Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Troubleshooting Hardware Problems

Check Software | Spontaneous Reboots | BIOS Issues

Troubleshooting hardware problems.

Checking for hardware issues can be troublesome because you may need to have replacement hardware to verify the problem is corrected. In most cases this is best done by a repair shop.

However, there are some items that can be verified before taking your computer in.

You'll also want to be sure that your computer data is backed up in case the computer fails completely.

Spontaneous Reboots

If your computer reboots spontaneously (without warning) it may be due to faulty or mis-matched RAM. Another potential cause is a faulty or inadequate power supply.

Test for Faulty RAM

If you have more than one stick of RAM in your computer you can try removing each stick in turn and test to see if that resolves the problem. Your computer is likely to run slower than it did, but you're just testing, not expecting to run your usual programs.

Don't Forget Safety

Remember to ensure that the computer is completely unplugged and that the power has drained before opening up the case. You'll also want to ground yourself to ensure that static electricity doesn't harm the sensitive components.

Test for Memory Issues

You can try the following utility to test for memory issues:

  • Memtest86 is a free, thorough, stand alone memory test for x86 architecture computers.

Replacing RAM

If you need to replace or upgrade your RAM, you'll need to ensure it is compatible with both your computer and with any RAM that will be installed with it. These sites can guide you:

Check the Power Supply

The Power Supply Wattage Calculator can help to determine if your power supply is up to the task. If it is inadequate, buy a new and more powerful power supply that will work for your computer. It is better to have too much capacity than too little.

Don't forget that most USB devices draw their power from your computer's power supply (unless they have their own power supply indicated by an electrical cord).

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BIOS Issues

If you're having difficulty booting (or if certain hardware doesn't work properly) you may have to make changes in the BIOS. This is for advanced users only. You could cripple your computer if you choose the wrong settings.

The BIOS configures the initial startup of the computer by checking for hard drives, RAM, audio, video, mouse and other components before Windows loads. If it isn't properly configured, your system may not load at all or may load with some of these components disabled.

  • Look for the BIOS documentation that came with your computer. Most OEM motherboards include this in their manual.
  • Your computer manufacturer may have placed this information on their website.
  • Sometimes resetting the BIOS values to default will fix the issue. Recording the current values may help you restore the computer if this doesn't work.

BIOS Updates

Updating the BIOS can give your computer new capabilities or allow it to work with newer hardware.

  • Look on the manufacturer's site for BIOS updates and the utilities to accomplish the update.
  • Be sure to backup the old BIOS in case something goes wrong.
  • BIOS update failure can leave the computer in an unrepairable state (it has to go back to the factory for repair).


UEFI is replacing BIOS in modern computers and provides hardware-based security. Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 are designed to take advantage of this new technology to speed up the system startups and shutdowns.

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Check the Software

The process of determining the cause of a hardware problem can be complicated by software issues.

  • Windows issues can cause a computer to shutdown without warning, even to reboot.
  • Freezes are another potential indicator of software issues.

The documentation on this page assumes that your computer is not experiencing these sorts of problems or you've at least determine it to be unlikely.

Check the Drivers

Drivers are software that communicates with hardware.

Device Drivers

Outdated or buggy drivers can cause your computer to behave strangely. It may not recognize devices, hang when shutting down or simply not run efficiently.

Newer drivers can offer more capabilities or fix bugs in earlier versions.

  • Check Windows Update or open the Device Manager and search for newer drivers.
  • is a free database that can help you to find suitable drivers.

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Related Resources

Related resources on this site:

or check the resources index.

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Updated: August 20, 2018