Tech Survival Guide: What to Do When Your Computer Breaks

Last Thursday, I was watching Netflix on my laptop when the screen froze, sputtered, and went black. To my horror, when I pressed the power button nothing happened. I tried and tried, but nothing could bring my computer back to life.

Anyone who has been in this situation knows the combination of confusion, frustration, and anxiety that I felt that night. While critical hardware failure is definitely a huge pain, it is not the end of the world. As someone who is currently dealing with this stressful situation, I would like to share some of the things I have learned about how to manage it.  

When your computer dies—and odds are this will happen to all of us at some point—the first step is to stay calm. It is important to remember that whatever the issue is, someone else has dealt with it before and there are almost definitely ways to fix it. Of course, having your computer die is going to be a burden, but freaking out about it does not fix it any faster. 

This leads me to my second step: Act fast. It is naïve to think that your computer will somehow fix itself after it dies. Do not wait around and hope it will be better in the morning. Bring your laptop to your college’s Information Technology Services (ITS) help desk or find a local computer repair shop (Absolutely PC in Claremont is great) as soon as possible. There are a lot of really knowledgeable people out there who can help you get up and running right away.  

If the issue is more serious, you’ll have to move on to the next step. As it turned out, the graphics card in my laptop had short-circuited. Without a working graphics card, my laptop cannot display anything on the screen. Thanks to the previous two steps, within 12 hours of my laptop dying, I knew what the problem was and how to fix it. While I was relieved to know exactly what had gone wrong, I was pretty upset that my laptop was useless without a new piece of hardware that would cost me several hundred dollars. 

My next piece of advice proved the most essential: Check your warranties! I had purchased my laptop the summer before my first year of college, so it is about two and half years old. Thankfully, when I went back and checked my warranties, I discovered that I had invested in a three-year warranty. I contacted my manufacturer and they quickly sent me a shipping label to send the laptop back to them so they could replace the broken part.  

However, if your laptop is not under warranty and you need to replace a critical component, it is important to follow the next step: Shop around. When purchasing computer hardware, there are a ton of options out there. Online retailers like Newegg and Tiger Direct have huge inventories of computer hardware. Do some research and find a good deal on exactly the part you need. Just make sure that what you’re buying is compatible with your machine. Nothing is more disappointing than receiving a new part in the mail only to discover that it will not work with your computer. If you are unsure about compatibility, you should definitely ask someone. Either call up your computer science-major buddy or talk to someone at ITS. If you would rather learn about component compatibility yourself, a quick Google search should give you all the information you need.   

After you follow the previous steps, there is really only one thing left to do: Wait. This is almost certainly the most difficult step in the process. However, there are some real benefits to this final step. For example, you’ll probably realize that the hours you spend procrastinating online could be better spent doing other things. When your go-to time waster is out of commission, you may find it easier to stay caught up on readings, or you could check out any number of events on campus and beyond. Go see a play, or attend a club meeting, or cheer at a water polo game (Pomona-Pitzer vs. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Saturday!). There is so much going on here at the 5Cs that being bored because you do not have a laptop is a pretty lame excuse. There was a time when nobody had laptops, smartphones, tablets, or any of the amazing pieces of technology we so readily take for granted. If they managed to have fun and fulfilling college experiences, so can you. 

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