Solving Spooky Tech Disasters

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Solving Spooky Tech Disasters
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Zombies and ghosts might send a chill down your spine, but when it comes to true terror, look to your computer. On good days, it serves up funny cat videos and social networks with ease -- but when it’s bad, it’s horrific. If you’ve ever faced down a frozen blue screen without having a backup of your files, things that go bump in the night don’t seem quite so scary anymore. Fortunately, many computer problems aren’t nearly as frightening as they seem and can often be fixed without professional intervention.

Something's Awry
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Something's Awry

When you know something is wrong but you can’t quite pinpoint what it is, try restarting your computer. This flushes the memory and closes every program and service currently running – including some background applications you may not be aware of. If you’re still experiencing odd symptoms, like crashes from programs that normally run just fine, check your update history: The program may have automatically downloaded a buggy update, or you might have a conflict with a recent Windows Update. If this is the case, try reinstalling an earlier version.

Computer Won't Boot
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Computer Won't Boot

When pressing the power button doesn’t accomplish anything, first make sure the problem isn’t with the outlet. If other devices (like your monitor and printer) power on with no problem, then your computer’s power supply is the most likely culprit. Power supplies are inexpensive and aren’t too difficult to replace at home. If you’re not comfortable playing Dr. Frankenstein yourself, take your PC to a computer repair shop and a trained tech will restore it to life in no time.

Windows Won't Start
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Windows Won't Start

If you’re seeing a command prompt with error messages instead of Windows when you boot up, there’s a strong possibility that your hard drive may be dead. The only solution is to replace the hard drive, which means reinstalling Windows and restoring your backed-up files. A word of warning: there’s a common virus that simulates imminent hard drive failure by mimicking a Windows error message and then shutting down the computer. If this is what you’re experiencing, boot into Safe Mode (press “F8” at regular intervals while rebooting your computer and select “Safe Mode with Networking” from the menu) and run a virus scan before trying more drastic measures.

Sudden Slowdown
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Sudden Slowdown

Your computer was a zippy little speed demon the first time you turned it on, but now it shuffles along more slowly than the walking dead. This is pretty normal; since you bought your computer, you’ve probably installed a ton of new programs. Slowness can also be a symptom of malware. To get your PC back up to speed, try emptying your recycle bin, clearing your Web browser’s cache and removing unnecessary programs from MSCONFIG. If it’s still unusually slow, try defragmenting your hard drive and run a virus scan.

Unexpected or Loud Sounds
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Unexpected or Loud Sounds

If you’re hearing unusual sounds from inside your computer’s case, it’s often a sign that a hardware failure is imminent. A louder-than-expected fan or one that seems to run constantly may be caused by an accumulation of dust. Try unplugging your computer, taking the side off and using compressed air to clean around the fan blades. If that’s not the cause, then the fan itself might be dying. A clicking or grinding noise signals a possible hard drive failure – back up your data right away and take your computer to a repair center to be checked out.

"Blue Screen of Death"
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"Blue Screen of Death"

When you get the dreaded frozen blue screen commonly known as the Blue Screen of Death, your first tactic should be to try restarting your computer – sometimes this issue is temporary and caused by a program crashing or conflicting with Windows. When you get a persistent blue screen every time you try to boot up, the issue is probably hardware-based. If you’ve recently installed new hardware, try removing it and see if that fixes the problem. A bad stick of RAM may also be to blame. From another computer, burn a memory-testing program to a CD and boot into that to test your memory modules.

Browser Redirects
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Browser Redirects

If your Web browser seems possessed and redirects you to websites you didn’t want to visit, you don’t need an exorcist – just a good antivirus program. A common sign of a virus infestation is being sent to webpages containing ads instead of the websites you click on. Boot into Safe Mode and run a full scan with a quality anti-malware program like SuperAntiSpyware or Malwarebytes (both free). Using System Restore to restore your PC to a point before the problems began may also work.

Your Screen Is Filled with Ads
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Your Screen Is Filled with Ads

Pop-up ads are an expected part of browsing the Web. Block regular pop-ups by enabling the pop-up blocker built into your Web browser; if you can’t find that feature, try upgrading to the most recent version. If you’re drowning in ads, or they’re popping up even when your browser is closed, it’s a sign that your computer has probably been hijacked by malware. Run a full scan with your anti-malware software, preferably in Safe Mode. If that doesn’t fix it, you might need to have it serviced by a professional.

Computer Won't Display on a Projector
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Computer Won't Display on a Projector

Need to project your screen and can’t get it to work? First, make sure your computer is correctly connected to the projector, with no loose wires. Press the Windows button and “P” simultaneously, then select “Projector Only” from the menu. If that doesn’t work, reboot your computer and try again; that’s often all you need to do to get it working.

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