Search Google Appliance

Home >> Service Desk >> Troubleshooting >> Mypc >> What to do if You Have a Sick Computer

What to do if You Have a Sick Computer

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).


  1. How to tell if it's a hardware or software problem
  2. Hardware Problems
  3. Software Problems
  4. Still not sure if it's a hardware or software problem?

1. 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

An incredibly useful diagnostic tool is the ability to boot from a removable storage device such as a USB flash drive or DVD. Operating systems such as Ubuntu (available from or Knoppix (Available from can often be used to perform additional troubleshooting or diagnose problems if the main Operating System fails to boot.

Depending on the users level of knowledge, booting the computer from a removable storage device can be a slightly tricky process. A basic guide to this process is available from the link below:

- Booting from a removable storage device

A more in-depth guide to making bootable devices can be found on both the Ubuntu and Knoppix websites (listed above) or the Help page Backing up a Non-Booting Computer.

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. If the machine then behaves properly, the problem is probably a software issue.

2. Hardware Problems

If you think you have a hardware problem then:

  • If you have an Apple machine that is still under its manufacturer's warranty: then we offer an in-house repair service, details of this can be found here: Apple Hardware Service. Alternatively you can contact your nearest Apple Store and arrange an appointment at the Genius Bar.
  • For all other machines under the manufacturer's warranty: then contact the manufacturer or supplier for advice on how to get the machine repaired. Details can usually be found on their web site.
  • If your machine is registered on the 'Computer Hardware Breakdown Service' scheme: then you can request a repair here Computer Hardware Breakdown Service.
  • For advice and tips on handling hardware failures, try our Advice on Hardware Failures page.

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.

3. Software Problems

General issues with software can be caused by a huge range of factors. If, however you have narrowed the problem down to something within the operating system then there are several steps you can take to repair your machine.

Windows 7 has a fairly robust repair function that can sometimes restore functionality to a corrupt Windows partition. An accessible guide to this process is available from here:

Windows 7 repair

If you have exhausted every other option and the problem persists after a repair has been attempted, then it's worth double checking to make sure it's definitely not a hardware fault. If you are sure that this is not the case then a complete re-install of Windows can be attempted. Please note that this will erase EVERYTHING that is currently on the windows partition of your computer hard disk so anything that is not backed-up or duplicated will be LOST. Additionally, any software that was installed on the machine such as Microsoft Word, or Outlook will have to be re-installed. Information about re-installing Windows can be found here:

Installing or Re-installing Windows 7

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

If the advice in the previous sections hasn't helped, you probably need assistance.

Your first line of help should be your local college or departmental IT staff.

If you're still unsure, contact the IT Services Help Centre who can carry out an initial assessment via phone or email and where appropriate arrange a convenient appointment for hands-on troubleshooting.

Written by IT Services. Latest revision 2 September 2019