How to Build a Computer – What Happens When Things Don’t Work Out

If you’ve just spent hours assembling a computer only to find out that when you turn it on nothing happens, it’s easy to think the worst and that you’ve fried the whole system with an ESD (electrostatic discharge) but don’t worry just yet. 70% of non-booting computers are because of easy to fix problems. The secret to getting your system working is to work systematically through the system, so we can identify the problem.

  1. If the computer doesn’t power on at all – check to make sure that it’s actually plugged in to the power, and the switch on the back of the PSU is turned on.
  2. If there’s still no power, unplug the power cord and then open up the case. Check to make sure that the 24 pin power connectors and four pin connectors are firmly inserted to the mainboard (they should lock into place).
  3. Double check the front panel wiring – that’s one of the most common culprits! Read the mainboard manual to ensure that the pins are wired up correctly.
  4. Reseat all cards and memory. Make sure that memory is in the appropriate slot, and cards are seated firmly. Don’t push too hard and warp the mainboard though.
  5. Power on the computer with the case open – some mainboards have a LED number that will give you what’s known as a POST error code. You can look this code up in the manual to tell you what’s wrong.
  6. If things still aren’t working, it’s time to double check hardware compatibility with all hardware. Use the mainboard manual to double check that the RAM and CPU is supported.

Sometimes, if things aren’t working, fans will spin and you’ll get a series of beeps. You might think the computer is having some sort of fit, but actually – it’s communicating with you. These beeps are bios error codes and they each mean something different.

For example: four beeps might mean there’s no hard disk detected, five beeps might mean the ram has a problem.

What they mean varies between manufacturer, so if it’s beep codes you are getting, check your manual for their meaning.

Sometimes, the system might seem to boot normally, but your monitor just won’t work. When this happens, it can usually be because your new graphics card isn’t being recognized as the primary display adapter. If this happens, unplug your monitor from the graphics card and plug it in to the graphics card on the mainboard.

When the computer has a problem, getting to the bottom of it can take even longer than the initial build did. That’s why it’s important to troubleshoot methodically so that you can rule out all the silly things first, and then the not-so-serious ones, eventually coming to a finite list of problems for which you know the solution.

Sometimes, one of the best solutions when things just don’t seem to be working is to unplug everything from the power, sleep on it and come back, going through the logical build order to ensure everything is seated properly etc.

Unfortunately, diagnosing the cause of a non-booting PC can be a hard enough task for an experienced system builder, never mind a beginner! If you think you’ve tried everything and it still won’t work, chances are there’s a faulty component somewhere.

More likely than not it’ll be the main board, however before you RMA it, don’t ever feel afraid to get a second opinion!  Calling a friend or professional up for some advice is a lot better than taking a fully working mainboard back to the computer shop for a replacement and only to find that it doesn’t work either!

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