10 Common computer hardware issues you can identify straight away

Computer issues do happen to almost every user of both laptop and desktops. So much for cutting edge 21st century technology right?

These issues can be big and small, either a small glitch or a complete system crash. They can happen at any time, and this disruption to your computer experience can seem scary to face.

Not to worry, there are a few common computer faults that you can diagnose by yourself without even testing. Understanding why these issues happen and what you can do to fix it can get you prepared before it happens.

This can also save you the time of troubleshooting and frantically looking for answers from support solutions. And if you do need professional support, you can tell them exactly what’s going on as well.

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Before we start

Sometimes a quick computer restart can fix your problem, it’s as easy as that. So before you repair or replace anything, try restarting your laptop or desktop computer first. There have been countless times when customers called or brought their computers in to our shop for repairs, and all it needed was restarting the computer.

This can refresh your device and solve any bugs you might have. If the problem doesn’t go away after a restart, then you might have to look into other repair solutions.

Here’s a list of 10 common computer hardware issues that you can easily fix straight away:

1. Keys not working on keyboard

keyboard missing key

Finding that you’re missing characters while you’re typing is definitely a noticeable issue. Certain keys or the entire keyboard not responding to any actions naturally means a keyboard failure.

This will need a replacement of the entire keyboard.

A common misconception of this keyboard issue is that it is caused by a virus as the user loses control over the keys.

Most causes for keyboard failure involve dust and rust buildup and accumulating over the years. Or it could be from a liquid spill or leakage that many computer users might not even be aware of.

It is also common that a computer left unused for several months will end up with a faulty keyboard too, if it’s not stored in a cool, dry environment.

This is due to accumulated moisture, dust and rust inside the keyboard. Don’t be surprised if this happens to your computer.

So even if it’s just a few keys that aren’t working, you’ll have to replace the entire keyboard. If your keyboard has keys that have fallen off, you can try to fit it back on.

Unfortunately, there are no single key replacements if it has worn off and doesn’t fit back on the board. You’ll still have to replace the entire board if you still want to get the keys fixed.

These days keyboard replacements are quite complicated as it involves many other delicate parts of the laptop.

Keyboard or motherboard?

One thing to note is that if your entire keyboard stops working all of a sudden then it might actually be a motherboard issue instead.

When a keyboard does become faulty, it’s common that some keys are not responding or outputting random characters, while other keys work normally.

If the entire keyboard goes dead out of the blue, it might turn out to be a motherboard instead. Although, there is still a chance that this fault could still be a faulty keyboard.

Unfortunately there are no tools to test the keyboard itself. The only way to find out is the hard way: replacing the keyboard.

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2. Laptop touchpad causing cursor to jump randomly

A laptop keyboard and touchpad

For laptops, the touchpad is usually the main component to control the mouse cursor. Once the touchpad starts to fail, it can cause the cursor to jump around randomly and erratically.

So if your laptop is connected to a mouse and the cursor still moves around like it has a life of its own, your touchpad is most probably faulty. This would call for a touchpad replacement.

What causes this failure is quite similar to what causes keyboard failures. The touchpad gets damaged over the years of accumulating dust, rust, moisture.

Liquid spill and leakage is another very common cause. The touchpad usually has a small gap surrounding it and this is where liquid can leak through damaging its PCB (printed circuit board) underneath.

Using excessive force when you press the touchpad button can also cause damage to it over the years.

3. Display screen image distortion

Laptop screen failure showing thin coloured lines. (© Niels Heidenreich / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Flickr)

Screen damage can look like a lot of things. The most distinguishable ones are physical cracks on the screen, along with display image distortion.

These distortions look like vertical lines across the screen, or a bleeding image. Sometimes an image distortion can mean a video card issue.

If you can still get the screen to display on an external monitor, then you can confirm that you’ve got a screen issue and not a video card issue.

The majority of screen damages are physically caused by end-users: dropping the computer, stepping on it, or grabbing the screen by its edge while picking it up instead of carrying the laptop up from the base normally. A very familiar one that we’ve found is forgetting something on the keyboard and then shutting the laptop screen.

Think of the screen as your TV, how long does your TV last? Probably years, a very long time. Computer, laptop screens tend to last for years just like your TV…till you break it. 🤫

4. Video card faults

A video card, also called a graphics card, works to generate the image feed for your display. This can be for your laptop screen, computer monitor, or a connected television screen.

Image distortion can be caused by either screen failure or video card faults.

There are a few distinct ways to tell these apart. Distortion caused by video card faults look more like vertical columns (sometimes horizontal). The keyboard and mouse may also be unresponsive under a video card fault. Connecting to an external display will not work as well.

