How to Troubleshoot a Laptop That Won’t Turn On

There are many possible reasons why your laptop may not boot up after pressing the power button. In some cases, you may see nothing happening at all while in other cases you may see some signs of partial startup e.g. blinking LEDs and beeps. Sometimes this can be mistaken for black screen of death due to active LEDs. Black screen of death error is mainly when your laptop starts booting up, shows the BIOS screen, maybe some Windows startup logo, and then it goes blank. Here is a possible solution for that situation. If you are having a black screen with only the mouse pointer, here is a possible way to fix that. This article is about situations where nothing shows up on the screen or Obviously, there isn’t a single solution to all possible cases. The suggestions below are arranged in the recommended order of implementation from many experiences of troubleshooting laptops with such issues.

Method 1: Check Power Supply

This is definitely the first thing to check if you observe absolutely no sign of life on the laptop after pressing the power button. Needless to say, that if this is the issue, then anything else you try to do to fix the issue will yield no results until the power supply issue is resolved. You can start up by checking that there is power in the outlet where your power adapter is attached, you can simply plug in another functional device to the port to verify that the port works fine. Then next you can test the DC output cable for power. The good old multimeter still does the best job at this stage. Different laptops have different adapter and different pin arrangements and power rating, on the average most adapter fall between 18.5 – 19.5 Volts, so setting the multimeter to the 20V DC position and placing the test tips on different metallic or copper elements of the charger tip, then looking out for a voltage reading in the 18.5 – 19.5 Volts range. Here, polarity doesn’t matter. Just be sure that the voltage reading is within or close enough to this range.

Afterward, check if the charging LED indicator on the laptop is lite. Not all laptops have this LED and for some laptops, if the battery is dead, then this LED wont lite up, as such this is just a supplementary test to be sure that power is pushed into your laptop. If you do not have a multimeter, you can try changing the power adapter. If your power adapter works fine and power is getting pushed to your laptop, then continue with the next suggestions.

Method 2: Hard Reset the Laptop

This is not a very common cause of laptop not turning on, but there are some instances where static current causes some triggers that keep your laptop from powering up, and unless your CMOS memory is cleared, these triggers won’t go away and your laptop won’t come on. This is a very simple solution to implement. First, remove all power sources from your laptop beginning with the power adapter, then the battery. If you have an internal battery you can’t easily access or remove, then it will be hard to implement this scheme. You can try discharging the battery completely and leaving the laptop without charge for some hours. There are still no guarantees that your battery will be fully discharged in this case, it might be better to consult a specialist. The idea is to have absolutely no power on your laptop. With all power sources removed, simply press and hold your power button for about 60 seconds, this will deplete all residual charge and cause your CMOS memory to reset. Afterward, put back your battery and try to boot up again.

Method 3: Check for Faulty or Loose RAM

Without the RAM in place and functional, your laptop would at best make partial bootup and at worst not boot up at all. Some laptop models would make a beep or blink the caps lock LED to indicate the presence of a dead or incompatible RAM. Others may simply do nothing after you press the power button. If you have some LEDs blinking or some beeps, you can look up the suggestions in this video on how to interpret such beeps and LED blinking and also how to check for the actual faulty RAM if you have multiple RAMs in place.  Unfortunately, there are usually no visual clues for faulty RAM sticks, and no multimeter testing. As such, you will need to get some other functional RAM stick to use for testing. Before doing that, you can first try to clean your Ram connectors and reseat it firmly to the slots to ensure they are making full contact with the board. If you have two RAM sticks, then remove one and try booting up with only one at a time to see if is the case of one bad RAM. If your RAM is tested and working for sure, then proceed with the other suggestions.

Method 4: Check for Other Incompatible Hardware

Better still, you can temporarily disconnect all attached hardware components currently connected to the laptop, this may include external hard drives, USB flash drives, external GPUs, printers, scanners, joysticks, game controllers or anything of that nature. Such components, even though they might be in a good functional state may be drawing much power upon startup that your laptop might not have enough to boot up with. More so, if any of such components is dysfunctional, then it can also cause your laptop not to boot up. You can also remove the external mouse and keyboards if this problem continues.

