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  • Writer's pictureNorm McLaughlin

Help! My Computer Keeps Shutting Down

computer shutting down brisbane
What can you do when your computer keeps spontaneously shutting down?

Norm's Computer Services offers computer repairs and support in Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan and the Redlands, and as such I receive calls each day from people with computer problems. One such call recently caused my heart to sink when the client told me about the issue she was having. She said that they had a desktop computer which was randomly shutting down. The reason my heart sank was because she told me that the shutdowns would happen maybe a couple of times each day, meaning that I wouldn't necessarily be able to observe the issue occurring during my time working on the computer.

In cases like this it can be very difficult to confirm whether the issue has been resolved due to the intermittent nature of the problem. During the time I would spend working to resolve the issue, it may not even present itself. As a result, I would be applying my experience to address potential causes of the problem, but effectively working blind because I may not even see it happening at the time.

Causes of Spontaneous Computer Shutdowns

The cause of a spontaneous computer shutdown can be any one of a number of things. However, it’s much easier to diagnose the issue if the behaviour is frequent and repeatable. For example, if the computer always shuts down a few seconds after startup, or even after being powered on for a few minutes, then I can begin to take various remedial actions and I can quickly determine whether any of these actions has been effective in resolving the issue.

It’s a much more challenging scenario if the shutdowns are only happening occasionally, as with my client mentioned above. Because I charge for my time in fifteen minute blocks after the first hour, it’s not practical or cost-effective for the client for me to take some sort of remedial action and then wait for hours to determine whether this has eliminated the cause of the shutdown. For this reason, it can be a case of taking a number of potential remedial actions and then leaving the computer with the client for a day or two so that they can determine if the issue has been eliminated. This can become a multi-stage process as I may end up taking one action after another until the issue is resolved.

In my experience, random shutdowns are usually caused by hardware issues rather than software issues. I’m referring to the sorts of shutdowns which happen totally spontaneously whilst working on the computer. A shutdown which is preceded by some sort of warning on the screen, or even a blue screen of death (BSOD), is a different matter. These can be caused by driver issues, or have some other software-related cause which doesn’t point towards faulty hardware.

Thermal Maintenance

My starting point will often be to perform some thermal maintenance on the computer, especially if it’s an older machine. It's possible to install a utility which will monitor the temperature of a computer’s CPU. Use of such software means that you can observe the temperature at which the computer is operating prior to any shutdown and this can give you a very good idea about whether a temperature increase is causing the issue. In the case of a laptop, it may of course be possible to determine whether the computer is overheating by checking to see if the base feels abnormally warm.

The first step involved in any thermal maintenance is to open the computer and remove any dust and debris. A vacuum cleaner can be used as long as you take care not to touch any of the circuitry or components. Following this I would remove the CPU cooler, wipe away the thermal paste from both the CPU and the cooler, and apply a new layer of paste to the CPU. I would tend to be generous with the quantity of paste used as it’s better to err on the side of too much rather than too little. After applying the paste I would then reassemble the cooler, switch the computer on, and observe to see if it remains on without shutting down.

Additional Troubleshooting Steps

I carried out the thermal maintenance I've described here on the computer mentioned at the beginning of this post. But before switching the computer back on I also took several other actions. I swapped the two RAM (memory) modules to different slots (there were four slots in total). I moved the hard drive SATA cable to a different SATA connector on the motherboard, and I removed the graphics card. Since the CPU in this particular computer supported integrated graphics, I then moved the monitor cable to the HDMI output from the motherboard itself and powered the computer on.

The computer switched on successfully and continued to operate without shutting down. This could have been a satisfactory solution, however the client preferred to have the best possible graphics and so we powered the computer down again and I reinstalled the graphics card, this time in a different slot. We now found that we couldn’t power the computer at all on so I removed the graphics card and tried again. Still the computer refused to power on, and I concluded that the issue wasn’t with the graphics card at all. I also removed the RAM modules one at a time and tried again, but still the computer refused to power on.

A Successful Diagnosis and Repair

Following these steps, I then reinstalled the graphics card and tried a different power supply which I use for test purposes. This time the computer powered on successfully and remained on. I then powered it off again and installed another power supply unit (PSU). Again the computer powered on successfully. At this point I left it with the client for a couple of days and they were happy to report that the computer continued to function well.

In this particular case, the spontaneous shutdown issue had been caused by a faulty power supply unit. It could, however, have been caused by almost any element of the computer’s hardware. My troubleshooting process eliminated thermal issues, faulty RAM, and the graphics card, before homing in on the power supply as the cause of the issue. I finished by installing a brand new power supply unit and the customer was left fully satisfied with the service and solution provided. Had the issue been caused by a fault on the motherboard it would have been a more complex and costly repair, requiring replacement of the motherboard and potentially a new CPU and RAM.

Is Your Computer Shutting Down Randomly?

If you're having an issue with your computer such as that described in this post, or perhaps a completely different computer issue, please don't hesitate to get in touch. Norm's Computer Services provides a computer repair and technical support service in a wide range of suburbs in Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan and the Redlands. I'd be more than happy to assist you.

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3 comentarios

arlet amiri
arlet amiri
6 days ago

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fnaf susi
fnaf susi
04 may

Your expertise is incredibly helpful. In my spare time, like you, I frequently look for the game run 3 to kill time; to illustrate, you should give it a shot at least once.

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chrys fernando
chrys fernando
18 nov 2023

Norm, I came across your blog on "Causes of spontaneous computer shut down" and found it to be very informative and educational. You truly have a talent on writing tech articles that simplify a somewhat complicated subject.

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