If you suspect a hardware failure in your computer the only way to confirm this is to do a few tests. This greatly depends on where the hardware failure lies . For example it is easy to test a hard drive or the computer memory but it is not easy to test a computers processor or motherboard.
Tests for Hardware Failure
Is My Hard Drive Failing?
Firstly, the most obvious way to tell if you have a problem with your hard drive is to listen to it. Most of the time the old magnetic hard drives make a clicking noise or even struggle to deliver the files to you and you can hear this very clearly. This is not a good sign and you should be preparing for hardware failure.
Other than the obvious signs, most hard drives have a self-monitoring analysis and reporting technology (SMART) included. This technology works for both solid-state drives and magnetic drives. There are a number of programs that will actually read the smart data on the hard drive and let you know what is wrong with it.
HD Tune is a free program that will report on your drive health and also tests drive performance and scans for disk errors.
Is My Computer Memory Still Good?
A computer memory failure can cause crazy problems on your computer. There are so many symptoms that I do not know where to begin. It can cause the computer to restart, for Windows to not start at all, a computer black screen, and far more.
I do not recommend touching or removing computer memory, but sometimes that can be the only option. for example if you removed the problem memory stick the computer would essentially be fixed immediately and simply work with the remaining memory in the computer.
Also there is a free program called MemFree86+ that you can burn to a cd and use to test your computer memory. There are many more free hardware diagnostic tools but they are not all as good as they promise.
Graphics Card Testing
Graphics cards work hard inside the computer and sometimes can get very hot when processing a large amount of graphics. If the graphics card expands too much it starts to crack and these cracks hamper the flow of electricity to the entire card. When the card cools down again the problem seem to be gone, that is until it gets hot again.
You can test the performance of your graphics card by using 3D benchmarking software that will expose shortfalls and errors. Novabench is a benchmarking program that is free and will show you some details about your graphics card but 3DMark by Furturemark.com is probably the best.
Giving Your Fans A Run
The first thing you should do when trying to determine if your fans are running, is to simply listen. If you cannot hear your fans running then you need to look into this problem further. Obviously it is better to open your computer case when listening to the fan because you will immediately see the ones that are not moving.
If you are using a laptop then you should be able to feel air coming from the vents at the side of your laptop. If your laptop is hot and there is no air coming out then your fans are not working. Replacing the fan inside a a laptop is not for the non technical person so I would suggest you take it to the repair shop. Maybe they can give it a good clean while it is there.
Testing Motherboard And CPU Problems
If your motherboard and CPU have a problem then your computer is a good as rubbish, that is until the problem is fixed.
If your computer will not boot at all then you can try replacing these components to see if that helps. Unfortunately not many people have a spare motherboard or CPU hanging around so it may be more difficult than you think.
Even if you computer will boot, it is not easy for a novice to tell if there is a problem with these computer components, but luckily there is a handy tool we can all use. It is called a Power-On Self-Test (POST) code reader and it costs around $10. This little card plugs into your computer and reads the codes from the computer when it boots.
See more details about how to diagnose hardware failure using POST.