When your Dell computer won’t boot up properly, it can be pretty frustrating to deal with. Here’s how to fix a Dell laptop or desktop computer that won’t boot up.

Types of computer boot up issues

“Computer not booting up” can mean one thing: the computer does turn on, but never seems to boot to Windows. Now that can look like a few things, and be caused by different kinds of hardware failure. Identifying some obvious signs of hardware issues can be helpful in diagnosing your computer. Here are a few things that can happen when a laptop or desktop computer isn’t booting up:

  • Stuck on Dell splash screen — The computer turns on and passes POST, but gets stuck on the Dell splash screen. It can only be solved by a hard shutdown.
  • Shuts down while booting up — Similar to getting stuck on the splash screen, but the computer shuts down by itself during the process. It may turn off completely, or restart itself automatically.
  • Turns on to a blank screen — The computer turns on and lights up, but only shows a blank black screen. It doesn’t appear to boot and is stuck on the blank screen until the computer is shut down.
  • Error messages appear — Sometimes the computer may show error messages when it can’t boot up. These errors may show messages like “no bootable device” or “SMART failure detected on hard disk”.

Your computer may have trouble booting up when there’s a hardware issue. A computer requires its different components to work, and they need to interact properly to boot up. When one part of the boot up process is down, it will jam up or disrupt the whole process. Issues with startup can usually point to a hardware failure.

What to do with a Dell computer that won’t boot up

Hard shutdown and restart your computer

When your Dell laptop or desktop computer is stuck while starting up, you can try a hard shutdown and restart it. This could possibly turn on your computer again for you to run diagnostics. Press and hold the power button until it shuts down, then turn it on again after a few moments.

While this method may come in handy in this situation, it’s important to note that you should only do this when your computer is actually stuck or frozen. This is not the proper way to shut a computer down, as it can cause software issues. Under normal circumstances, you should always shut a computer down by using the “Shut Down” button from “Start”.

Dell boot diagnostics

As long as your computer turns on, you can perform boot diagnostics across its hardware. Boot diagnostics is a built-in tool to test hardware like the hard drive, RAM, and battery. It is a base-level diagnostic tool to help find hardware faults that may be causing issues with your Dell computer.

To perform diagnostics, restart your computer and press F8 at start up. Choose diagnostics from the menu that appears, and it will go from there. Your system will then report any issues it can detect with a reference code and possible support solutions.

Thoroughly test your hardware

Sometimes you might need some more in-depth tests to find out what’s going on. We can then look at the hardware that works to boot up your computer, then thoroughly test them out. This includes testing the hard drive, motherboard, RAM, and video card. These parts are essential to boot up your computer properly, so any failure with any one part could disrupt the process.

Diagnosing your hard drive

2.5 hard drive HDD

Hard drive failure is a very common cause of computer boot up issues. Your operating system and boot files are permanently stored on the hard drive. A hard drive failure could cause data corruption or data loss. The drive may become so corrupt or damaged, errors like “inaccessible boot device” blue screen of death (BSOD) may show up when you turn on your computer. Without the information needed for boot up, your computer will certainly have trouble booting up.

For most computer users, hard drive failure is pretty inescapable, to say the least. It’s true that hard drives can last quite long, but it’s performance can go down fairly quickly. This is because of the accumulation of bad sectors.

All hard drives can get bad sectors, and they all do come with an acceptable amount of them. With further use over the years, the hard drive will take damage from physical force or software errors. These types of damage then creates bad sectors. The drive will still work fine, until the bad sectors get spread out across the drive. This becomes intolerable for normal functioning, and the drive will start to fail. As the damage gets worse, it will become more and more apparent to the user. You’ll start noticing slower performance and longer boot up times, and ultimately be unable to boot your computer.

How to repair a faulty hard drive

Considering that your Dell computer is not booting up, you’ll need to take out the hard drive to test it for issues with hard drive analysis software. This involves putting the hard drive into a SATA to USB enclosure box and testing it on a different desktop computer. To test the hard drive, we recommend using dedicated software like Seatools or WD Data Lifeguard.

If you do find that your hard drive has failed, all you need to do is replace it. Replacing a hard drive is a simple repair job that does not require high technical skills. Learn more about testing and repairing Dell hard drives in our guide here.

Motherboard, RAM, and video card failures

logic board circuit board computer

While it’s more likely that a hard drive failure is causing your boot issues, the motherboard, RAM, and video card could also be the culprit. These are all components essential to start up your laptop or desktop computer, so none of them should be ruled out from the start. On some Dell laptops and newer models especially, the RAM and video card are embedded on the motherboard. So to repair those issues, you’ll have to replace the whole motherboard.

A motherboard failure can be behind a few start up issues, especially when the computer does not turn on at all. It is the main communication channel between components, and is essential for the entire normal functioning of the computer. Signals are sent from the processor through the motherboard, and they work accordingly through this channel. If the motherboard fails, the system loses its communication channel and cannot work properly.

During start up, your computer’s RAM is responsible for storing system settings and information required for the process. Then the video card is used to generate a constant stream of images once the computer is turned on. When the computer turns on to a blank screen, there is a possibility that the video card is failing to create an accurate video feed.

All these components failures can be caused by overheating, dust, or physical wear and tear. So it’s important to keep your computer cooled efficiently, and clear of dust.

How to test for motherboard failure

A motherboard failure is a difficult issue to both diagnose and repair. There is no direct way to test the motherboard, unlike a hard drive. To get near accurate diagnosis, the only way to test a motherboard is by testing and eliminating RAM and video card issues.

Testing RAM

If you have a detachable RAM chip on your laptop or desktop computer, you can swap it out with a spare RAM part to test your current RAM. You can eliminate a RAM failure if the problem still remains with the spare RAM.

Now with RAM that’s embedded on the motherboard, you have less flexible options. If you can get your computer to boot successfully, you can use RAM analysis software to test it. Otherwise, you’re left with boot diagnostics to test the RAM.

Testing GPU

To test the video card on a computer that won’t boot, try taking it out and testing it out on a desktop computer with GPU analysis software. A good app for that is FurMark.

To learn more about motherboard repairs, we explain how difficult and risky they are to repair in our guides. Read “Why motherboard failures are so hard to test and repair” now.

Dell laptop on desk

After testing all the necessary hardware, you might be able to get a better idea of what’s wrong with your Dell computer. Now you can set out to fix these problems and start up your computer successfully.

Professional repairs

Taking your laptop or desktop computer to a repair shop could be an easier option, of course. You can save yourself the time of testing and repairing the issue yourself. That’s where we can help. At Safemode Computer Service, we can help you repair your computer, and upgrade it for you as well. We are conveniently located in Inner West Sydney, where we are a close by drive or train ride for you. Bring your computer to our Enmore store and we can do a quick test and give you a free quote as well (T’s & C’s apply). Call us or come by the Inner West today.