PC Dies Before It Can Begin to Boot

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When Kennyrosenyc turns on his PC, it dies before it even begins to boot. He asked the Windows forum for help.

You can't blame this one on Windows. If the PC shuts down before it tries to boot off the hard drive (or off of a CD or flash drive), then you definitely have a hardware problem. And the piece of hardware that's giving you the problem is almost certainly not the hard drive.

You're going to have to decide between fixing or replacing the computer. But before you do that, you must rescue your files--especially if you don't have a recent backup.

Since you can't boot off a CD or flash drive, and therefore can't use a live Linux variant, you'll have to remove the hard drive from the old computer and attach it to another computer as a second drive. I can't tell you how to remove the hard drive for your particular model, but you can probably find instructions online. It isn't difficult.

If the working PC is a desktop, you can open it up and install the broken PC's drive as a second, non-booting drive. Or you can borrow or buy an SATA/USB or IDE/USB adapter that will turn the old drive temporarily into an external one. These adapters sell for anything from $15 to $30, and are your only real option if that working computer is a laptop, or if you borrowed the working PC and the owner doesn't want you opening it.

Once a working computer can access the drive, you can copy your files to another location.

Now that you've saved your files, let's get back to the original question: Repair or replace?

If the fan won't start or dies soon after it does, the problem is likely your power supply. If you have a desktop PC, power supplies are cheap (some less than $30) and easy to replace. It might be worth a gamble to see if that's your problem before you try anything else.

Otherwise, unless you're particularly skilled at working with computer hardware, I'd recommend taking it to a professional. On the other hand, if the PC getting old, replacing it may make more sense.

Read the original forum discussion.

Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema. Email your tech questions to him at answer@pcworld.com, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum. Follow Lincoln on Twitter, or subscribe to the Answer Line newsletter, e-mailed weekly.

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