It’s a Non-Starter

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As sinking feelings go, it’s right up there. You go to your computer to check the weather, read email, finish that paper and… no lights are on. You pull out your phone to make a call and… the screen is black. There goes that day—off to the repair shop to get the diagnosis and the bill.

There may be things you can do to revive that “dead” device without spending a lot of money. Try these before throwing in the towel:

• Make sure the battery is charged at least enough to power the device on. Maybe the charging cable was connected but not fully inserted? Check the connections and then try again in 15 minutes. This will give the device minimal power to show you if a low battery indicator was the problem.

• Is the device hung or has it crashed? With some laptops, the screen may have gone black but the computer didn’t really shut down. Keys, the trackpad or the mouse may be unresponsive. Hold down the power button for a full ten seconds, let up, wait another ten seconds, then push it again. This might be the slap upside the head it needs.

• Does the phone, tablet or computer have icons on the screen but isn’t accepting any input from a human? You can try a reset. This is a special sequence of keypresses that may jolt the device back to life. For Windows, hold down the Control, Alt and Delete keys. On the Mac, the keys are Command, Option and Esc. On smartphones, there will be a combination of buttons to force a reset but it varies not only by make of phone (iPhone, Android) but also model. Look on Google for “hard reset” and the make and model of your device to get specific instructions.

• If the device powers on (you hear the fan spinning, the screen gets brighter) but you can’t get the home screen to appear, make sure there isn’t some external device preventing it from booting up. Is there a USB drive plugged in? A phone accessory? A flash memory card? Try unplugging anything externally connected and restarting, again using the hard power off described above.

• Maybe a file on the computer’s hard disk is corrupted, preventing normal startup. On Windows, try pressing Control-F8 when you power on to go into Safe Mode. On the Mac, press either the right or left Shift key at power-on to start without loading non-Mac software extensions. If these allow you in, you’ll have a minimally operating computer.

Then try enabling software packages one at a time to find the problem application.

• Some phones have built-in temperature sensors, and can prevent start-up if the device is too cold or too hot. Let it adjust to room temperature and try again.

And yes, there are indeed times when the computer technicians need to be called in, but maybe that’s the next time this happens to you.  

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