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How to Fix: Laptop Won't Turn On - The Definitive Step-by-Step Guide
Infopackets Reader Marion L. writes:
" Dear Dennis,
I haven't used my laptop for a few weeks. I went to turn it on today, but it won't turn on at all. I have it plugged in to the wall power outlet, but it still doesn't work. What do I do now? "
This is a fairly common issue with laptops; oftentimes the laptop won't turn on even if it's plugged into the wall if it's been sitting for a while - in your case, a few weeks. Sometimes, however, something else has gone wrong, and parts of the laptop may be corrupt or not working, or the laptop may have died. I'll explain what you need to do below using step-by-step instruction, so that you can try to determine what's wrong with the laptop and take the necessary measures.
First, try 'Resetting' the Laptop Batteries
When the laptop is sitting idle, the batteries will discharge - how much the battery discharges depends on the condition, quality, and age of the batteries. Batteries which are not in optimal condition (and especially poor condition) will discharge at a faster rate than newer batteries.
If a battery has fully discharged after sitting idle for a lengthy period of time, they may need to be 'reset' by unplugging the batteries, then plugging them back in - though there are technically more steps than that. 'Resetting' the laptop batteries in this manner usually works most of the time if a laptop won't turn on.
Here are the steps you need to take to reset the batteries:
- Unplug the laptop from the wall if it is currently plugged in.
- Carefully flip the laptop over and note the location of the battery - it is usually at the rear end of the laptop. Now, look for some sliding switches with a lock and unlock symbol
near the battery. These switches will unlock the battery so you can take the
battery out of the laptop; there are usually two of them. Set the switches to both unlock positions and then try to gently pull the battery out of the laptop. It should come out fairly easily.
- Once the battery is out of the laptop, flip the laptop back over in its normal position, ready for use. Next, plug the power brick into the laptop, and the other end of the power brick into the wall. Then,
press the power button to see if the laptop comes on.
- At this point, the laptop should turn on. If it does, let the laptop boot the operating system (I'll assume its Windows). Once the operating system is loaded, click Start -> Shutdown to shut down the computer so it is powered off. If the laptop does
not turn on, follow onto the next step as well.
- Unplug the power brick from the laptop so that there is no wall power going into the laptop. Then, plug the battery back in, and set the battery switches into the lock position to prevent the battery from sliding out. Once that is finished, plug the power brick back into the laptop and press the power button.
At this point, one of three things will happen:
- the laptop will turn on and the machine will boot, or
- the laptop will turn on and it won't boot, or
- the laptop won't turn on at all.
I'll discuss various scenarios below.
What to do if: the Laptop Turns on and Boots
If the laptop turns on and boots, the next thing to do is to test the batteries to ensure they are not dying. To do so, load your operating system and leave the laptop power brick plugged in until the battery says it's fully charged. You can determine this by going to the task bar near the clock - you should see a battery symbol. Hover your mouse over top of the symbol to determine its charge.
Once the battery is charged, it's time to do a load test. For this I recommend you download Prime95; once installed, run a 'torture test' on the system with the laptop power brick removed (so it's only running on battery). You will also want to disable the laptop sleep mode, if it is enabled so that the laptop doesn't fall asleep in the middle of the test. To disable sleep mode: click Start, then type in "power options"; wait for Power Options to appear in the list, then click it. The Power Options window will appear; click the "change plan settings" link and on the following page, it will say "Put the computer to sleep" - select "Never".
Once the prime95 torture test begins, note the battery level and time remaining in the tray bar - then keep an eye on the laptop every 15 minutes or so to see if the battery is draining at a steady rate. If it remains relatively steady, then you are good to go and nothing else needs to be done. If the charge drops off fast, then you will need to replace the battery. Refer to the heading "replacing laptop batteries" below for more info.
What to do if: the Laptop Won't Turn On and Won't Boot
If the laptop won't turn on and won't boot, the next step would be to buy a new laptop battery. Some laptops won't boot without a battery, or if a dead battery is attached. Replacing the battery should fix this problem. Batteries on eBay are fairly cheap - around $20 or slightly more - so this is an inexpensive option. Refer to the heading "replacing laptop batteries," described next more info.
Replacing Laptop Batteries - On the Cheap
If you need to replace the laptop batteries, take note of the model # of the battery and its mAh rating (power rating) - it is usually written on the battery itself. Once you have this information, go on eBay and search for the model # and mAh rating. Usually batteries on eBay sell for a fraction of the price of what you would normally pay if you purchased it from the manufacturer. Try and find a battery with the same or higher mAh rating. Also, try and find a seller from your country with a refund guarantee, in case this option doesn't pan out and you want to return the battery. Note that you will have to pay the return shipping to send the battery back to the seller if you plan on returning it.
