Isolating Computer System Power Failure

17 December 2014
 Categories: , Blog


Computers with electrical problems need a specific approach that addresses physical damage and electrical threats. Not all components can be repaired without an electrician's help or a replacement, but with a few troubleshooting concepts you can assess the situation, reconnect dislodged components and reset basic electrical safety mechanisms in computers.

Chip Creep From Electrical Events

When an electrical surge or other unplanned electrical issue enters the system, there are more problems than burning out or unplanned shutdowns. Between complete failure and a saving shutdown are a series of unique events, one of which is chip creep.

Traditionally, chip creep was a term used to explain any movement by a component because of temperature changes. As objects expand or contract, they may begin to rise out of their sockets or connectors, which are usually only a slightly snug fit in order to allow easy installation and removal.

When an electrical surge enters a system, there could be a spark that dislodges the component. Parts such as memory modules, hard drive cables or even power connectors can be fired away from their connectors at a slight angle or even completely off.

Make sure to turn off the computer before working inside the system. Remove the components first, then inspect the electrical contacts for any burn marks before putting them back into their sockets. Check every accessible connector such as the memory, drive connectors and power to make sure they're inserted correctly. 

You don't need to press any component too firmly; most devices have a tangible or audible click when they sink into place. Motherboards and other connector boards will break if you try to force a connection.

Power Supply Inspection And Troubleshooting

When a dangerous electrical surge enters the system, modern power supplies have the ability to shut off before damage can reach the rest of the computer. The shutoff safety system isn't a guarantee, as sufficiently powerful electrical surges can physically arc or "jump" over gaps created by safety systems.

To test the safety switch and the power supply as a whole, perform a safety reset with the following steps:

  1. Unplug the computer from all power sources. This includes wall sockets, backup batteries and the power cable if removable. Do not cut any cords.
  2. Press the power button and hold it down for at least 20 seconds. There is no need to hold the button down for more than 1 minute.
  3. Release the power button, then connect the computer's power again.
  4. Try to turn on the computer. If it doesn't turn on, consider using another power cable or wall connector. If there is still no success, you may need to replace the power supply.

If you need help with finding specific component information not found in user manuals, contact an electrician.