Desktop Troubleshooting Best Guide with simple steps

This guide will provide information with simple steps for desktop troubleshooting in the right direction.


What is Desktop troubleshooting?

There are so many possibilities and scenarios that can cause your computer to go down and with desktop troubleshooting the first thing is to do is to determine if you have a software or hardware problem, finding out if the problem is actually a physical issue like a bad component such as memory, hard disk, motherboard etc. or a software issue like a bad driver, virus or spyware, corrupt system etc.

desktop troubleshooting

If you suspect a software issue and don’t really want to spend the whole day finding out if you have a bad video driver or virus, or system file corruption, then the best thing to do is to format your desktop, meaning wiping out the hard disk clean.

I suggest doing a backup of important data if possible. If your data is extremely important like for most people and a backup system was never put in place before the time of the crash, and the operating system is not accessible.

Then you will have no choice but to remove your hard disk physically from the computer or desktop and place it in another computer as a slave.

If you are equipped with with an external hard disk enclosure , you could simply install that drive that needs to be backed up inside that enclosure and you will directly connect that enclosure via a USB port to a working computer.

You will then be able to access your drive and backup all important data directly to that computer.

Once the backup is done and most important configuration are written down, again if your operating system is somewhat accessible. You are now ready for the following steps , formatting (wiping out hard drive) and reinstall the OS, providing that you have your official operating system license CD.

Then once the operating system is installed, you will need to re-configure all your internal and external peripherals such as: sound card, video card, network card, modem, printer, scanner etc.

keep in mind that on some systems depending on the chip set of the motherboard, you will spared from installing some drivers, nevertheless it is always advisable to get the latest drivers from the manufactures’ sites.

Your final step will be to restore all backed up data, and finalize the installation of all additional software and other downloads that you may require. Don’t I repeat please don’t forget your email and address book backup too.

Once the computer is formatted, it will be impossible to go back and recover lost data if you are not a professional with specialized tools and software.

A hardware issue is a little difficult to pin point especially on laptop, many issues can make a desktop and laptop not want to boot up or even turn on.

I would advise calling a professional if you aren’t sure what is it you are up against.

Desktop troubleshooting guide

As sad earlier, troubleshooting can be a little frustrating and a little tricky. With so many parts and software installed, any number of things can go wrong. But when (not if) something happens.

This is the best opportunity for you to learn-of course provided that you have a few basics under your belt.And the best part, you will save yourself a lot of money.

Nothing beats experience. The more you do it, the better you become, and the more your confidence grows.

There are many things that can go wrong with a computer. Here, I try to cover the basics to get you doing n the right direction.


Well let’s start with an important tip: when you want to do desktop troubleshooting always start with a simple stuff. By that I mean there’s a tendency to assume that when something happens it’s always due to a major problem, when all it could be a loose cable or something else minor. I have been guilty for this myself. Check the easy thing first!!


Now the real challenge is deciding whether a symptom is hardware or software related. A lot of times this comes through trial and error. Don’t be afraid of misdiagnosing a problem. It’s going to happen. Just keep at it.

Desktop troubleshooting if issue during POST

When you power on your system, the power supply sends a signal to the CPU, which receives instructions to go to the BIOS to start the boot process. Part of this process is the POST (power on self test). Problems arising at this stage are almost always hardware.

During the POST, devices are found and checked for errors.

If everything  is fine the motherboard speaker will usually sound sound a single short beep and move on the loading the operating system. If something occurs you will hear some type of beep or see an error message on the screen.

BIOS manufacturer  have different beep codes so you will have to know which BIOS your system is using. Phoenix and AMI are the two primary makers. Award BIOS was bought out by phoenix in 1998.

You can find the type of BIOS you have by either turning on your computer (assuming of course it comes on) and looking at the top left of the screen, opening the case and looking at the BIOS chip, consulting the motherboard manufacturer or the company that built your computer system.

Whichever BIOS you have,if the beep code indicates the memory or video card problem.

the usual solution is to check to see if they are fully seated in their slots or to replace the part. If using built in video then it could be the motherboard.

If it’s a CPU beep code your processor might be overheating. Some BIOS setups are  set to shut the computer down if the processor is too hot.

A malfunctioning processor fan could be the culprit.  Turn off the computer and remove the case door.

Turn the computer back on and see if the fan is working or running slowly. if it’s a fan , replace it. If not, remove processor and see If there’s any physical damage to it.

Keep in mind that you will not always see physical damage on a bad CPU.

If you don’t hear a beep at all , more than likely it’s a failing power supply or motherboard.

Desktop troubleshooting if device not listed in BIOS

Immediately after the post is performed information about your computer is listed on the screen, including your drivers.

If you don’t see a driver listed, go back and make sure they are installed properly and that cables are firmly connected.

Desktop troubleshooting if no operating system found

After the post and listed information the BIOS checks the boot device for the master boot record (MBR). Which tells where the operating system is a drive set to boot with no operating system will produce an error, so make sure your system is set to boot from the right device.

Go to CMOS and look under the BOOT menu to see if the proper boot order is listed. (again depending on the BIOS)

There are various ways to enter’s listed at  the bottom of the screen soon after you turn on your computer.most of the time it’s by pressing DEL,F1,or F2).

In many cases the DVD drive is first on the list followed by the hard drive(s). That’s OK, if the DVD drive empty, the BIOS skips it and start looking at the hard drives.

If there is non-boot able DVD in the drive, remove it. Your boot drive should be the first option. Once found, the OS begins to load.

