Computer Disaster

Solutions and strategies for the most urgent computer problems.

Hard drive dead or dying

Sometimes you get a warning about this and sometimes you don't.

If you are hearing strange noises emanating from your computer especially the hard drive area and especially if you are receiving some disk reading or writing errors, your disk is on the way out and should be replaced fast. (However, if you are using a USB 2 hard drive on a USB 1 port, the problem is probably not the hard drive).

If you boot up, and the computer cannot find the C: drive, that's a big hint. The problem may not be the hard drive but it is prudent to contact the computer manufacturer or do some troubleshooting of computer problems at this time.


It is dangerous to attempt any writes to the hard drive while you suspect that damage has occurred. Don't even accept a suggestion that you do any serious writing from a technical support agent of your manufacturer without being absolutely sure that they know what they are talking about especially if you are not up to date on your backups. Many of the agents are amateurs. If you have any doubts ask for a higher level tech.

You can very often save the disk yourself by running a program from a CD of utilities called the Ultimate Boot CD. This program actually fixes hardware failures in place and recovers data which seemed to be lost. You create a bootable CD or flash drive and run the utilities from there. You need to be a bit technical to take advantage of this tool. However, you can get a lot of help online if you have another computer available.

I used to suggest using HDD Regenerator. However,  I  have had mixed experiences with it. It helped me save one crashed hard drive. However, on another it started but said the disk was offline after doing a small portion of the drive. I also tried to create a bootable flash drive but got errors. It is basically a good program with decent support but the jury is still out. In any case, UBCD is free and HDD Regenerator is not.

Although, using these utilities can get you going, it is prudent to get another hard drive which can be put into a USB case and use disk imaging software such as Acronis True Image to clone the failing hard drive. 

Get 10% off on Acronis True Image Home 2010 with Coupon Code NDJATIH2010  

The clone can then replace the bad drive (See Fix Computer Problems for more information about this). If the disk restore succeeded, the original drive can be used as an extra drive. You should do this even if  your hard disk doesn't seem to have many errors because the drive can die totally in very short order. As a backup drive, you are not in as bad shape as you would be if your main drive died.

If this failed and you don't have a backup, you can try a local repair outlet that you have strong recommendations for. Avoid the chain outlets.

In the worst case, there are professional data recovery services but these can be expensive. OnTrack Data Recovery is one that I have heard recommendations for.

Acronis True Image 2009

The infamous BSOD (blue screen of death) problem

At any time a completely blue screen with a few lines of error messages appears at the top of your screen and the system is basically dead.

If your computer is at least partially functional or you have access to another computer, do a search for the error message on the Internet. It will indicate the likely cause of the problem and the suggested correction. If the problem is that your RAM memory is going bad, replacing the memory chips is described in the fix computer problems article.

The computer spontaneously reboots or turn itself off.

Most of the time this is caused by a hardware problem. Some trivial solutions are to make sure that the plugs are not loose and check that the fan is not being blocked causing the system to overheat. Otherwise, the power supply may be going bad and some troubleshooting is in order.

Sometimes this problem can be caused by a virus. Make sure that your computer internet security software is up to speed.

Nothing happens when you turn on the computer

You don't hear a peep and it's as if it's not plugged in.

First, check the obvious. Make sure that all plugs are connected securely. You may want to test the socket or power source to see if it is generating power. Otherwise, it is probably a power supply, cmos battery (a small battery that allows your motherboard to retain certain important settings) or motherboard problem. Contact your vendor or checkout other troubleshooting options in my troubleshooting computer problems article. For the do it yourselfers among you, the fix computer problems article has links to installing these parts if necessary.

The system seems to power on but nothing appears on your monitor.

This may be caused by either a bad monitor or some recent software change that doesn't allow your computer to boot into Windows.

Try rebooting and keep pressing the f8 key. If different boot type choices appear on your screen something in your system has become corrupted.

It could either be a bad driver or something messed up in that complicated internal system database known as the registry. You have a good chance of getting your system back to the way it was before the problem by doing a Windows system restore. This article indicates how to do a system restore from safe mode.

If nothing appears, your monitor may have died or become disconnected. Make sure it is powered up, turned on and securely connected to your computer. If this doesn't help and you have another monitor, try it. Otherwise, follow the troubleshooting steps in my troubleshooting computer problems article .

For more details on some of these problems refer to this article 4 common pc problems you can fix yourself

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