To repair this issue, you will have to replace the video card. Most newer laptops have video cards built into the motherboard, so repairing it might be more complicated. You’ll need to replace the entire motherboard to replace the video card. For desktops and some laptops, you’ll be able to replace just the separate video cards.

A Nvidia video card on a motherboard

Why do video cards fail? Video cards are generally expected to last 2-5 years. Accumulated dust and rust inside the video card leads to overheating problems for the card, and eventually kills it. Heavy gaming, overclocking your computer can also put a lot more pressure on the graphics card and reduce its lifespan.

If you enjoy gaming, be prepared to invest in another video card in a few years! Think of video cards as cars: high performing cars with powerful engines usually do not last as long as a basic car (like a Toyota Corolla). Video cards are very similar in this aspect.

5. Fan noises

desktop computer fan

Most computers use a fan system to keep it at a regular operating temperature. This prevents overheating that could damage any of the hardware within.

Moving parts like fans almost never operate silently, you’ll always hear a very low whir of the rotors while your computer is on. But when it starts to make abnormal clunking and rattling noises, you’ll know that the fan is wearing down. Getting a replacement would solve this problem.

Overheating could lead to more serious damage that can cost you a lot more than replacing the fan. So once you find that your fan isn’t working well enough to keep things under control, it could be worth stopping the problem from there. This can help you save you the money that further problems caused by overheating could cost you.

Again, this fan noise is caused by a accumulation of rust and dust inside. This rust causes its motor to wear out. Just like a pedestal fan, it has a small motor and fan blades. Computer fans are made similarly. After years of use, your computer collects dust and its fan is clogged. Computing in a clean environment can make a big difference!

6. Battery not charging / doesn’t last long

Laptop batteries will deteriorate over a few years. It will either start not lasting long or not hold charge when plugged in. This will also need a replacement.

Batteries usually only last 2-4 years. Once you’ve had your laptop for a while, it’s very likely that the battery is dying if it doesn’t last long or hold a charge. It’s surprising that many people do not expect their laptop batteries to fail!

Here are the facts: batteries are consumable parts, every battery will eventually wear out and needs to be replaced. AA, AAA batteries, car batteries, phone batteries, GPS batteries, and your laptop batteries will wear out and fail eventually.

Many are reluctant to replace their failing batteries simply because of the new and flashy models available on the market. These new models that look flashier often drives people off from replacing their old computer batteries — that only needs a new battery to function properly again.

7. Laptop speaker making static noises

Abnormal sounds made by your speaker is a sign that it is failing. Static noises or distorted noises while playing audio is an example of this failure. This may be caused by water damage or rust formation. Try connecting to external speakers or headphones to verify this failure.

It is most likely that speakers are damaged by rust and liquid only. However, speaker problems are too uncommon for us technicians to understand them better. As far as we know, it usually comes after a reported liquid spill, or from finding traces of liquid residue inside the computer. Still, it’s difficult to see what’s wrong inside the speakers.

8. Signs of virus infection

Getting a computer virus can sound ominous, luckily there are some noticeable changes that you can pick up on. These come in inappropriate pop-up ads that are annoying to avoid and remove. Or you’ll notice your sudden homepage changes to your Chrome browser, as well as website changes and redirects that you had no control over.

Computer viruses can do malicious things such as, stealing passwords or data, corrupting files, and even taking over your system. So it could be a good idea to install reliable antivirus and security software to avoid any loss of personal data.

How do viruses get inside your computer? Viruses mainly come from the Internet, usually through a malicious email attachment, or a website that carries viruses. Other sources of viruses include USB drives, CD drives but nowadays, most virus creators use the Internet to distribute their viruses. Your computer may get infected with viruses immediately just by visiting the wrong website, opening a wrong email attachment, or opening the wrong file.

Having an antivirus will definitely help to reduce the chance of getting viruses, but there is no guarantee. The best antivirus might just be yourself! Start by educating yourself about computer viruses. Be cautious when opening an email that you do not expect. Or if you come across something that looks suspicious, avoid visiting websites that you are not familiar with.

9. Apple Macbook dimmed screen as sign of motherboard failure

Logic board issues are known to be difficult to test for and repair. But there is this one specific issue that you can almost immediately identify as a logic board failure. If you find that the screen image of your Apple Macbook Air or Macbook Pro is incredibly dim and faint, your logic board is showing signs of failure.

To understand why this happens, we can look at what powers the brightness of the screen. Back in 2007-08, Apple laptops LCD screens used to be lit up with the help of an inverter. After that, they transitioned to LED screens that use way less power. They didn’t need the inverter anymore. Instead, the logic board is used to light up the screen instead.

