The Most Common Reasons Your Desktop Won’t Turn On

Last Edited: February 17, 2018 | Published: February 17, 2018 by

And How to Fix Them

The Most Common Reasons Your Desktop Won’t Turn On

If you have a desktop computer, chances are at some time or another you have experienced a desktop not turning on. We’ve all been there. You sit down at your desk ready to get to work or to play your favorite game but when you push the button to power on your desktop, nothing happens. The screen stays dark.

The problems that cause this and their solutions often range from easy to very complicated. Today I want to walk you through the most common causes of this problem and what you can do to fix it. In most cases, you should be able to troubleshoot these problems yourself and, with just a little effort on your part, fix them. But, in some cases, you may need to take it and have it looked at by a professional.

Before We Begin

Before we get started I just want to pause a moment and say something. The first thing you need to do is not panic. I understand the reaction. After all, your computer with all your important data won’t turn on. Remember, in most cases your data is still there and safe. And, after you see the most common causes, you will find that these problems can often be easily solved yourself in just a matter of minutes. While that’s not always the case, getting angry or even panicking won’t do anything to solve the problem. In most cases, it will just make matters worse.

You must remember that your desktop computer is not unlike any other gadget or appliance in your home. Sometimes, you could run into problems. While frustrating, it is going to happen to you someday. There is no avoiding it. So in the long run it’s better to just be prepared for the inevitable so you are ready to solve the problem so you can get back to your favorite game or that ever important work much more quickly.

Check Your Display

Now I know this one may sound obvious, but I can’t tell you how many calls I’ve gotten over the years of people thinking their machine wasn’t on but it was actually a problem with the display. Make sure that your display is on and check the lights on your desktop. If it sounds like it’s booting up and the lights are on, but the display is off or you have an orange light on the display, you could just have a display problem, which is much easier to fix.

First, I would try connecting the display to another computer, if you have one. If it comes on, then it could be a simple driver problem on your computer, or a graphics hardware issue. Try booting your machine into safe mode to see if you have picture. If you do, it’s a driver issue. Simply reinstall the driver and you should be good to go. If you don’t, however, then you may need to try a different display on your computer. If you don’t get a picture with a different monitor, then you could have a graphics hardware problem. Replace the video card or even try a different cable to see if that clears things up.

No Power at the Source

Another obvious problem, but one that often gets overlooked, is the outlet where your computer plugs in. High-end desktops can pull quite a bit of power, and if you overload the circuit where your computer is connected with other devices, then you could trip the circuit breaker. But, you could also have a problem with the outlet itself or even the wiring to that outlet, and that’s something you don’t want to overlook.

Check your circuit breaker to see if it’s been tripped. If it has, reduce the load on that circuit by unplugging other devices and then give your computer a try. If it loads, then you know that’s the problem. If the breaker hasn’t been tripped, plug something other than your computer into it and see if it works. If it does, you know the problem is with the computer. If it doesn’t, you should probably call an electrician to have a look at that outlet and the wiring, just to be safe.

Check the Power Strip

Sometimes, power strips fail. In other cases, they fail to reset if you have a brown out or lose power due to weather. If they don’t reset properly, they won’t properly pass the power to the desktop and it won’t turn on. Everything will look right, but nothing will work properly.

Some power strips have a reset button on them, but others don’t. If it does, try pressing that button and then try your computer again. If it doesn’t, turn it off and then unplug it from the wall. Wait about 20 seconds, then plug it back in and turn it on. Then try your desktop. If this is the problem, your desktop will come back on. If not, it’s time to try some of the other options on this list.

Check External Connections

Another obvious problem that is so often overlooked, your desktop not coming on could be the result of a loose connection. These connections are often with the power cables themselves, but if you have other peripherals connected, they could cause problems as well if they are loose. This most often happens when you are moving your feet under the desk or when you move things around to clean.

Check all the connections on your desktop and make sure they are in and tight. Once you have checked, then try your computer again. If it still doesn’t work, you may want to try replacing the power cable if you have a spare, because it’s possible it could fail, although in my experience this is a very rare occurrence.

Unplug Peripherals

Speaking of peripherals, sometimes one of these devices can malfunction. Because they are wired to your desktop through USB and other connections, they can, in extreme circumstances, cause the desktop to fail to boot.

