How To Figure Out Why Your PC Won’t Boot

Danny Stieben 28-09-2012

pc wont bootWe’ve all had our fair share of computer problems, but most of them have been about being unable to connect to a network, being unable to run a certain program, or some other software-related issue. However, you have a much bigger issue if your entire computer doesn’t seem to run at all.


Let’s forget about problems that might plague Windows, but concentrate solely on the hardware in your system and what might occur with them. Here are a couple of things that may be going on in your system when your pc won’t boot and what you can do to fix them.

BIOS Settings

pc wont boot
On rare occasions, there may be some wrong settings found in the BIOS, whether they occurred by the work of a program, by playing around with settings such as overclocking, or something else. Wrong settings can lead to the motherboard trying to use the attached components in ways they cannot function correctly, so issues start appearing. The components themselves are fine, but the BIOS needs to know how to work with them.

A BIOS’s default settings will boot, no matter what, to the point where you can get back to the BIOS’s settings (so long as the components actually function). You can reset the BIOS to its default settings by hitting the CMOS button while it is turned off. The location of the CMOS button varies widely by motherboard and computer model, so you’ll need to resort to your motherboard’s/computer’s manual to find where it is.

Is Everything Plugged In?

why pc wont boot
If you built your system yourself, or you’re running a fairly old computer, there’s a small chance that either not all cables are connected (correctly) or that a cable may have become loose over time. If you built your own system, make sure that you really have all cables plugged in which are necessary for each component to work, including power cables, data cables, and so on. Also make sure that all add-on cards are pressed into the motherboard all the way, or else that could cause problems as well.

If you bought your system, you may need to open your case and make double sure that all cables are tightly plugged into where they’re supposed to go. If one happened to pop out, it shouldn’t be too difficult to reconnect it as computer cables are very unique and only require color and shape matching.


Dead Components

pc wont boot
If everything is plugged in how it’s supposed to be, your next issue may be that a component isn’t functioning correctly or is otherwise dead. If this is the case, there’s no other way around the issue but to buy a new replacement component. If you simply bought a computer and don’t feel comfortable picking out a replacement component, you’ll sadly need to buy a new computer, but I highly recommend trying to get help from your local computer store before resorting to such an extreme.


In the end, there aren’t too many things that could be wrong. It’s a bit tricky to figure out exactly what components may be non-functional, such as using the POST beep sounds to determine what kinds of errors the computer is throwing at you, but that needs to be looked up on the Internet for more appropriate, relevant information. Hopefully with a little luck, you’ll be able to zero down on the issue in just a couple of minutes.

For more information on computer components, check out Your PC, Inside and Out [Part 1] The Ultimate Guide to Your PC: Everything You Wanted to Know -- and More While your PC's technical specs change, its function remains the same. In this guide, we're going to set out exactly what each component does, why it does it, and why that is important. Read More , Your PC, Inside and Out [Part 2],

What kind of hardware errors have prevented you from booting? How did you figure out what the issue was? Let us know in the comments!


Related topics: Computer Maintenance, Tech Support.

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  1. Edward Bellair
    October 8, 2012 at 3:24 am

    Nice to review these lists. A reminder of all the little things you can overlook.

  2. Edwin Williams
    October 5, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    a good read nonetheless. Always willing to try and learn something new!

  3. Wade Potter
    October 2, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    I once had a surge protector go bad. It still let part of the voltage through and caused really strange problems.

  4. salim benhouhou
    October 2, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    no new information but thank you

  5. Areeb Majeed
    October 2, 2012 at 3:03 am

    Great Guide!

  6. GrrGrrr
    September 28, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    sorry to say, but the article did not match with the title. misleading in my view

  7. HLJonnalagadda
    September 28, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Lot more information would've made it worthwhile. Learned nothing of use in this article. Good effort though.

  8. josemon maliakal
    September 28, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    It's nice..but you must include the bootloader problems too ..

