Spend £2.50 or buy a new Computer


Replacing this £2.50 battery saved buying a new Computer

My Mum and Dad have a couple of computers at home, a laptop that my Mum uses for email and browsing and a desktop computer my Dad uses for word processing. Not long ago the laptop did have to be replaced, after 7 years of use it had decided enough was enough and just refused to power on. For the cost of a new laptop it was better to replace it and they got a much higher spec machine which they are happy with.

Whilst working from home, I had a call on the Friday morning from them saying that the desktop machine wouldn’t power on, well the power supply fired into life, but “the blue light on the power button isn’t lighting up”. I couldn’t really comment on what the problem was at the time, as there wasn’t enough information to go on and I didn’t just want to say “it sounds like its had it, time to buy a new one”. To be honest, the machine is about 4 years old and if it had been used constantly it could well have decided enough was enough too and it was time for a replacement, but its not a heavily used machine, so I wasn’t convinced.

Saturday morning arrives and I go around and have a look at the machine. My mum had looked up the cost of a new machine and thought that a £300 machine would be alright for them to buy. The spec looked pretty good and would have been more than enough for their needs. I told them not to be to hasty on going out to buy a new one, lets see what can be done with this one first.

On firing up the machine, things did kick into life, power supply whirring away and the processor fan spinning away, but as they said, no blue light on the power button. I was surprised on how little dust was in the machine after 4 years, mine is a dust hog and requires a good clean every now and then.

In a previous couple of jobs, part of my role (apart from being a programmer!) was to sort out faulty PCs. Having been a consultant for the last 8 years I don’t get the chance to do this much any more. Time to see if I can get it working. Here are the things I looked at.

  1. All cables seated properly on the motherboard? – Yes!
  2. Any power going to the drives in the machine? – Yes! the Hard Drive did spin up
  3. Anything showing on the monitor? – Sort of! it briefly has a signal then loses it.
  4. Failing the POST (Power On Self Test)? – I don’t think its even getting that far!
  5. Remove the RAM and switch on, has the machine beeped away complaining? – No. I wanted to see at this point if it was doing the POST.
  6. Put RAM back in and take out CMOS battery, did it fire into life? – Oh yes! The “blue light” shone brightly and the machine booted, complaining that it had lost its settings. A quick press of F2 to use the defaults and away it went.

Happy with that I went off for a cup of tea and told Mum and Dad it was time to spend some money, not the £300 they were preparing themselves for, but a couple of pounds on a new battery. A quick trip to B&Q and £2.50 spent, the battery was put into the machine and all is well with it. I think they were surprised that something so simple could cause all those problems, until I explained why it was there and what it was doing.

It just goes to show that with a little playing around and running through a mental check-list of things to try, its worth spending the time trying to fix what appears to be broken. 20 minutes spent with my hands inside the machine saved them £297.50, now that’s got to be a good 20 minutes spent!