computer gone nuts


steps to take

Get your local computer guy to check these things in order.

  1. Do you have an up-to-date Antivirus+antispyware+antirootkit package installed (McAfee IS or Total Protection, Norton IS or 360, Microsoft OneCare, and is it always up-to-date with the latest virus signatures?
    It should be at the point where it can update itself without running into problems when you are online. some people ignore this step and leave their PC's vulnerable to spyware.
  2. check to see that all the fans are spinning! (cpu fan, power supply fan, front fan if you have one, back fan if you have one, motherboard fan if you have one) You have to open the case to check. The fans are the most important thing.  they should be blowing a breeze on or off of whatever they are doing.
    I can usually get replacements through search engines and electronics distributors like Newark & Digikey & Mouser or local computer shops.
    If it's the power supply, you may need to get a new $40-55 power supply. [$14 for a fan from a computer store].
  3. Unplug the computer.
    Vaccuum out the CPU fins inside - it may be caked with dust clods, and that means no cooling (bad). you can probably pick off the dust clods yourself with your fingers, then vaccuum the rest out with a crevice tool to get max suction, but try not to push the clods further into the fins - got tweezers?.
    You may need to remove and put back the plastic hood/air guide over the CPU to get at the metal fins.
    Do not get any magnets near the hard drive or floppy drive or hard disk.
    You might want to clean out the floppy drive too if you can while you are at it, but it's not going to affect the performance of your CPU - it's just a good idea.
  4. after cleaning the computer out, do a [windows-logo-flag-key]-R chkdsk /f /r Enter. on linux, use badblocks -sn -b 512 -o /tmp/oops -p 1 /dev/sda1 and fsck.
    it will say it can't and ask you if you want to run chkdsk on next restart.
    type y Enter.
    then it will go away. do [windows-logo-flag-key]-R shutdown -f -s Enter.
    on next boot it will repair the filesystem on your hard drive.
    this may solve some of your software problems.
  5. do a memory test. you will need to burn a cd from an bootable memory tester ISO cd image for this. you will need to Enter CMOS SETUP at boot (F2? Delete? one of those keys, just look) to change the boot device order so that the cdrom is before the hard disk. you should get no errors or screen corruption.

diagnosis: you either have spyware, or it's the hardware - more specifically, the CPU, motherboard, or memory or power supply.


always have the latest antivirus+antispyware+antirootkit package installed if you are going to be on the internet or are going to be getting files from buddies via flash drives or cd's.

don't open attachments in emails (such as greeting cards) or anything that ends in .pif or .exe or .scr and be suspicious of .zip files as well. there are other executeable fiole expentions like .txt and .doc and .xls (.doc and .xls can contain malicious macros). If you are downloading or opening an attachment using yahoo mail/gmail/hotmail via the web you are probably safe, because yahoo mail (and hopefully the others) automatically scan the attachments for viruses/spyware and prevent you from downloading if it's bad. If you DO know what the attachmwent is because you know it's coming, then you should save the file and scan it before opening it. You can directly open it if your antivirus is one of those that has shields, but only if it is from someone you know and you know what it is.

sometimes you can get spyware by visiting a malicious site (albeit innocent-looking) using Internet Explorer (it might also be possible using the new Google Chrome browser, but I am unsure at this point). Another reason to have the antivirus+antispyware+antirootkit package.

good packages are:
  • McAfee Total Security (with that one you get SiteAdvisor, which warns you of sites with bad downloads on your search engines!).
  • Mcafee Internet Security
  • Norton 360
  • Norton Internet Security

The backup solutions on these products or with cd burning programs aren't worth anything. Mcafee tries to stuff all your data onto 1 DVD. I have 32GB of data and 9GB is pictures which doesn't compress - it doesn't fit. yet somehow I ended up with 1 DVD. I think the backup solution is broken. If you need backup, get a real backup program (like Norton Save & Restore). You may have ntbackup already on your computer if you are running XP Pro or a fancy version of Vista like Home Premium or better. If you are running XP Home it is on your system restore cd or XP cd in a funny subdirectory with all the extras. No telling if the same is true of Vista basic. however, ntbackup on XP doesn't backup to cd's.

if you can't afford antivirus+antispyware software or yours isn't doing the job or you can't connect to microsoft/mfacee/symantec site

could be spyware. do a full pc scan as administrator account.
[windows-logo-flag-key]-R c:\windows\system32\mrt.exe Enter
do full scan and wait a few hours.
this is the windows malicious software removal tool.

it's time to do (as an administrator account, maybe you want to run CMD shell as admin)
[windows-logo-flag-key]-R chkdsk /f /r Enter. on linux, use badblocks -sn -b 512 -o /tmp/oops -p 1 /dev/sda1 and fsck.
Answer y Enter when it asks you whether you want to fix filesystem on reboot.
[windows-logo-flag-key]-R shutdown -f -s Enter to shut down the computer.
after computer turns off, turn it on again and wait an hour or two.

clean cd/optical drives

this is only a side note.

