We've all been there, our computer won't power on one day and it seems completely random. The other variation on the unexpected computer trouble is when the hard drive on a machine crashes and we lose data that we had been meaning to back up. The sad fact is that computer failures stink and often we are unprepared for them. While there is nothing we can do to soften the blow of a repair, there are definitely signs to look for that indicate trouble is brewing.
In our other lives as IT people we have learned to look for the seemingly minor signs that massive computer trouble is right on the horizon. The sad part is that because many of these signs seem so minor many users neglect to perform a backup ASAP and take their machine in which causes them to lose data and have increased downtime.
The 5 signs you really shouldn't ignore:
1) Kernel Panic: Quite possibly one of our least favorite things to see on our computer screen, the dreaded kernal panic message. You know its kernel panic time when you get a message like the one shown above that forces you to restart your machine. Is what caused the panic hardware, software, or network related? One way to help determine is to restart your computer into Safe Boot and see if the issue reoccurs. Kernel panics can be tricky to diagnose so a visit to your friendly computer support technician could be just the ticket.
2) Long Start Up Times: If you start to notice that it is taking longer for your machine to start up do not ignore this! Boot from another drive (or the disc that came with your computer) and see if the issue still occurs. The long start up time or hanging on certain screens can be indicative of several components on the fritz including your hard drive and logic board.
3) Start Up Beeps: A friend of ours thought we had lost our minds when we told her to take his laptop in immediately after he casually mentioned that he sometimes hears beeps when he starts up his computer. Although these beeps are not terribly loud they should not be ignored and usually mean something is amiss with the RAM or logic board.
4) Jumping Cursor: Another small issue that is often intermittent we have taken to reminding friends over and over not to ignore this issue (if they have already changed the batteries in a wireless mouse) as it is one of the first signs that the logic board is on the fritz. Ignoring it can lead to a machine not powering on a few weeks or so down the road. What do we mean by jumping cursor? As a friend put it, "my machine looks possessed by a skittish spirit." The cursor will move erratically and although you might try other input devices the issue will persist and the cursor will be difficult to control. Often this issue will go away with a restart, but don't just restart and forget, get the machine looked at tout de suite!
5) Grinding Noises: Anyone who has ever experienced the sound of a dying hard drive knows not to ignore the grinding noises which are often the first signs that the hard drive is about to die. If you start to hear a crunching or grinding noise emanating out of your machine back up everything (of course you do that regularly, right?) on that drive with haste, for your hard drive is not long for this Earth.
So remember friends, if your machine starts to exhibit any of these signs, backup (as if you weren't already) immediately and get your machine looked at pronto!
More computer troubleshooting from the Unplggd archives:
What's your computer failure horror story?
(Images: Flickr members Jeanie & Henrik Anttonen licensed for use under Creative Commons)