PC Problems & Diagnosis

Hardware Problems

There are many different hardware problems that can put your PC down for the count. Many machines that originally had Windows XP® as the operating system are now developing bad capacitors on the motherboard. (main circuit board) This problem is made obvious because the bad capacitors bulge or leak. These capacitors can be replaced and your computer restored to it’s old self.

Many computers also came with “onboard video”, where the hardware that runs your monitor is a part of the motherboard. When a computer with onboard video comes into my shop, I always suggest that my customer has me install an “add on” video card. My reasoning for this is fairly simple; when onboard video goes out on a computer, chances are that computer is dead for good. Installing a add on video card at that point is impossible – because there is no way for the computer monitor to work so I can see to run the programs (install drivers and adjust BIOS settings) needed to install the add on video card.

Power Surges and Improper Shut-downs

A computer relies on dependable, stable, filtered power to run the delicate components. Inside your computer’s case, there is a “power supply” that takes 110 volt power from your wall outlet and converts it to dc voltage. The power supply also filters and regulates the output voltage to precise specifications.

I suggest that all of my customers purchase a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) to go between their wall outlet and their PC. The UPS unit filters the 110 volt ac current that feeds your computers power supply to prevent voltage spikes and surges from damaging the internal power supply (and possible your whole computer). The UPS unit also contains a battery to provide a few minutes of run time in the event of a total loss of power to your home – allowing you time to properly shut down your computer.

Improper shutdowns from a loss of power, or just pushing the button on your computer to shut it down is a danger to your computers operating system. Either type of event has a good probability of corrupting operating system files – leading to an inability to restart your computer because the operating system has “crashed” because the files needed for your computer to run have become corrupted.

This does not mean that your PC is broken forever – chances are it can be repaired. Sometimes replacing corrupted files is possible, other times the operating system will need to be re-installed to correct this problem. There is also a high likelihood that I will be able to rescue your documents and data (photos etc), and put them back into your computer after re-installing the operating system. ALWAYS use the start button on your monitor to shut down Windows®. The power button on the front of your tower is NOT for shutting off your computer.

The “Blue Screen of Death”

If you have run Windows® long enough, you will see the dreaded “blue screen of death or BSOD”. It contains debugging information generated to help diagnose the problem that caused your computer to crash. The BSOD does not indicate that your computer is dead, but it is a strong indication of a serious problem that will eventually crash your computer. It can be generated by all kinds of errors, from corrupted system files to hardware problems. Again, I would suggest that you get your PC to a professional for repair as soon as possible.

Software Attacks

  • Trojans
  • Viruses
  • Worms
  • Malware
  • Spyware
  • Zombie or Nukers

These are some of the types of software attacks that happen on personal computers.

Trojans are malicious applications that pretend to be or embed themselves into regular computer applications. Once inside the computer system, a trojan can give access to your computers operating system to an attacker. A trojan has no ability to replicate itself. Types of trojans: remote access trojans, data gathering and transmission trojans, destructive trojans, proxy trojans and many other applications rogue programmers create trojans to accomplish.

Viruses are malicious computer programs created in order to do harm to a computer’s operating system. Viruses have an ability to replicate themselves. To accomplish it’s  task they have to be executed. Once executed, viruses may change some of files with the infected ones. There can be such types of viruses as file, boot sector, multipartite or network viruses. Viruses can be transmitted by email, infected downloads of all types (free or hacked programs, music files, video files, embedded in documents, on infected USB drives, and so on).

Worms are malicious programs that replicate over computer networks or a hard drives until they use up all of the operating systems resources and cause a total system shutdown. Typically they reproduce themselves until the hard drive is filled with copies of the worm and critical operating system files are overwritten by copies of the worm, why stops the computer from functioning.

Malware is the name given to a general category of programs that are designed for malicious purposes. Viruses, worms, trojans and some other programs are included in the Mal-ware category.. Malware cover all those pests and is a good term to use when, for a example no clear distinction between virus or worm is seen. Computer takeover programs used by spammers to send email from your computer to their target, and computers comprised for use in DOS (denial of service) attacks also fit into the malware category.

Spyware is a malicious application which collects a user’s personal infromation without their knowledge or consent. The collected data may be comprised of Internet browsing patterns, such as web pages visited (tracking cookies fit into the spy-ware category) to personal identifiable information monitoring – such as passwords, credit card information, website login information, anything that you might wish to keep confidential. Spyware applications may also have an ability to log the keystrokes made on your keyboard and save it to a log file. All the information then can be sent to third parties for marketing, fraud, theft, identity theft, or other purposes. Spyware may also come bundled into freeware and “hacked”  programs found for download on the internet. Particularly notorious sites for becoming infected by this type of malicious program are so called “Warez sites”, where pirated software is available for downloading.

Zombie or Nukers programs are applications that can perform TCP/IP DoS attacks over the internet or on internal LAN networks; or they may disable a PC by damaging the registry, key operating system files or other system components. Nukers may affect the machines that don’t have firewalls intalled. Zombie computers can be used to send spam to people, to perform Denial of Service (DOS) attacks on websites or even DOS attacks on chat networks.

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