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A Tale of Two PC Troubleshooting Customers
Posted 6 years ago on 8/5/2014 and updated 9/16/2018
Take Away:

This article describes 2 PC troubleshooting encounters I had where the outcomes became intertwined with one another.


I recently had two PC troubleshooting jobs at the same time. The first customer, who I will call "Person A", had a desktop computer that would power up but the monitor screen stayed dark and the monitor light stayed amber colored. The light on the power button on the front of the CPU would not light up even though the power was on. Another peculiar thing was that the DVD drive would not open despite the fact that I repeatedly pressed the button on the DVD unit. The computer of "Person A" ran Windows XP, but I did not think this was the source of the problem. The second customer, who I will call "Person B", had a desktop computer that started up with Windows 2000 Professional. This computer ran very sluggishly making me think that the operating system was damaged or it was perhaps racked with a large number of viruses.

Back to "Person A". I decided to buy a 400 Watt ATX power supply to put in this computer so I could see if it would work properly. Unfortunately, it did the same old thing. The DVD tray would not open, the light on the CPU power button would not light up and the monitor stayed dark with the amber light still on. After consulting with "Person A", it was decided that I would do some research to help her select a new laptop computer. The 400 Watt ATX power supply would be returned to the store.

Now on the day I found out I had to return the power supply, I also had some other things to do. Immediately after leaving "Person A" I had to go to my son‘s preschool to pick him up. Then I had to take him back to our home so both of us could be there in time to meet my daughter at the school bus stop a few doors down from where we live. My wife had a late afternoon meeting that day so I was on "kid duty". I did not have time that day to return the power supply I bought for "Person A" to the computer store.

That same morning I was at the business of "Person B". This was before I went to see "Person A" to put in the new power supply. I first backed up all the files and folders of the computer of "Person B" and then I formatted the hard drive while it was plugged in to my laptop. I then reconnected the formatted hard disk in the computer of "Person B" and tried repeatedly to install Windows XP SP3. The monitor stayed dark and the amber light remained on no matter what I did. "Person B" gave me permission to take his CPU back to my home to work on. I said I would call to update him with the progress on his computer later on. At home I tried unsuccessfully a number of times to install Windows XP SP3 on his computer. The screen stayed dark, the amber light stayed on...same old routine that happened at his business. I was beside myself at this point.

Next I unplugged all the power connectors and data ribbons in the computer of "Person B" in an attempt to isolate the problem to a specific hardware device in the machine. I noticed that when I reconnected even one device it still would not make the video monitor turn on. There was hardly anything putting a demand for power on the power supply so I reasoned the power supply in the computer might be the culprit. I removed the old power supply and plugged in the new 400 Watt ATX power supply I had previously bought for "Person A". I did not connect all the devices at once, but rather one at a time. After I connected the first hardware device the video monitor turned on with the green monitor light holding steady. As I selectively reconnected other hardware devices the computer responded consistently. It was indeed a failing power supply that had not yet completely failed. After all hardware devices were reconnected I placed the Windows XP SP3 CD in the DVD tray. It installed on the first attempt without a hitch.

Much of PC computer repair is just grabbing a magnifying glass and following a trail of clues. Quite often the solution to the problem is not even something you can Google or look up in a book. The troubleshooting help forums are crammed full of advice...good and bad. The point is one has to think with logic, creativity and resourcefulness when approaching these problems. Like everything else in life, the more you work at it the better you will become. And as you become better it will be even easier for you to learn new things.

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