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Commentary: How to troubleshoot hardware

Watch for these signs of trouble in your desktop or laptop computer.

Viruses can cause issues that seem to be hardware related. Mouse, keyboard and Internet problems may stem from viruses. Installing more than one anti-virus program can slow down or cripple your system.

Overheating can signal poor circulation. A buildup of dust or a bad fan could be the culprit.

Issues with a laptop’s display can be a result of power-saving settings, a damaged screen or a screen or inverter that is going bad. Occasionally, the connection between the computer and display is not completely intact.

If a desktop’s monitor is the issue, test with a known good monitor. If a video card has failed, replacement is fairly painless.

Troubleshooting Internet problems ranges from resetting the router and checking cables, to replacing the Network Interface Card. There are several types of adapters that can be used externally to avoid internal replacement of the card.

Problems with sound can often be traced to one of the many locations to adjust sound. Internal or stand-alone speakers can go bad. A last resort may be to replace a bad sound card.

If the computer is not operating at all, and connections and power sources have been checked, the power supply could be damaged. Desktop and laptop power supplies can be easily tested at a computer repair shop, often at no charge. If a desktop’s internal power connections have dislodged, a test of the power supply will provide reconnection.

The motherboard is the central nervous system of a computer. All components connect to and depend on the motherboard’s circuitry. If normal wear, overheating or power surges have damaged even a small part of the motherboard, it can affect the operation of the whole system. A motherboard that is failing can cause intermittent, unpredictable problems. PC cards can be added to circumvent some motherboard issues, but usually it is not cost effective to replace the motherboard.

To find a good computer repair shop, talk to others who have needed repairs. Large stores often provide service, but may ship the computer to their national repair center. Before requesting a technician to come to your location, consider the hourly rate, how much time may be needed for the repair and possible trip charges. Will you be able to contact the company if you have problems after the repairs? Is the work warranted?

Certainly your favorite niece or uncle can troubleshoot some of the time. Be sure to have the grill fired up and the steaks waiting.

Patty Harshbarger, owner of Computer Renaissance in Bradenton, can be reached at