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You must understand that what I am about to reveal to you puts me in mortal danger. Men in black and white fuel-efficient vehicles may show up at my door and threaten me with terminating screwdrivers. Those are the easy ones to spot. It’s the independent contractor that you never see coming. They could be dressed, or look like, any sort of geek there is. What I’m about to reveal to you is their bread and butter. They’ve kept you in ignorance about how easy it is to do some of the things they do. Let’s keep it between us.
The first thing you need to know is basic troubleshooting. Start with the most obvious and work your way backwards. Read and understand the error messages on your screen. They are in plain language – don’t get intimidated. If it says No Video Source Present, check the cord between your computer and monitor. If the power light isn’t on, check the power cable. Many of your problems are likely of this nature. If you have already done all of the troubleshooting steps and are sure what hardware component is causing problems, then we can talk about that now.
Replacing or Re-seating RAM
There was a time when this was a major operation, requiring a soldering iron and steady hands. Now, RAM comes in easy to install and remove sticks and is a very simple DIY computer repair. Keep in mind for this, that static electricity is your enemy and grounding out is your friend. You can get a grounding wrist strap, or you can touch the metal chassis of your computer frequently. I’d recommend the wrist-strap just to be safe.
Open up the case of your computer. Many cases today don’t even require removing screws so that’s easy. Look inside for a few seconds at your computer. Seems really confusing and high-tech, doesn’t it? Don’t be intimidated. Look for rows of long computer chips that stick out of the board, perpendicular. They’re about an inch high.
If you suspect that they just need to be reseated, gently push on the center-edge of the RAM, then the top and bottom. If there was any movement, then that was probably the problem. Once you are sure all of the RAM is seated, you can try to restart your computer.
If the RAM is still causing a problem, you can remove it very easily. At either end of the RAM, there are little levers – or retaining tabs. Gently push these levers down, both at the same time. The levers should pop back and the RAM will be raised up. Using only the edges of the RAM, take it out and put it on a non-static surface. If you’re lucky you’ll have an anti-static bag around. They’re usually pink, silver or clear with thick black lines on them. You can usually get these from a computer repair place, just by asking for them. Tell them you want to bring in your bad RAM for a replacement. Hey, it’s an easy sell for them.
Take the RAM to your local computer store and they’ll help you select the appropriate RAM for your computer. Make sure you know what model of motherboard you have, since this is an ideal time to upgrade your RAM for a faster computer.
Replacing the Power Supply
If you’re certain the issue is your power supply, that’s easy to remove and install too! WARNING: Unplug your computer completely. Let it sit for a few minutes. This ensures that there is no power to the computer so you don’t get shocked. Letting it sit for a few minutes allows any capacitors to discharge so they don’t shock you either.
Once you feel safe to proceed with this DIY computer repair, take some masking tape and a pen and mark all the connections that your power supply makes to your components. Do that on the component side of the connection. This helps you to know what cables need to plug back in when you get the new power supply. Sometimes a ribbon cable can have a few connectors on it that aren’t used. No sense connecting to those. Disconnect the power supply cables from the components.
Now, on the back of your computer you will see a number of screws around the power supply. Unscrew those and save the screws. Hey, little screws can come in handy someday. The power supply should now slide right out of the back of the computer or inwards into the computer. Don’t force it. If anything is blocking it, carefully remove those things.
Voila! The power supply is in your hands. Take it, and your motherboard information, to your computer store. Now you can get an appropriately sized power supply. They may recommend a more powerful supply and if your motherboard is meant for it, it can be worth a few extra bucks to upsize. This can help the components run closer to their maximum capacity, meaning a faster computer for you. To install the power supply, read the manual that came with it and make all the connections accordingly. Often, these connections are now unique to each component, making it harder to mess up.
Replacing or Reseating a Video/Sound/Network Interface Card
If you are certain that the video or sound or NIC card is causing your problems, those are probably the easiest things to replace. When you open your computer, you’ll see a column of cards inserted horizontally. These are the cards we’re talking about. If you think they might just need to be reseated, do the same technique you used for the RAM. Gently push on the center edge of the card, then the left and right. Again, if there is any movement, this may likely be the problem.
If you are certain the card needs to be replaced, it is usually a matter of removing one screw from the mounting flange of the card and gently pulling the card out by its edges. Pop it into a static-free bag and take it into the computer shop. Once again, this may be the time to upgrade as well. Usually by the time you’ve had a computer long enough for a component to fail, a better component comes along and costs about the same as the original one. Sometimes it costs even less.
Take the card and gently insert it into the proper slot. Put the retaining screw in and proceed with the User Manual for the card to make sure it has the right drivers installed and the right configuration.
Yes, these instructions sound too easy to be true, and you’re right! These are the basics that apply to almost any make and model of the components we’ve talked about. There will be specific little variations for each new part, however those should all be covered in the user manual that comes with them. Keep all of your original packaging for the new parts as well, just in case they too are faulty. Then you can return them easier.
I hope this article has helped you to overcome any fear of the computer that you might have. Or at least saved you a few bucks in labour costs for repair. All this information comes with no warranty. If you try to repair your own computer and it doesn’t work, or gets worse, I can not accept any responsibility for that. Always research until your are completely comfortable with the work you will do.
If you’re familiar with any other tip that can be added to above list of DIY computer repairs, please share them in comments below.