  • cd/DVD drives wear out, especially if they get dust in them. usually you can expect a drive to last about 5 years in a good environment. but by then, new media types have come out and your drive is no longer compatible with newer CDR and DVDR media - it becomes outdated. then you need firmware updates if you can get them, from the manufacturer's web site.
  • bad/scratchy/dirty media or dirt on optics or bad drive causes corrupted software installs & data corruption when you use the drive.
  • quick fix: get a cleaning disc and try that first. if it doesn't work and your cd drive is still flaky, check out these other solutions before replacing your drive. If you have dirty media, try this.
  • using warped media and simultaneously writing to a hard drive (whether it's the OS doing maintenance tasks, or it's the indexing service, auto-defrag service[!!!], or whatever) can make correctable bad sectors on your hard drive. they are correctable only with either GRC's Spinrite $89 or with a format. if you read from such media and it's making loud or other noise, get a new one from the manufacturer. they will oftentimes replace it for free or for the cost of shipping, which is maybe up to $8. misbalanced/cracked media can explode [in] the drive if it spins too fast - this is usually the case with older cdrom drives like the 52x-56x speeds. solution in that case is to get a lower-speed cd-rom drive and to replace the media.

Power Supply Unit (PSU)

before you do any PSU diagnostics, check to make sure the unit is clean of dirt using a vaccuum. I think it's OK to use a regular vaccuum, but I could be wrong. I have had no problems doing this with power supplies. vaccuum with the unit UNPLUGGED for 5 minutes for the charge to die down.

when diagnosing, make sure the unit is plugged in and the power switch on the back of the power supply is turned on (if it has a switch - some do not).

If the power supply is bad, your whole computer is going to go crazy. or it just won't boot. Run your computer for a while and let it "warm up". the air coming from the power supply should be cool.

symptoms that the power supply needs to be replaced:

    warm air coming out: there may still be a problem with airflow or a weak PSU fan. or the PSU you picked is too powerful, or too small. use a power supply calculator to determine the wattage.
  • If your power supply's fan is blowing hot air, your power supply may be overloaded.
  • slow/weak PSU fan.
  • PSU fan stopped.
  • power supply makes squealing noises.
  • if it's a cheap power supply and it's 6 months old, or if it's an expensive power supply and it's 3 years old. some power supplies don't fail - they just keep going and going. I had a dell power supply like that. I needed more wattage than 250W so I traded it out.
  • computer is doing random strange/bad/weird things.
  • power light on front of computer never goes on when you press the front power switch (could be faulty switch, but chances are slim of that). you check further and none of the motherboard LED's come on. If there are no mobo LED's, check the keyboard LED's.

proper computer placement

Don't store your computer in a "cubby hole" of a computer desk. no airflow! gets hot in there! bad for the computer or any electronics...

Don't put your computer on the floor. dirt and dust and pet hair!

put it on the desktop/tabletop surface, away from the dust.



Remember the fans I mentioned? they are often not ball-bearing fans. they are usually sleeve-bearing fans. and as a result, they don't last as long. or, if they are cheaply made, etc.

Typically, the less you pay for a power supply, the shorter the fan is going to last, (and the other parts).

usually you can't go very wrong with a ball bearing fan. they last a good while. but you still need to replace fans sometime.

ball bearing fans need to be lubed once in a while (ignore the ads on that page).

a dead or slow/ailing fan will stop the cooling of your PC. this is bad.

hot CPU=flaky weird PC.

Make sure all the fans are working in your PC, especially the power supply fan and the CPU fan and your video card fan.

If your video only has gone nuts, check the fan on your video card - many video cards come with insufficient fans, so you may need to get a beefier one, or it may need to have the dirt clods cleaned out, or otherwise the fan may need to be replaced if it is making noise (some HP video cards have been recalled for making noise and having bad fans, msi has a replacement)


clean the vents as well. If those are blocked, there will be no precious airflow.

that includes the vents on the power supply.

dirt clods in the computer

shutdown and unplug your computer for this. you will probably need to disconnect everything and put it on the floor somewhere.

vaccuum your PC out every 6 months to 1 year, more often if you have a dusty house.

dust is the enemy of your PC. NEVER spray water or cleaner in or on your PC. Use a squeezed out slightly damp rag if you need to. (but not on the boards or electronic parts or connectors! and not with the power on) water has minerals... Do not use cleaning solutions on your cd drive's optical lens.

how to clean the inside of your desktop PC

cleaning the cpu fan & cpu cooling fins

how to clean the cpu cooler

cleaning a floppy drive

dirt clods can really get in there.

if you can do a through job of cleaning out the floppy drive, all the better. I sometimes take the drive top off to do it, but you don't have to go to that extreme.

you can put your finger in the drive door and use the vaccuum crevice tool in the front, and all around it.