Method 5: Check for Loose of Faulty Hard Disk

This is mainly for situations where you observe a partial startup. By partial startup, I mean when you observe some LEDs or beeps and maybe some texts on your screen but then no Windows startup sign, no Microsoft logo or welcome screen, then it is likely that your laptop couldn’t find any operating system to boot up from. Some laptops would directly inform you of the inability to locate a boot drive or operating system, others may simply leave you with a black screen and some text that is not related to the true problem. In any case, check that your disk or SSD hasn’t come loose either by accident or deliberate removal. You can also remove the hard drive and clean the connector before reconnecting to ensure proper contact. If you are able to get into the BIOS, then check that you have your hard drive set as the primary boot drive. If you have access to some other functional hard drive, you can test with it to verify if the problem is with your hard drive.

Method 6: Remove Battery Temporarily

Again, this is a rare occurrence, but on a few occasions, I have come across situations where removing the battery was all the laptops needed to boot up again. A further test showed that these batteries not only had dead cells but have somehow gotten short-circuited. As such, they prevent the laptop from booting up. Generally, if you have a COMPLETELY dead battery, is advisable to remove it completely even if you don’t plan to change to a new one, not only will this reduce the chances of such short-circuited battery issue, it will also save your adapter the stress of constantly trying to push power to dead cells. If after removing the battery the laptop still doesn’t boot up, you can temporarily keep it out until you have tried out the remaining suggestions in this article.

Method 7: Check for Screen Backlight

This is another potential case, especially when the laptop is having partial bootup where the LEDs come on but nothing shows up on the screen. This can be due to a dead backlight or dead screen. To test for a dead backlight, you can simply put a flashlight very close to your screen and observe closely to see if you will notice some faint tests of images on your screen. Do this across various corners of your screen and observe carefully. If you notice the presence of some faint texts or images, then it is likely that your screed backlight is broken or loosely connected. In most cases, you will need to change the entire screen. For that, you might better off seeking the help of a technician. Screens could vary widely from size to connector type, connector location, length of cable, e.t.c So a precise specification would be necessary to get the exact match for your laptop.

Method 8: Try External Monitor

As a continuation of the previous suggestion, you can try to use an external monitor to see if anything will show up on it. This is a bit tricky especially if you are testing an unknown laptop or if you do not have a running Windows on your computer. Some displays will need some drivers to function when connected to the laptop. Normally they will download these drivers automatically when connected to the laptop, however, if the laptop is not able to show the status of the display it would be hard to tell when the display is fully installed because is only then that the laptop is able to extend to it. In any case, is worth trying to see if your normal Windows environment would show up on an external monitor. If that happens, then is more likely that your display is either dead or the connecting cable is broken.

Method 9: Check for Overheating

If you are having issues with overheating or if you notice a sudden rise in the surface temperature of your laptop, then chances are, your temperature sensor might have triggered off the laptop and won’t let it come on until it has attained a certain level of coolness. In such a situation, you will need to wait appropriately for the cooling. In addition, you may need to check that your cooling fan and heatsink ventilations are clean from dust and debris. A change of thermal glue is also advisable if you have the expertise to do that and have the right tools. If you keep running an overheating laptop, over time it might permanently damage your motherboard, as such the temperature sensor triggers are warning signs to cleanup your cooling system and possibly change your thermal grease to improve ventilation and cooling.

 

Final Words

If all things fail, then is likely that you have a broken motherboard or broken power system. More often is easier to change such motherboard than to attempt to locate the broken components except you have the right equipment and expertise. Again, there are several other possible causes of laptop not booting up that hasn’t been covered in the article. If you have some other suggestion on how to troubleshoot a laptop in this situation, please share with us in the comment section below.

The following videos demonstrate some of the solutions described above.

 

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