PC hardware--CPU & Motherboard & RAM/Computer Crash


QUESTION: My old PC screen went black and it will not reboot. Does this mean it's shot?  If yes, can I dispose of it as is, or do I have to worry about my personal info being exposed?  The computer is useless, but I'm afraid to trash it without some expert advice.
Thank you.

ANSWER: Before we write the machine off entirely, let's try to review a few things and see if perhaps we can't revive it. Firstly, is this machine a laptop or a desktop? What make and model is the system? When you say the "screen went black and it will not reboot" can you describe the event in more detail? Did it suddenly just turn off while in use, or did it fail to boot-up after being left alone (e.g. overnight) while powered down? Have you recently performed any upgrades or added any new software to the machine? If the machine is a desktop, have you tried connecting something else to its monitor or connecting it to another monitor? (e.g. can you rule out that the monitor is not the culprit, and/or that the monitor is still in good condition).

With this kind of information we can perhaps better determine what has happened, and potentially fix it. If the machine is truly damaged, it may be repairable, however those repairs may not be cost effective depending on the age and condition of the machine. As far as personal data, it would likely be easiest to just remove the hard-disk(s) - assuming the disks themselves aren't damaged you could probably even recover some of your documents and files off of them, however keep in mind that any installed programs will have to be re-installed on a new computer (e.g. if you have Microsoft Word on the damaged system, and have created text documents with it, the text documents could be potentially saved on a new machine, however Word itself would have to be re-installed on a new machine).

If you have further questions or need clarification, as well as to reply to the above, feel free to post a reply.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for your quick reply.  The PC in question is a Hewlitt-Packard desktop with Vista 2nd edition operating system. It's been awhile since it crashed, but if I remember right, it wouldn't boot up after being idle overnight.  I'm sill using the same monitor so I know that's not the problem. I had a friend who is computer savvy work on it and he said nothing he tried worked so I'm pretty sure it is fried (even though it's not that old).  With the info you supplied, I'm thinking I may take it to Office Depot where I bought it to see if anything can be retrieved. Microsoft Word would be nice to have.  Then I'll have them remove the hard drive for me.  Thanks again for your help.

Yes, it sounds like taking the machine in to a shop is probably the best course of action - if you're worried about data security many shops will offer removal and destruction of the hard-drive for you. However before consigning the hard-drive to the scrap heap, it may be best to have it removed and see if it can be accessed via an external enclosure (they're fairly cheap) or some other means, if there is data you'd like preserved (e.g. a bunch of photos or something). Depending on your licencing for Windows Vista, it may also be worth keeping the install media and COA - if you purchased a Retail or Upgrade copy of Windows you can legally "transfer" it to another machine, and while Vista is certainly getting up there in years, official support will continue for at least another year, and it is compatible with many of the same programs and features as Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. If the licence is for an OEM copy, however, it is tied to that machine.

Depending on the shop you take the machine into, you may also consider asking to save other devices if they work, such as the RAM, optical drive(s), and cooling fan(s); depending on what exactly caused the machine to fail it's likely those devices still work, and while none of them are horribly expensive to replace, having them on-hand for another machine may be worthwhile. Of course, if the shop wants to charge significant additional labor fees to return parts, I would pass, as again none of those parts are likely to be particularly expensive or valuable.

If you have any further questions, feel free to ask.


PC hardware--CPU & Motherboard & RAM

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I have nearly two decades of experience in IT, computer repair, and related fields and will attempt to provide the most solid, brand-agnostic advice when it comes time to purchase a new computer, or upgrade an existing machine. I can answer anything from the seemingly basic to the downright complicated - and will do my best to provide this information in a clear and concise manner.


I have been an enthusiast of PC's for many years, and can answer questions about the purchase/use of a new computer or the purchase, installation, and use of upgrades for existing computers. There probably isn't a whole lot related to the home computer that I haven't seen over the years.

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