The screen gets its power to light up directly from the connector on the logic board. If this connector or its surrounding circuitry is damaged, the screen will lose its backlight. This leads to a dimmed screen. To see if the screen is dimmed, or it’s simply not displaying any image at all, shine a torch onto the screen and look closely.

So, if you find that your Macbook Air or Macbook Pro screen is very dimly lit and you can’t seem to brighten it back to normal, you might have a logic board issue. Motherboard failures can happen for various reasons, most commonly from liquid spill or burn damage.

10. Dell laptop motherboard failure sign

Another brand and model-specific identifier are some models of Dell laptop charger lights. Some Dell laptops have charger lights that light up when it’s connected to AC power source.

If you find that the charger light goes off immediately when plugged in and your laptop doesn’t turn on at all, it’s very likely that you have a motherboard issue. We’ve found that this is a common phenomenon with Dell laptops with motherboard failures, just from our experience. We don’t exactly know why this happens, some things are truly out of man’s reach. 🤷

Want to learn more about diagnosing and repairing motherboard faults? We explain how hard it is to test for motherboard issues and what you can do when you have one. Read our guide to testing a motherboard for errors here.

Healthy computing practices to keep

man using laptop

It’s a tricky thing – most computer hardware will fail eventually. They’ll need a repair or a replacement. Some habits to keep can help you keep your computer from going into premature failure. That way it can go through its lifespan naturally and as long as it can go.

Keep inside clean and clear for effective cooling

We recommend cleaning the inside of your laptop or desktop computer once a year to ensure that there’s no dust buildup inside. Dust accumulated can trap heat in your computer, which can’t be dispersed easily by the fan cooling system. This can escalate issues with overheating.

Keeping the ventilation outlets can also help for effective cooling. Using your laptop on top of fabrics can block airflow. So you might want to make sure you’re keeping your computer clear of dust and airflow blockage. This can keep your laptop or desktop fan working at optimum and cool your system properly.

Back up data

Failed hard drives can cause data loss or corruption of files. The accumulation of bad sectors on a hard drive can make it easier for data loss to occur.

To avoid suffering from irrecoverable data loss, you could start making regular backups of your storage drives. You can back up to an external hard drive, or online on a cloud-based service. This could be something to help you feel secure that your data is available in a safe place at all times.

Run Diagnostics

Even when your computer seems to be running fine, it might still be a good idea to run diagnostics from time to time. Running apps like “chkdsk” can help you detect and repair bad sectors. It can also prevent premature hard disk failure as well.

For full diagnostics, you can do this when you boot up your laptop or desktop computer. These pre-boot diagnostic tools can help you run an overall test on your hardware. It can find issues with components such as your battery or memory.

How to run diagnostics

Each brand of computer has its specific key to enter startup diagnostics. Entering this at startup will get you to the diagnostics page where you can start running tests. For Dell it’s “F12”, “ESC” key for HP, “Enter” key for Lenovo laptops, and “D” key for Apple Mac. Having the right prompt on hand would make things easier for you, rather than randomly trying different keys.

You might also be able to access brand-specific support tools to test your system. Something like SupportAssist for Dell and HP Support Assistant is available for each specific user. This is also a full diagnostics tool that is often tailored to your device.


It is quite unfortunate that things don’t last as long as we want them to. Your laptop will start showing signs or warnings that show failures in certain components. If this warning is a known pointer like the ones mentioned above, you can get to work right away before it gets any worse.

There are also some hardware failures that are less apparent to identify, such as the hard drive or motherboard. Both these failures also call for replacements. If you think you might have a hard drive issue, read our guides to test Dell, Apple, HP computer hard drives for issues and how to repair them.

Getting a professional repair

While the issue might be easy to identify straight away, some repairs might be too complicated for the average computer user. Repairs like motherboard or keyboard replacements can be quite risky and difficult, or you might not have the right tools for it. Taking your computer to a authorised service centre or a third-party repair service would be your next option.

If your computer is still under warranty, you should be able to get your computer serviced at an authorised service centre. This is where you can get specialised advice and support for your brand and model. It could still be a good idea to find out whether they provide support for your device, as service centres like the Apple store doesn’t provide support to older models from 2012 and before.

For models that can’t get authorised support solutions or have expired warranties, a third-party repair is the next thing you can do. That is also where we can help you. As a third-party repair service, our experienced technicians in Inner West Sydney can help you with any computer repair. We provide services such as computer checkups, motherboard repairs, and virus spyware removal. Situated in the convenient and beautiful Inner West, we can save you the hassle of testing and repairing your computer yourself, and provide expert advice. Call us today to make an appointment at our Enmore store. :)