DIY Computer Repair – Laptop computer won’t boot up

No Power powerline worker

You sit down at your desk, flip your laptop open and press the power button.  Nothing happens. You press and hold, or just spam the button a few times. Still nothing.  You check the power connection, it’s plugged in. So now what?

Glad you asked.

When your laptop won’t boot up, everything comes to a grinding halt.  You can’t get work done. The cause may be simple, or not. Read on and we’ll show you how to find out what is going on and how to fix it.  Keep in mind, most of what is detailed below requires a micro Phillips screwdriver and either basic working knowledge of laptop parts or a willingness/comfort to learn.

Reset and Look for the Lights

Start out with the basics.  Unplug the laptop, pull the battery.  Hold the power button down for 10-15 seconds.  Don’t put the battery back just yet, but plug the power cord in.  Press the power button. Does it light up? If it does, great. Power it back down, put the battery in and do it again.  If it lights back up, even better. At this point it will be a good idea to boot into a diagnostic utility and check the hardware out to be safe.  If everything checks out, unplug it, plug it back in, and make sure you’re still getting indicator lights. Residual charge in components can prevent a system from booting.  Removing power sources and holding the power button gives that a chance to discharge.

Does the External Display Work?

If after that you still don’t have a booting laptop, time to go a little further.  Do you have any indicator lights? If you get power and charging indicators, you know the laptop is getting power.  So what *isn’t* working? Do you just have a display issue? Check your laptop for external video output. Most have VGA, but you might also/instead have HDMI.  If you have a spare monitor with a corresponding input and a cable for it, connect that to the output on the laptop and fire it up. If you get display on the monitor but not on the laptop, you have and LCD issue and should refer to this tutorial.

Disassemble and Test with RAM

If the external output is also not functioning, time to check under the hood.  Again, power off all the way, remove the battery and grab a screwdriver. Remove the memory and hard drive covers, pop out the HDD and RAM, and plug the laptop back in.  When a computer starts up, it checks for all required parts. If it is missing memory, it will beep at you. Power it on and listen. If it beeps, that is a good sign. Power off, plug the memory back in, and power on again.  If you get display, great! This means the memory was likely seated improperly and just needed to be reseated. Again, run diagnostics to be certain.

Still No Indicators of Life

If it didn’t beep at you, that is a good indicator of something wrong with the motherboard.  Find either the CMOS jumper in the memory compartment or the CMOS battery itself. Virtually all modern laptops have removable CMOS batteries, but they may not be easy to get to without further disassembly.  Some will have compartment you can open to get to them, usually this is the same compartment housing the wireless card. In any event, either remove the CMOS battery for a few moments or short the jumper pads in the memory compartment to reset the BIOS.  If corruption or tampered settings are preventing bootup, this may resolve the issue be forcing a BIOS reset. Once that is done, plug in the CMOS battery if you removed it, reinstall RAM, and plug the laptop back in. Press power and see if that gives you display again.  If so, you’ll need to go into BIOS to adjust time and date settings, and you may need to change boot settings as factory defaults may not allow Windows to boot (UEFI, secure boot, and SATA configuration are all things to look out for).

Could it be the Hard Drive?

If you have ruled out faulty display, RAM, BIOS and power input, time to look at the hard drive and the motherboard itself.  If you are getting display but not activity, it is possible the hard drive is fault or you have a corrupt boot volume or operating system. Check that with the “hard drive corrupted or fragmented” section of this tutorial.

Faulty Motherboard worth Replacing?

Lastly, there is the possibility of a faulty motherboard.  In laptops, a lot of hardware is built directly onto the motherboard.  Most of the time you will find video, processor, and possibly even RAM soldered on.  This eliminates the ability to troubleshoot them by way of replacement, without replacing the motherboard altogether.  Generally speaking, once you have eliminated all the removable parts as possibilities and have tried a BIOS reset, the motherboard is the remaining culprit and you need to decide if that is worth replacing or if you are better off with a new laptop altogether.