  9. Mark
    September 28, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    sorry, dude. but i didn't get any info here...
    the info here is just like too general...
    it's just the same as "check your computer if it wont boot"

    • HLJonnalagadda
      September 28, 2012 at 3:00 pm


  10. Freecycle Me
    September 28, 2012 at 11:00 am

    I too feel that this is not such a full description of what could be wrong. I recycle PCs and check if they are able to be resold.
    First make sure the power is attached.
    When you switch on does nothing happen at all? It could be the power supply. Look to see if any LEDs or fans fire up.
    Are there any beeps, these can really direct you to a cause.
    There is so much more but perhaps I should write the piece. Sorry Danny, I like your content generally but this needs to be much more detailed if it is to help anyone. PCs are easier to repair hardware problems than restore an OS install. If I get a chance I will write what I do, then will link it.
    Don't stop writing Danny, but think if what is written will give a full answer to problem solving otherwise people will be more frustrated with such posts.

  11. druv vb
    September 28, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Nice article. Although its not a complete repair guide, it shows where to start looking for problems. Its either power, cables, components or system errors. Specially for novice users actually.

    • Danny Stieben
      October 2, 2012 at 7:26 pm

      Exactly. This is mainly meant to help those who aren't too technically inclined (we have more readers like that than you might think!), so most things that I did leave out I would consider too technical.

  12. Scutterman
    September 28, 2012 at 8:07 am

    I'm fixing someone's laptop at the moment that will boot fine until the login screen, where it'll bluescreen unless it's in safe mode. I'm thinking at the moment it's either driver issue or an IRQ conflict, but I'll try resetting the BIOS and see if that helps.

    • Freecycle Me
      September 28, 2012 at 10:36 am

      This sounds more like a software issue, if you get to the Windows login window and then the BSOD then see if you can go back to a previous instance, in case a driver has installed badly or the registry is corrupted. You may also be experiencing a shutdown during update problem. There is a prob that if the power went on certain Win updates then it can be a real pain to bring it back.
      My first suggestion would be to get a linux disk and some backup media then copy over any important data and maybe an image of the hard drive too. Then if it all goes wrong, you won't lose your friend.

      • Scutterman
        September 28, 2012 at 2:00 pm

        Thanks! That's a big help, I'll definitely be referring to this as I'm fixing it, and even if it doesn't fix it I'm sure it'll point me in the right direction.

      • Danny Stieben
        October 2, 2012 at 7:23 pm

        Thanks for helping Scutterman out!

      • Scutterman
        October 21, 2012 at 8:17 pm

        I did a backup of important data and then did a rollback. That fixed the problem, seemingly a problem with a Java update. Thanks for the help.

    • DaveTheCompGuy
      September 28, 2012 at 5:43 pm

      So... if it'll boot in safe mode, but not in 'normal' mode, what's the difference between those? Startup programs, probably. Go to msconfig in safe mode, uncheck as many as you can safely (or all of them), and see if that narrows it down.

      • Scutterman
        September 30, 2012 at 9:00 am

        More likely to be drivers. In safe mode, the generic drivers get loaded. It's unlikely to be the startup programs because those don't load until after login and the bluescreen happens right as it gets to the login screen.

        • Danny Stieben
          October 2, 2012 at 7:25 pm

          From what I've read, it definitely seems more like drivers than anything else.

    • Nikhil Gupta
      October 5, 2012 at 6:51 am

      there is some hardware problem. check ur hardware devices...

    • cherie
      October 19, 2012 at 12:17 am

      I have a hp windows xp mini laptop, I used the power button to shutdown after pc locked up now i cant access the login page or desk top.... nothing except f1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 9 11 12. should i reset bios? i dont have a user guide where woul i do this reset bios?

  13. Ravi Meena
    September 28, 2012 at 2:21 am

    i came here expecting some new information, dissapointed

    • summer
      September 28, 2012 at 4:53 am


      Think we have been duped.


      • April Eum
        October 7, 2012 at 5:11 pm

        lmao what is this sorcery