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Computer woes? It could be age

When a customer calls or comes in with a computer problem, the first question we ask is “How old is the computer?” A computer considered “top of the line” in 2003 will struggle to keep up with today’s Internet and graphics demands. Processor speeds are constantly improving and our computing expectations change along with them. So if your computer is more than five or six years old and is in need of repair, it may be most cost effective to replace the computer. You may be pleasantly surprised that today’s computer prices are much lower than they were several years ago.

If you have a newer computer that is having problems, repairs or upgrades may be needed. The most common complaint is virus trouble. Viruses can create a wide range of issues including mouse and keyboard problems, Internet issues or an overall slow response time. Sometimes, a small number of viruses can be removed fairly easily, but the presence of many viruses requires an operating system reload. If you suspect viruses, back up your data.

Software conflicts can also cause issues. Missing or corrupted drivers can cause issues with components or peripherals. Unneeded programs running at start-up can slow down the computer.

Failing hardware can also require service. A faint squeaking or scraping sound can indicate that a hard drive is failing. If you suspect hard drive issues, immediately back up all important files.

A visual inspection of a desktop’s motherboard can reveal blown capacitors, indicating that the circuitry on the motherboard is compromised. The capacitors are small cylinders whose top will pop out like a baby food jar. Sometimes fluid will leak from the capacitor onto the board. These are indicators of a major problem. Remember that a warranty may be voided by opening the computer case.

Failing memory or memory slots can cause intermittent issues. If your system properties show a smaller amount of RAM than the amount installed, there may be a problem with RAM or memory slots. Testing for bad RAM requires matching sticks of “known-good” RAM. Care must be taken in installing any RAM or cards to avoid further damage to the hardware.

Laptop diagnostics often start with a check of the power cord. Powering a laptop with a cord that is not matched exactly to that laptop can cause damage over time. Physical damage to the cord or an issue within the “brick” can cause the power cord to go bad. The first indication of a problem with a power cord may be that the battery does not charge properly.

Another common issue with laptops is a loose power jack. If the plug can be moved when it is plugged into the computer, a major repair may be required. In order to fix a loose power jack, the laptop must be completely disassembled, the power jack must be de-soldered and a new one soldered in place, then the laptop must be reassembled. This process takes a number of hours.

If you don’t have a nephew or cousin who can fix your computer, find a technician you can trust. Ask about training or certification, get pricing ahead of time, and expect a guarantee.