What to do if: the Laptop Won't Turn On, Even after Replacing the Battery
If you've purchased a new battery and the laptop still doesn't turn on, the next step is to purchase a new power brick. The idea here is that the original battery may have discharged after the laptop sat for a while, and your laptop power brick may have died at the same time. Replacing the power brick may fix the issue. Search eBay for the model # of the power brick with the exact same power ratings (example: 90 watts) and purchase one from a seller in your area with a refund guarantee, so that you can return it if it doesn't pan out. Note that you will have to pay the return shipping to send the power back to the seller if you plan on returning it.
What to do if: Laptop Turns on, but Won't Boot
If the laptop turns on but does not boot the operating system, you will want to take note of any error messages or conditions that appear on the screen. For example, if it says something like "NTLDR missing" then you will have to fix the boot sector of the drive - usually you can do this by booting from a Windows DVD and then use the "repair" option.
If all you get is a flashing cursor in the top left of the screen, then you will likely want to test the hard drive for errors. Another thing to look at is the BIOS boot sequence, as this information may have been lost due to a drained battery (and especially if the laptop is old and the internal CMOS battery is also dead). In this case you will want to ensure that the hard drive is set as #1 or #2 in the list of boot sequence. Entering the BIOS / CMOS / "Setup" is different for every machine - usually it's DEL, sometimes it's F2, etc - search the Internet for "enter bios << laptop name >>" for instructions. You can also look at videos over on Youtube for "how to enter BIOS laptop", for example.
To test the hard drive for surface errors: take the drive out of the laptop and plug it into another machine, then do a full surface scan of the drive. For this I usually use Macrorit Disk Scanner (freeware) to check for bad sectors. If you have bad sectors, you will likely want to replace the drive and reinstall Windows fresh.
These are only a few possibilities as to why a laptop won't boot, though there are many more. If the suggestions in this part of the article are too technical for you, I may be able to help you troubleshoot the issue 1-on-1 using my remote desktop support service (for a nominal fee) - but only if you have access to another machine so that we can connect over the Internet. Simply contact me briefly describing the situation and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.
If this is not an option, then I suggest you take the laptop to a local repair shop.
What to do if: Laptop Won't Turn On after New Battery, New Power Brick, HD Tested
If the laptop doesn't turn on after you've purchased a new battery AND a new power brick, AND you've tested the hard drive, then the next step is to try and reseat the RAM. If the laptop was jostled, the RAM may need reseating, though this does not happen very often. In this case, improperly seated RAM can prevent the machine from turning on.
To reseat the RAM: unplug the battery and power brick, then flip the laptop over and look at the back for a compartment - you will likely need a small screw driver to open it up. Once you find the RAM, take the chips out, then put them back in.
IMPORTANT: discharge yourself before touching the RAM chips (and only ever touch the chips on the sides - NEVER touch the chips themselves and NEVER touch the gold part), as static electricity can easily kill your RAM chips. You can discharge yourself by touching a wall power outlet screw (these are usually grounded). Once the RAM is back in, try turning on the laptop. If you've never done this before you can look at Youtube for videos on "how to replace ram in a laptop" or such.
If it still doesn't work, proceed to the next step.
What to do if: Laptop Won't Turn On after New Battery, New Power Brick, HD Tested, RAM Reseated
If the laptop doesn't work after you've replaced the battery AND power brick AND tested the hard drive AND reseated the RAM, then it's likely a safe bet that the laptop is dead. It may be cheaper to replace the laptop with a used model or to purchase a new one. If this is the case, and you need help transferring your files over from the old laptop to the new one, I can assist using my remote desktop service - simply send me an email briefly describing the issue and I'll get back to you as soon as possible.
I hope that helps.
Additional 1-on-1 Support: From Dennis
Troubleshooting a laptop that won't turn on or boot isn't always easy, though I've carefully outlined the "basics" in this article. If all of this is over your head and you need further assistance, you are more than welcome to contact me for additional 1-on-1 support using my remote desktop service. Note that you will need another computer to work from (other than the laptop that is having the issue) - so that we can chat over the desktop. Simply contact me, briefly describing the problem and I'll get back to you as soon as possible.
Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!
I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question -- or even a computer problem that needs fixing -- please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.
About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of Infopackets.com. With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.
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