IT Services

What to do if you have a Sick Computer


1. Please work through the steps below...

The help you need to fix a sick computer can be different depending on whether the problem is with its hardware (i.e. the physical equipment) or its software (the programs you run).

At this stage, do you think that the problem is with your computer's:

2. How to tell if it's a hardware or software problem

Typical Hardware-related Symptoms Typical Software-related Symptoms
  • Machine totally "dead" - no activity (lights, sound, screen information) at power on
  • Machine has started producing unusual noises
  • A visibly broken, cracked or loose-fitting part
  • Problems following liquid being spilled on machine
  • Machine getting very hot and/or randomly restarting itself
  • Machine halts part way through start-up
  • Programs misbehave or give error messages
  • Machine runs very slowly

A good test for whether a problem is hardware-related is to try and start up the machine from a suitable CD such as a Knoppix system disk (available from OUCS). If the machine then behaves properly, the problem is probably a software issue. A separate page gives more information on doing this. For older machines with floppy-disk drives, a boot-floppy could be used instead.

Do you think that the problem is with your computer's:

3. Still not sure if it's a hardware or software problem

If the advice in the How to tell... section hasn't helped, you probably need assistance.

Your first line of help should be your local college or departmental IT staff - see the IT support web pages for your college or department.

If you're still unsure, contact the OUCS Help Centre - if your machine is a laptop, our helpdesk can take an initial look at your problem. Desktop machines can only be seen by a prior appointment made through the helpdesk.

4. Hardware Problems

If you think you have a hardware problem then:

Even though your machine may have a serious hardware problem, you may still be able to get a copy of your data from the hard disk using the OUCS Backup and Reinstall Service.

If your machine's hard disk itself has a serious hardware fault, recovering any data from it will require the services of a specialised data recovery company. These services are often expensive but may offer a "no recovery, no fee" charging system.

5. Software Problems

If you have a Windows XP system that won't start up properly, take a look at our web page on troubleshooting Windows XP systems .

Increasingly, the solution for major problems with your machine's operating system is to do a complete and clean install of the system. Information is provided on a separate page for doing this yourself for Windows XP systems. Alternatively, the OUCS Backup and Reinstall Service could do the work for you and copy your existing data on CD/DVD or onto the new system.