Desktop troubleshooting if computer is slow

A computer that runs at a snail’s pace is quit annoying, especially when you have a lot of work to get done. Fortunately, many of the common causes are easily fixable.

A slow running computer is often due to viruses and spyware which are discussed below. Another cause can be programs running in the background. Many times when installing new software, by default they are designed to run when windows start.

You can look at the tray at the bottom right of the screen to see all the installed software that’s running.

You can usually stops these from starting with windows by either right –clicking on the program’s icon in the tray and select its properties or options and choose not to have it begin at startup.

Prevent programs from running at startup with MS CONFIG

To open MS CONFIG:  first type MS CONFIG in the “Start search” text box right above the task bar. Then go the startup tab. There you will see the same programs that are in your tray.

You have to choice of disabling them all( not wise, there is certain software  that needs to run when windows starts such as anti-virus)or individually selecting the ones you don’t want to start by UN checking the box next to them.

After making your selection(s) click apply and your choices will go into effect the next time you start your computer.

Another common reason for a slow computer is not having enough RAM. Installing more can often help the problem.


Viruses and spyware can not only slow down your computer, they can render it unusable. Furthermore, certain types of viruses and spyware can transmit your personal information to the attackers. You should always have a sound antivirus running on your system.

Limited hard drive space

After a long period of time, most of our hard drives contain data we no longer need. Given the size of modern hard drives, this is rarely an issue anymore. In any event, if you are clean freak like me, you may want to periodically clean house.

Windows built-in disk cleaner tool is good way to get rid of unwanted files, although there is plenty of software available too.

And of course, you can always add an additional hard drive if you need more storage space.

To open disk cleanup tool in XP-vista click start-> programs-> Accessories-> system tools-> disk cleanup and follow the instructions.

Fragmented hard drive

When a hard drive is brand new and you begin installing software or saving data. Windows trying to keep all the individual files intact, resulting them being read extremely fast.

But after a while you start deleting things. Well, each time something is deleted, it leaves “gaps” in your dive.

Then when another program is installed or data saved, individual files are broken up and placed in these gaps all over the hard drive. this is what is known as a fragmented hard drive.

When opening a file or program, The operating system has to scan the entire drive to find parts of files and put them back together, reducing read time.

De fragmenting a hard drive is easy with windows disk De fragment. It scans you’re your drive for split up files and reassembles them.

To open in XP or Vista click start-> Accessories-> system tools-> disk defragmenter. Before using disk fragment er I would suggest running disk clean up first to eliminate unwanted data. As with disk cleanup, there are many other 3rd party De fragmenting programs available.

Desktop troubleshooting if device not recognized or working

If a device has stopped working or not recognized by windows, remember to first check the simple things.

Make sure cables and power are plugged in. with an internal component, turn off and unplug the machine. Remove the case door and make sure cables are firmly connected to the device and that add-on cards are seated in their slots.

If all is OK, there may be a device driver issue. Device drivers are little pieces of software that allow hardware to work. Reinstall the device driver or download the latest version.

Either go for the manufacturer of the device or the company where you bought your computer. If still no success try uninstalling and reinstalling the device.

If the above doesn’t produce any results, it’s probably the device itself.

After installing new software or device driver

Of course you should first uninstall the software or driver, or use systems restore to return your system to a previous working state.

To open system restore in XP or Vista click start->programs-> Accessories->system tools-> system Restore.

There are times when new programs might freeze up your system. In this case try to see if you can boot to safe mode and perform a restore.

Safe mode only loads the very basic devices and drivers needed for your system

To get to safe mode restart your system. When it begins to boot, continuously press the F8 key. A menu should appear that looks similar to the one on the left.

Choose safe mode and press enter. After windows loads you should get the screen on the right with black desktop. Start system restore like described above.

Desktop troubleshooting if system has no power

The main culprit is usually the power supply unit (PSU). Make sure the power cord is securely plugged into the supply and the wall outlet. If so, you can buy a tester to see whether your PSU is putting out enough voltage.

computer restart

Another cause could be a malfunctioning device. turn off the computer and disconnect all devices. Reinstall each device one by one, turning on the computer after each device. Should your system not come on after installing a particular component , replace it.

If your system doesn’t come on after reinstalling every device, you may have a motherboard or CPU problem.

Spontaneous reboots

A computer that reboots often (while you’re in windows or other operating system) is another indication of a bad power supply.

See the first couple of sentences under no power above.

Time keeps changing

If you constantly have to set the time /date clock, that’s the main symptom of a bad CMOS battery. Replace it, but just like any other battery it has to be the same size. Look at the no on your battery and buy one with the same number.

Desktop troubleshooting with blue screen (PC crashing)

There are moments where you will see a blue screen which allows a detection of a problem and which needs immediate attention.

The “blue screen of death” may indicate a dangerous level of your PC crashing.

After the blue screen appears, you can first disable the automatic reboot and copy the error message to be researched for further information.

if you mange to enter into windows, you can acquire much data on the error message by using the blue screen view tool. You can always perform a search to determine the underlying issue on your computer.

Hardware problems mostly cause the blue screen. You can always shift to the safe mode before detecting and upgrading or uninstall the compromised driver.

A command –line useful when the driver becomes invisible, and you can use it to see the devices that are hidden in the device manager.


Desktop troubleshooting has been useful in detecting and solving most of the common problems that affect your desktop. There is legit issue s which you can resolve easily without the need of an expert.

These problems can always be solved by following step by step guideline since they were created using different programs.


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