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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | General Troubleshooting Techniques | General Diagnostic Techniques ]

Make Use of Components That You Know Work

One valuable resource while troubleshooting is a "stockpile" of extra components. I put "stockpile" in quotes because it doesn't have to be an actual stock of components, just a resource that will let you borrow components that you know work while you are troubleshooting your system. Another functional PC that uses the same or similar components is normally quite adequate. Being in an office environment can be very helpful this way since there are many PCs around to work with, and often they are similar to one another; at home it may be more difficult if you only have the one machine.

These extra components can be useful when you are employing the process of elimination to resolve problems. For example, suppose that there is no video on your monitor when you boot up the PC. After eliminating the simple stuff (cable disconnected, brightness turned down far too much, etc.) there are two components that are most likely to be bad: the video card or the monitor. An easy thing to try is to swap monitors with another machine that is working properly. If the second monitor also doesn't work, and your original monitor works on the other machine, you can feel quite confident that it isn't the monitor that is the problem here.

You can sometimes avoid problems in assembling a new PC by testing out some of the components you are going to use before you begin. For example, take your new mouse, keyboard and monitor and attach them to a PC that is known to work, and test them out. This way if you have problems when you build your new system you will know it isn't due to these components. At my office, I keep an extra keyboard, mouse and monitor just for debugging and assembling PCs. Since I know that they work, I reduce the number of variables that I have to deal with when I experience a problem. Once the main PC box is assembled and working, I connect the new keyboard, mouse and monitor. If a problem shows up then, I know that it is not likely the PC, but the peripherals I just connected.

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