Personal Computer Tips and Troubleshooting

No power?photo of a student with a broken computer
Check the plug.

Is it plugged in?

  • Is the surge protector or power strip switched on?
  • Is the surge protector or power strip properly and fully plugged in?

Check the computer.

Is the power supply plugged in? Look on the back of machine.

  • Is the power supply switched on? Some have their own power switch.

Quick fix: drain the power supply.

  • Unplug the computer.
  • Press the power button.
  • Wait 30 seconds.
  • Reconnect the power cable to computer.

This should drain all the standby electricity stored in the power supply that would tell the motherboard that the computer is ready to be turned on.

Environmental Issues

Clean Power: Computers require clean, regulated power.  Most surge protectors have power filters that provide devices with clean surge-protected power.
Laser printers are electrically very noisy – they have random fluctuations in the electrical signal, so they should be plugged into their own surge protector in order to isolate the electrical noise.
NOTE: Never plug a laser printer into an uninterruptible power supply, UPS, or a battery backup.

Travel Adapters

The UIT MMS Shop does not have plug adapters to convert to foreign power outlets.
If one is needed, please conduct an Internet search for “Travel Plug Adapter by Country” to find the appropriate adapter. These adapters are usually designated by socket type or plug type.
Many Internet sites have a list of countries that correspond to the proper adapter type. Power from the wall outlet is either 110 to 120 volts with an alternating cycle of 60Hz or 220 to 240 volts with an alternating cycle of 50Hz.
Dual voltage will switch over automatically.

The AC adapter that came with your laptop is probably capable of operating at either voltage. Check the label on the adapter. It should look something like the following.
INPUT:   AC 100-240V   81-91VA   50-60Hz

  • Make sure the voltage ranges from 100 to 240.
  • Make sure the cycle (Hz) ranges from 50 to 60.

Laptop/Notebook Battery Care

The length of time that you can run your laptop or notebook on battery power will vary depending on several factors.

  • Applications you use
  • External devices being used
  • Your power-saving settings

Try to avoid completely discharging the battery on a regular basis.
Connect the computer to an electrical outlet when possible. Battery life is largely determined by the number of times the battery is used and recharged.
Use the Power Options or Energy Saver settings to optimize your computer's power usage.
Place the computer in standby mode or hibernate mode when you leave the computer unattended for long periods of time.
The charge remaining in the battery usually can be determined by looking at the battery charge-level indicator lights on the battery or laptop.

  • Press the status button next to the lights.
  • The charge level lights should glow briefly to show how much charge remains.
  • If no lights appear, plug in the power adaptor immediately.

You can set up a way to see the battery charge remaining by configuring the Power Options or Energy Saver settings in your operating system.
The battery will usually charge more quickly when the computer is off.

Cleaning a Laptop’s Liquid Crystal Display, LCD

Never spray or pour any liquid directly on the LCD panel.
Do not clean the screen while the computer is turned on or connected to electricity.
Many cleaning solutions are sold specifically as LCD cleaners. You can use these to clean LCD screens on laptops. Alternatively, you may use a 50/50 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and clean water. Microfiber cloths, such as those used to clean eyeglasses are excellent for use with LCDs.
Caution: Isopropyl alcohol is a flammable liquid.

  • Shut down the computer.
  • Disconnect power to the system or monitor.
  • Wipe the LCD screen gently with a soft, dry cloth.

If any marks remain, moisten the cloth with LCD cleaner, then gently stroke the cloth across the display in one direction, moving from the top of the display to the bottom.
IMPORTANT:  Do not use any solutions that contain the following ingredients.

  • Acetone
  • Ethyl alcohol
  • Toluene
  • Ethyl acid
  • Ammonia
  • Methyl chloride

If you have a different chemical or solution and are not sure whether it is suitable, do not use it. Using any of the chemicals in the previous list may cause permanent damage to the LCD screen. NOTE: Some commercial window cleaners contain ammonia and should not be used.
Be sure the LCD screen is dry before closing it or using the computer.

LCD Care and Maintenance

  • Do not place anything heavy on your laptop.
  • When using a carrying case or backpack, ensure that you are not over-stuffing the carrying case or applying extra pressure to the laptop case and the LCD.
  • Do not scratch, twist or hit the surface of the LCD screen.
  • Avoid subjecting your LCD screen to extremes of temperature and humidity.
  • Avoid exposing your LCD screen to direct sunlight or strong fluorescent light for long periods of time.
  • Avoid hard physical shocks to the system.

Marks or stains can appear on an LCD due to a variety of reasons. This might be a mark transferred from the pointing stick, palm rest, or from the key tops of the keyboard when the cover was pressed from the outside of the portable. Be sure the keyboard and palm rest are free of debris before closing the laptop.

Liquid Spilled on Standard Desktop Keyboard

If you spill liquid on your standard desktop keyboard (not laptop), please take the following steps.

  • Disconnect the keyboard from the computer immediately.
  • Turn off your computer.

For spilled water, take the following steps.

  • Place the keyboard upside-down on a towel or newspaper.
  • Allow the excess liquid drain out for several hours.
  • Allow the keyboard to dry for at least 24 hours at room temperature.
  • Allow a fan blow across the keyboard, if possible.

If the keyboard still does not work, then replace it. Standard desktop keyboards are normally inexpensive.
If you spill liquid that is sticky or greasy, you could try letting it soak completely submersed in lukewarm water in a sink or bathtub. You can add a few drops of dishwashing liquid but no more. Then follow the steps above. This may sound odd, but it usually works as long as it is allowed to dry completely. Be very careful with any liquids when working near a laptop computer!

Several reports of hardware damage to laptop computers have recently occurred as a result of liquid spills. This type of hardware damage may not manifest itself right away and symptoms are sometimes intermittent. Therefore, it is very difficult to determine which internal hardware components sustained irreversible damage. Hardware modules may need to be replaced one at a time over a period of time in order to eliminate all the effected modules.

Cleaning the Keyboard

Turn off your computer and unplug the keyboard, if possible.
The following supplies are required for cleaning a keyboard.

  • Vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Cotton swabs
  • Dry cotton cloth

NOTE: Remember where to plug it back in after cleaning.

  • Hold the keyboard upside down
  • gently tap the bottom to release any debris from between the keys.
  • gently vacuum the keys with a brush attachment.

NOTE: Take care not to vacuum too hard or the keycaps might come off!

  • Put about two drops of the alcohol on a cotton swab
  • Clean the top sides of each keycap. IMPORTANT: If the fluid drips down below the keycaps, then you are using too much!
  • Wipe each keycap dry with a soft cotton cloth.
  • Clean the rest of the keyboard with the cloth and isopropyl alcohol-water mixture.

photo of a filthy keyboardReports claim that some keyboards could have 150 times the recommended limit of bacteria – more germs than the average toilet seat. Clean your keyboard as often as required.

Try not to eat or drink over your keyboard and be very careful with drinks placed anywhere nearby. It is always best practice to keep all liquids away from computing equipment.