My laptop won't turn on.
May 9, 2006 12:26 PM   Subscribe

My laptop is mysteriously not turning on. I hit the power button, the fans and lights go on, but then it shuts off within about three seconds.

It has a lot of spyware and viruses I never bothered to get rid of, but now it just won't boot up. It's not the battery, because it does the same thing when I take it out and try to power it up with just the AC adapter in. For what it's worth, this is the same thing that happened when I spilled water on it about six months ago, but since it dried out I haven't had any problems until this.

What's going on? I wouldn't mind losing all the data on it but I'd rather not. Is there anything I can do, or am I going to have to take it into a computer repair shop?
posted by borkingchikapa to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
My guess is that the power supply is overloaded. Try unplugging everything that wants to draw power from it, i.e. every USB and firewire device and any card you've got plugged into it.

That behavior is not caused by malware because in three seconds it hasn't even gotten to the OS yet. This is a hardware problem of some kind.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:35 PM on May 9, 2006

Could be a ton of things, but power supply is most likely the culprit. I also saw this happen with a laptop with a brokwn power button -- you'd press it, and it wouldn't release (or would release slowly), causing it to power on and then off, as if you were holding it down.
posted by catkins at 12:51 PM on May 9, 2006

I've seen this with laptops that can't be charged up/plugged in properly. They are plugged into the outlet, so you think there is power, but really it is trying to draw on the (nearly empty) battery.
posted by mikepop at 12:53 PM on May 9, 2006

Check to see that your RAM has not come loose.
posted by gfrobe at 1:06 PM on May 9, 2006

Try this: unplug the laptop, remove the battery, press the power button a couple times (I think that should make sure it discharges the capacitors a bit?), leave it there maybe 2 minutes, make sure the RAM is properly seated, unplug every peripheral (even the cd/dvdrom drive), power it up on direct electric power. I would be seriously worried if it doesn't work after that. Check if you can get into the BIOS (F2, or F10, or delete, or some random key depending on the manufacturer, that you press when you power up).

If it fails when trying to boot windows, you could always try to download and burn an ubuntu live-cd and boot from the CD to see if the problem is really your software.
posted by a007r at 1:59 PM on May 9, 2006

Looks like a power issue. Are you getting juice out of the power cord? Most laptops have a little light showing that they are recharging when plugged in properly. Is it lit? Alternatively, you could use a multimeter to see that you are getting the rated power out of the brick. Sometimes it is as simple as a plug not making good contact. I had an old laptop where the brick had a removable power cord and one of the prongs in the adapter where the power cord plugged into the brick would sometimes get pushed in and fail to make contact. Once I had that plugged in properly, I never unplugged it again.
posted by caddis at 2:10 PM on May 9, 2006

What kind of computer is it? What lights come on?

I've had a similar problem with a Dell laptop I own; front LEDs come on, CAPs lock blinks, fans go on. I've been told that it's a motherboard issue.

Check out the (if they're available) forums for the computer's manufacturer. Probably a few people have been having the same issues.
posted by itchie at 5:12 PM on May 9, 2006

also classic signs of an overheating CPU
posted by unSane at 7:48 PM on May 9, 2006

also classic signs of an overheating CPU

In three seconds? Not likely, but it's possible. The CPU's heat spreader (cooling fins) may have come loose and the CPU is indeed overheating in a couple seconds (google for "exploding amd duron" for video fun). Equally as likely is that a fan somewhere isn't spinning up and the motherboard wisely refuses to power up until that fan cooperates. I've seen this plenty of times with desktop ATX power supplies.

You say you hear fans, but you might not be hearing all of the fans. Or you might be hearing hard drive spinup.
posted by intermod at 8:15 PM on May 9, 2006

My sister had this symptom on a Dell C600 and it turned out to be a jammed keyboard key. I think plugging in an external keyboard fixed the problem.

Do you know for sure that your laptop works with the battery removed? That same Dell C600 could not boot with no battery present.
posted by Chuckles at 9:24 PM on May 9, 2006

I just had this exact thing (more like 12 seconds, nothing appeared on the display). They found out that it was "power supply issues on the motherboard." Not power input. But it took them a good of 6 hours testing to diagnose that, so there are probably other possible problems with the same symptoms.

Good news is that I was told that if nothing had appeared on the screen, then it was in the early stages of checking that everything was a-ok in the laptop. Checking the hard drive comes later. So, it's pretty likely that your hard drive is not the malfunctioning part, which would mean you could take it out, put it in a 2.5" hard drive USB enclosure, and get all your data off. Bad news is that, for me at least, they said the repair bill would be $210 (after putting the $60 diagnostic fee towards the repair, so $270 total) and 10 business days to repair. Since mine was getting old anyway, I decided to get a new one (seems like some good sales out there right now).
posted by salvia at 10:33 PM on May 9, 2006

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