Troubleshooting hardware can be a tricky process since a hardware issues can be hardware or software related. When hardware fails you can receive a single type of error messages or receive several random types of error messages. This article will cover some basics to help you troubleshoot hardware problems.
Blu-Ray\CD\DVD Drives- When troubleshooting removable media remember that you could be looking at an issue with the drive itself, the cabling connecting the driver to the motherboard\computer, the motherboard\computer port, or with the disc itself.
A good rule on troubleshooting the drive is to try to swap the drive and see if the issue still appears. Also trying different cables or ports on a motherboard can help as well. For bad discs you will need to try a disc repair kit or another disc all together.
One thing to check in Windows when troubleshooting drives is the Upper and Lower filters since many different software will try to interact with your drive in this fashion. For more information on the Upper and Lower filters see the Microsoft Article KB314060
(note this is also a good troubleshooting article as well).
Display Adapter (aka Video Card) Troubleshooting - When troubleshooting a video issue you could be troubleshooting a monitor issue, a video card issue, or a video card driver issues. Troubleshooting the display driver can be pretty simple. Most display driver issues can fixed by either uninstalling and reinstalling hte driver or by upgrading the video card driver. Checking for monitor issues can be tough. Generally with those its to swap out the monitor and try a new one to see if the issue persists. You will also want to try swapping out another video card if you suspect that the video card is the cause of the problem. Generally you will be looking at a bad video card if you are getting artifacts and other objects just appearing on the screen. Heat issues can also cause temporary hardware problems as well. Make sure to keep your video card as cool as possible. It is recommended to also check out the Microsoft Monitor and Video Card Troubleshooting page as well.
Hard Disk Drive - Most problems with Hard Disk Drives are going to be a hardware one. Since the drive is always working its generally going to be the first to fail. Some problems can be fixed by running various hard disk tool such as chkdsk inside of Windows. Also when troubleshooting hard disk drives you will want to troubleshoot the motherboard port and cable as well. A good rule there is to swap ports or cables to see if the issue goes away.
Keyboard and Mice- Most keyboard and mouse issues are going to be hardware related. Many issues can be fixed by either swapping out the device with another one. Some issues can also be fixed by trying different ports on the motherboard. There are a few occasions where software can cause an issues. Most cases simply uninstalling and\or reinstalling the device software can help. It is also recommended to check out the Microsoft Keyboard and Mouse Troubleshooting page as well.
Memory (RAM) - Memory problems can cause all sorts of issues with the computer. You can receive various errors or crashes in your programs. Thankfully testing to see if the memory is bad isn't too difficult. For Windows XP and older versions of Windows you can download Memtest86 to test for bad memory. For users with Windows Vista and later you can go into the System Recovery Options and run a memory test that way. If the test fails or indicates bad memory then it is suggested to replace your memory.
Motherboards - Troubleshooting a motherboard can be tricky since just about everything will plug into it in some way. Generally trying different ports can help with various hardware problems. You will also want to verify BIOS settings as well since incorrect settings can cause a host of hardware like issues. If you do suspect the motherboard to be bad then replacing the motherboard is the way to go.
Network Adapters - Many network problems are going to be caused by incorrect settings such as wireless network settings or ip address settings. Changing those to the correct settings can solve many networking adapter issues. Also remember that like all hardware you may need to uninstall and reinstall or update the network adapter software to fix some issues. It is also recommended to check the Microsoft Network Adapter Troubleshooting page as well.
Printers - Printers can be a pain to troubleshoot. When dealing with printer issues its a good rule to see if the issue is application specific or system wide. Many printer problems can be fixed by uninstalling and reinstalling the printer drivers and software or by upgrading the printer drivers. Also remember when dealing with a printer you can be looking at issues with the cables and ports as well. In these cases trying a different cable or ports can help out. Also when uninstalling and reinstalling a printer make sure to do it as mentioned by the printer manufacturer to avoid an incorrect installation.
Sound - When troubleshoooting sound cards you can be looking at issues with the sound card, sound card driver, or the speakers themselfs. One good thing to try when troubleshooting speakers is to use a pair of headphones to see if that fixes the issue. If headphones or even another pair of speakers work then you know the cause of the issues. When dealing with the sound card you can be looking at driver issues as well. In many cases uninstall and reinstalling the driver or updating the video card driver will fix these issues. With a bad sound card there isn't much you can but replace the card. The Microsoft Sound Troubleshooting page can be helpful as well.
When troubleshooting hardware remember that tool such as Device Manager can be a good way to troubleshoot problems. If you see any Red X's, Exclamtion Points, or Question Marks next to a device then you are looking at a problem wit that paticular device. Many problems that Device Manager show can be fixed by uninstalling and reinstalling the device or by upgrading the device drivers. In some rare cases you may need to modify BIOS settings to get things to work correctly.