attempt to recover the active document during the crash when you relaunch the application in question, but don't count on this too heavily; it seems to fail as often as it works.

  • Still frozen? Rebooting may be the only answer. On the Windows Task Manager toolbar, click Shutdown, Restart. Hopefully, Windows will shut itself down smoothly. If it doesn't, you will have to turn the PC off, wait a few minutes, and then turn it on again. In cases like this, the system restart may take a bit longer than normal as Windows tries to repair itself.

  • If you get repeated system lockups with a certain application, check the Internet to see if a patch or update to the program is available that may solve the problem. An update or upgrade can often cure what ails your computer.

  • Have you checked for computer viruses, as directed earlier in the chapter?

  • When repeated system lockups occur and you can't trace them to a specific application, there may be an underlying hardware problem. It may be worth a call to your PC's technical support department to see whether they can offer additional guidance.

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