When good computers go bad

Jul 09, 2009 By Craig Crossman

Personal computers are complex devices. We use them every day to do so many things and quite frankly, I don't know how I got along without one back in the olden days (that's the '70s in case you were wondering). Their complexity makes all the things they do possible but it's also that same complexity that can be the source of a great deal of frustration. Everything on a computer must work and work well together. If something malfunctions, you're going to know it pretty much right away.

When something does go wrong on a computer, you would think that the problem would be fairly obvious and in many cases it is. If the hard drive crashes, if a key on the keyboard gets stuck or behaves erratically, if your screen becomes pixilated or erratic, you can pretty much respectively assume it's the , your or the graphics card that needs attention.

But then there's the type of malfunction that's the stuff of nightmares and its name shall be known as the "intermittent problem." Intermittent problems are the hardest to diagnose simply because it's really hard to fix something that isn't broken. This harkens back to those days where you would call the TV repairman to come fix your TV set only to find that when he showed up, the TV would be working just fine. He'd check it out and find nothing wrong with it, making you feel like an idiot. After he'd leave, of course the TV would malfunction again. The only thing you could do at that point was to let him take the set to his workshop where he would let it run for days until it acted up or finally give up the ghost. At that point, it could be fixed. Unfortunately, computers have inherited that intermittent legacy but on an even worse scale. But the answer remains pretty much the same. Sometimes you just have to let it run until the problem can be observed by a professional.

Failing memory can be the source of intermittent grief. The symptoms can be really hard to nail down and too often a or similar type of is usually the first suspect. After the malware option is discounted, a memory test is the next step. Running a simple RAM test may not show that something is wrong as an intermittent memory problem might fool the testing software. Typically a good RAM test requires running for several hours, even overnight. So when an intermittent hiccup does occur, the problem will be reported so the identified memory can be replaced. But there's one other component inside your computer that can make even the worst intermittent memory problem look like a CD rainbow.

Imagine how you would feel when any of your working programs start failing and each time the malfunction differs. And it's not just your software. Different hardware components in your system begin to fail, then work again. Connected USB devices begin acting unpredictably, video cards act erratically, your Wi-Fi connections misbehave, the list can go on and on. As you experience these intermittent erratic behaviors, you might think your computer has been possessed by some abhorrent technology spirit and the only recourses left to you are an exorcism or buying a new PC. But there is one component inside your PC that can cause virtually any and all of these intermittent problems and in fact, if any of these things do begin happening, you will now be prepared to deal with it. It's your that's going bad.

A failing power supply can cause the required power levels of memory or any other component to drop just enough and cause them to malfunction. But the insidious part is that a failing power supply may monetarily recover and everything will work perfectly once again. That's the really bad part to this whole scenario. It would be a lot more merciful if the darned thing just died. But a slowly dying power supply can mimic so many computer ailments that it can fool even some of the best of us out there. So don't feel too bad if it happens to you. Just be sure to add a failing power supply to your list of diagnostic considerations.

Power supplies come in all shapes, sizes and power ratings. Replacing a power supply isn't for the faint of heart and should be done by someone who has some qualified experience. If you do need to have yours replaced, it might be a good idea to replace it with one that has a higher power rating than the one that came with your computer. Newer add-on cards and devices typically have larger power requirements so adding in a beefier power supply will insure your computer will run longer and be able to handle your growing demands. Also make sure the power supply comes from a reputable manufacturer that can back it up with a good warranty. Now you have the power.
___

(Craig Crossman is a national newspaper columnist writing about computers and technology.)
(c) 2009, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Explore further: US official: Auto safety agency under review

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Presto offers alternative to hibernate and sleep

May 06, 2009

In this day and age of instant gratification, we don't like waiting for anything. Some of us can remember having to wait when we turned on the television as the tubes inside warmed up and the picture slowly faded into view. ...

Flash Memory Boom

Nov 08, 2005

If you’re not familiar with flash memory, you should be. It’s poised to make a whole host of older technologies obsolete – all to your advantage. You probably own some and are not even aware of it. ...

Tilting at wind farms

Jan 07, 2009

A way to make wind power smoother and more efficient that exploits the inertia of a wind turbine rotor could help solve the problem of wind speed variation, according to research published in the International Journal of ...

Recommended for you

US official: Auto safety agency under review

8 hours ago

Transportation officials are reviewing the "safety culture" of the U.S. agency that oversees auto recalls, a senior Obama administration official said Friday. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been criticized ...

Christian Bale to play Apple's Steve Jobs

Oct 23, 2014

Oscar-winner Christian Bale—best known for his star turn as Batman in the blockbuster "Dark Knight" films—will play Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in an upcoming biopic.

How to find a submarine

Oct 23, 2014

Das Boot, The Hunt for Red October, The Bedford Incident, We Dive At Dawn: films based on submariners' experience reflect the tense and unusual nature of undersea warfare – where it is often not how well ...

Government ups air bag warning to 7.8M vehicles (Update)

Oct 22, 2014

The U.S. government is now urging owners of nearly 8 million cars and trucks to have the air bags repaired because of potential danger to drivers and passengers. But the effort is being complicated by confusing ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

finitesolutions
not rated yet Jul 10, 2009
Nice typo : "But the insidious part is that a failing power supply may -!!->monetarily
finitesolutions
not rated yet Jul 10, 2009
The Motherboard and the CPU should be able to diagnose a failing power supply but they don't. They take the electricity as given.
Walid
not rated yet Jul 10, 2009
...some articles are a waste of time...