Your computer is a machine destined to fail. While we’d all like to think our machines will boot faithfully until the end of time, it’s just a matter of time before your hardware fails. Hardware failures can occur all of the sudden, but there are often tell-tale signs that something terrible is on the horizon. Below are several signs your computer is about to crash.

Your Computer Has Poor Performance

One of the signs associated with a failing computer is poor performance. While this could simply mean your computer needs some general maintenance, it could also mean your hard drive is dying or that there is some other hardware issue. Some computer manufacturers such as Dell and Lenovo have built in storage drive diagnostics. Try tapping the F12 or F10 key when booting to see if your system has this capability. If not, consider downloading and running the Ultimate Boot CD (UBCD). Burn that to a disk and then boot to the disk to run a hard drive diagnostic tool such as ViVard.

vivard hard drive diagnostics

SMART Error Messages

Most modern computers have SMART (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology System) capable hard drives in them. SMART is a firmware on the hard drive that continuously monitors drive parameters such as error rates and overall performance. It uses a technology known as predictive failure analysis to inform you when a hard drive failure is imminent. Some of the errors you might see include:

  • Hard disk failure is imminent.
  • A hard drive in the system reports that it may fail.
  • Smart failure imminent, back up your data
  • Error 1720 Imminent Hard Drive Failure

SMART hard drive error

If you see any of these messages, be sure to backup your data and consider the drive unreliable. You should work on having the drive replaced as soon as possible.

Your Computer Often Restarts Or Shuts Down

It’s not unusual for a program to crash occasionally or for your computer to blue screen and restart once in a while, but if this begins to happen frequently it could be a sign there is a problem with your hardware. This is especially true of the computer does a complete shut down and power off. A computer shut down could be caused by excessive heat or a possible power supply or motherboard failure.

If the computer is powering off, try doing some general maintenance on the computer. Clean in and around the computer using compressed air. When blowing out your fans, place a finger on the fan itself so the bearings do not over-spin when you blow them out. Also, take a moment to clean the front and rear grills of the case.

You can also unplug the computer and use a vacuum specifically designed for computer and electronics.

If the computer restarts frequently, see if you can isolate the problem to a particular program. If it happens randomly, test the RAM using a free program called Memtest86.

Video Artifacts On Your Display

If you’re seeing artifacts on your display, this could mean the video graphics in the system is going bad. This can sometimes be corrected by updating the graphics drivers, but in most cases, it means the card itself is failing. If you boot your computer and there is immediate evidence of artifacts on the screen, this is a bad sign.

video card artifacts

If the screen is clear until you get into Windows, this means a driver update may be in order. You can get a driver update by visiting the manufacturer of the card, or make sure you have the latest Microsoft Updates installed–which often includes driver updates for your hardware.

Your Computer Freezes

A computer freeze–where the mouse no longer moves, the keyboard doesn’t work and nothing appears to be happening on the screen–can be caused by overheating or a bad hard drive. Clean the fans as indicated above, and then run hard drive tests.

Your PC Has Viruses

Poor performance, pop-ups and browser redirects can all be signs your computer has a virus. A computer virus is not only a significant security risk, but having a virus on your PC can render it almost useless. If you see you have a virus, you should do whatever it takes to have it removed. This will usually entail several hours of scanning and rebooting to finally clean the system, or you can take an hour to reset the PC back to factory defaults using the recovery partition on the hard drive or by using a genuine Windows install disk if you have one.

virus pop up

If you have any questions about how to run any of these tests, be sure to visit our free computer repair forums and ask.