When you experience this, unplug all your peripherals from power and the computer. Then try your desktop again. If one of these is the culprit, then your computer will start. If it does start, you must find the misbehaving peripheral before you continue, and the only way to do this is through the process of elimination. Plug them all in and then turn off your computer. Unplug them one by one until your computer boots. This will tell you which peripheral is malfunctioning and should be replaced.

Verify Internal Connections

If all of the above fails to solve your problem, it’s time to crack open the case and check all your internal connections. Over time, they can become loose and cause problems with the power in your computer.

First, unplug your desktop from the wall and open the case. Start with the connection from the power supply to the motherboard. Press on them firmly to make sure they are locked down and connected. Once you check that connection, check the connections for your hard drive and any other devices such as DVD drives that are connected to the power supply internally.

Once you have verified the connections, close the case and connect your desktop to give it another try. If one of these connections was to blame, your desktop should load up without any trouble. In extreme cases, you could try disconnecting everything inside except for the power to the motherboard to see if your computer boots. This will eliminate any misbehaving hardware that is connected internally to your computer.

Reseat/Replace the Memory

Another common issue that prevents a desktop from booting is memory. Most often this won’t cause it not to turn on but it will prevent it from booting. But I have seen it stop a computer from turning on. The memory sticks should be easy to access on your desktop. Pull the clips on both sides of each stick and remove them from the desktop. Clean them off if they are dusty and then replace them.

If that doesn’t do it, you may want to try using fewer sticks or even replacing the memory altogether. This will eliminate a possible bad stick of memory that could be to blame for your boot issues. I would first remove one or two sticks and see if it will boot. If it does, you know at least one of the sticks you have is to blame. Cycle through them until you find the bad stick and then replace it.

Replace the Power Supply

Finally, if all of the above has failed to fix your problem, it’s time to look at the power supply as the culprit. In fact, this is one of the most common problems with a machine that won’t turn on. In the grand scheme of things it’s not all that difficult to replace, but you must make sure you get the right one that will provide the necessary power requirements for your desktop.

What you will need will depend largely on the hardware you have. I recommend looking at the power supply to see how many watts you will need. You may want to increase it a little, if possible, when you buy a replacement, because too much load could have caused it to wear out in the first place. But there could be other causes, such as power surges or just age. After all, nothing lasts forever.

Time for a New Motherboard

Finally, one of the most common causes of a desktop that won’t turn on, and probably the most complicated and expensive to repair, is the motherboard. If the motherboard fails, often the computer won’t turn on. In some cases, it may turn on, but it will fail to boot. In other cases, you simply won’t get any power at all. This one is often tough to troubleshoot because these symptoms are the same as a power supply. In some cases, you must use the process of elimination in order to discover the problem.

If it is the board, you have a couple of options. The first is to replace it. This repair is the most complicated because you will basically have to take ever component out of your desktop and then replace it on the new board. If your computer is getting a little old, it may be more cost effective just to buy a new computer. Which you choose really depends on your budget, repair knowledge, and age of your computer.

Other Possibilities

In some cases, the problem will be more difficult to troubleshoot than what I have listed above. The list just represents the most common causes that I have seen in my years of repairing computers. If you have tried all of these and you still haven’t solved the problem, it’s probably time to take it a professional. They will be able to test your hardware and figure out what’s going on. In the end, you may be able to repair it, but you may need to replace it. If that’s the case, I suggest browsing our guides on desktops to find one that’s right for you.

Preventing the Problem from Returning

While there are no guarantees, there are things you can do to prevent this problem from happening. If you live in an area with brown outs or power surges, I recommend purchasing a battery backup with surge protection. This will prevent sudden loss of power or stop surges from shorting out your power supply or computer components.

In addition to surge and outage protection, you should regularly clean your desktop to make sure it maintains proper airflow. This will keep your machine running cooler and will require less power since the fans won’t be running full steam all the time. This will reduce wear and tear on your components and result in less failures of your hardware.

Parting Thoughts

As you can see, many of these problems are easily solved yourself without needing an expert. If you don’t feel comfortable with these fixes, then please take it to someone who is. We don’t want to make things worse. Still, if you can do it yourself, there is a good chance you can get it fixed much faster than if you take it somewhere for repair.

Have you ever experienced this problem with your desktop computer? If so, tell me about it. What happened with your computer, what did it turn out to be and how did you get it fixed? Sound off about it in the comments below. I want to hear from you!

About the author