get a floppy drive cleaning kit and use it. they still exist.

cleaning inside the case

dust bunnies get all around inside the case. pick them out by hand. a vaccuum may generate chip-damaging static.

cleaning hard drives

dust collects on all sides of hard drives. vaccuum them out with a crevice tool. you may need to unscrew the hard drive to clean it. hard drives can get hot depending on the model, some stay cool.

clean PSU/Power Supply Unit

this thing gets a lot of crud all around it.

vaccum the vents with a crevice tool or whatever has the most suction and do the same for your fan in the back and the bottom fan if you have one.

clean case fans

clean the crud off of them if you can, and the dirt clods. there is possibly a case fan in the front, and a case fan at the top, side, and maybe 2 in the back, depending on your case.


pet hair can get into the cpu fan and stop it.

take your laptop to a laptop specialist for your manufacture of laptop.

sometimes they can get cat or pet hair out of the cpu fan and the fan stops, heating the cpu up until it's burning hot. If you have a cat, you may want to mention that fact to them and to check the cpu fan for pet hair or dirt (if they are interested), and to do whatever else is necessary to fix the machine.

hot room

computers like to be cool. at least make them as comfortable as you are (room temp). If it's getting to be 80°F(26.6°C) or more, it might be time to turn the computer off until things get cooler.

gotgot laptop - no laptop cooler?

all modern laptops these days get warm/hot, especially Dell laptops, and should have a laptop/notebook cooler, with the possible exception of toshiba qosmio 17". they are about $20-70, and buying one will prevent your laptop from having a short lifespan, sudden shutdowns, lockups, hangs, slowdowns, crashes, and flakiness.

PSU (Power Supply) Weirdness

read my article

if it's a clogged laptop fan

take it to an authorized repair shop. with 40+ DIFFERENT screws to keep track of (HP laptop), placement is critical, and sometimes you can end up with extra screws if you are doing it yourself. plus the fact that the case is very hard to take apart and the parts are hard to remove to get at the cpu. it took me and someone else to get the job done, and we ended up with "extra" screws. tell them you have a pet hair problem.

windows installed wrong?

I suspect this may or may not be the case. hard to tell, usually if windows was installed wrong by not leaving the disc in, it just won't boot, so you have to reinstall windows again (but this time, zero-wipe the drive first).

you very well could have not left the disc in during the install process during all those reboots, first inclination is to "ack! gotta take the disc out quick" while it is rebooting, but in reality, you MUST leave it during the entire install and rebootings process until it's booted normally and stable.

after this you install drivers in the order given by the mfr (otherwise, can be slower). for good treatment of whole process see format computer to factory state

laptop coolers
this is REQUIRED EQUIPMENT for a laptop (unless *maybe* you have a toshiba qosmio 17" - my mother's doesn't need cooling). this will prevent most lockups, flakiness, crashes, slowdowns, reduced life expentancy, on a laptop.
200mm laptop cooler, available from $20
I especially recommend this for today's hot laptops such as the Dell laptops. actually, this would be my first recommendation for all laptops.
laptop coolers, available from $20-$60
Power Supplies
for stability, over-rate your power supply's recommended rating by 80W. meaning, take the maximum of the motherboard wattage and the recommended wattage of your video card and add 80W to it. There are system load calculators out there.
80 Plus power supplies, especially these eries silver and gold, are very efficient and well made. 5 year warranty, and you will save money on power bills.
OCZ Z-Series Silver OCZZ550 550W ATX12V 2.2/ EPS12V 2.91 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS SILVER Certified Active PFC Power Supply Compatible with Intel Core i7 - Retail, available from $69.99+9.65, $93-125
3/26/2010. save money on your power bills. install a modern video card of your choice (check your bus type).
OCZ Z-Series Silver OCZZ650 650W ATX12V 2.2/ EPS12V 2.91 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS SILVER Certified Active PFC Power Supply Compatible with Intel Core i7 - Retail, available from $89.99, $85-135
3/26/2010. save money on your power bills. install a modern video card of your choice (check your bus type).
OCZ Z Series Gold OCZZ850 850W [one model is modular] ATX12V 2.3/ EPS12V 2.91 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS GOLD Certified Active PFC Power Supply - Retail, available from $160-200, 850W $190-229
3/26/2010. save money on your power bills. install a modern video card of your choice (check your bus type).
OCZ Z Series Gold OCZZ1000M 1000W ATX12V 2.3/ EPS12V 2.91 SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS GOLD Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply - Retail , available from $210, 1000W $240-300
3/26/2010. save money on your power bills. install a modern video card of your choice (check your bus type).
Computer Vaccuums
I wasn't entirely sure about using vaccuums on computers, but these are ESD-safe and targeted for computers. if you are going to use one, the DataVac ESD model is the one to use. but it's expensive. fingers are by far cheaper.
Datavac/3ESD, available from $445.92
6/25/2010. ESD-safe vaccuum for computers.