Fix or replace? Troubleshooting tips for common laptop problems and issues.
Because you need a charger to power on without battery power, there are so many different issues that might also appear to be a problem with your charger. Other than the charger, a laptop that refuses to power on might have a problem with its power button, power IC, motherboard, CPU, or some other component. The best way to troubleshoot a charger problem is fairly straightforward, which is to try replacing the charger.
Cord Short Circuit
A pinched cable can break the insulation on the individual wires inside and cause a short circuit. Sharp bends or folds along a charger’s cords may also cause a short circuit. If your laptop is not charging or refuses to power on when plugged in, inspect the charger’s cords for burnt or melted parts. Never plug in a damaged laptop charger, as they carry the risk of electrocution and fire.
A charger that is not compatible may cause damage to your laptop or itself. To be compatible Don’t forget to make sure that a charger is compatible with your laptop before testing it. Ideally, your charger’s output voltage and amperage should match the input voltage and amperage of your laptop. An underpowered charger may result in a “plugged in, not charging” error message, or the battery not charging when powered on.
Laptop keyboards have an average lifespan of about 50 million keystrokes, which depending on the type of use a laptop sees, could mean anything from a couple of years to a decade or more. But while heavier use can cause a keyboard to fail earlier than otherwise, most keyboards fail because of other reasons, like dust build-up, heavier keystrokes, and spills.
Keyboard Not Responding
If your keyboard is unresponsive when you type, try to rule out software or utilities. Some laptops have a keyboard lock feature that prevents keys from being pressed; check whether your laptop has such a feature and make sure that it’s not currently on.
If you’ve ruled out a software problem, try checking the keyboard’s ribbon cable. You’ll have to do some disassembly to get to the underneath of your keyboard. The flat ribbon cable may have been dislodged, or the connectors may have been corroded.
If reconnecting the cable does not work, you may have to replace the keyboard component. Depending on your laptop’s design, the keyboard part may include other components as well, such as parts of the chassis, the power button, or the touchpad. In the meantime, a temporary solution may be a USB, PS2, or Bluetooth keyboard.
Keyboard Typing By Itself
If your keyboard is sending keystrokes by itself, even when you aren’t pressing any keys, keys may be stuck. Before replacing the keyboard, try checking the keys and seeing if you can physically dislodge any stuck or pressed-down keys. Even if a key doesn’t appear to be pressed down, try tapping it repeatedly with a little bit of force.
Keyboard Typing Wrong Characters
Your keyboard may be defective if pressing a key produces different or unexpected keystrokes. Before replacing your keyboard, try ruling out these issues.
- Macros/keybinds – Have you recently installed a new program? You may be software running that binds certain keys or keystrokes to different keys, resulting in keys either not working, or producing keystrokes other than the default.
- Numpad – Most laptops that are 14 inches or smaller have a tenkeyless (TKL) which is a keyboard that does not include the dedicated number keys usually found on the right-hand side of full-size keyboards, commonly known as a numpad. Some laptops feature a function switch that allows certain letter keys to function as a numpad, to the confusion of users who may not be familiar with the feature.
Keyboard Backlight Dead
Keyboards that have backlights may see the backlight fail before the keyboard does. Try to check if the cable powering the backlight is loose or disconnected. Backlit LCDs usually have a smaller flat cable in addition to the thick ribbon cable.
If the LEDs themselves have failed, you can try to replace them. Unfortunately, because of the way that most of these components are designed, there may not be a way to replace the backlight LEDs only, and you may have to either replace the entire keyboard component or make do without backlighting.
All laptop batteries have a limited number of cycles in them. One charge cycle is essentially the equivalent of one charger down from 100% down to 0%, then a charge back up to 100%. With most modern laptop batteries, you can expect to get about 500 full cycles before it starts to show signs of reduced battery life. At this mark, while it’s still perfectly usable, you may start to notice that a full charge doesn’t last as long as it used to. At an age of about 1000 cycles, most =laptop batteries will have a capacity much lower than their original capacity. Eventually, with enough use, a battery will no longer be able to hold a charge strong enough to power your laptop.
Aside from normal wear and tear, other things can accelerate the deterioration of a battery. Power surges, incorrect voltages, or exposure to extreme hot or cold temperatures can damage a battery’s cells, its electrical contact points, or the proprietary chips or boards that some manufacturers incorporate into their laptop batteries.
Battery Not Detected
Physical damage to a battery can knock internal connections loose, break internal components, cause cells to leak, or prevent the terminals (the metal components that connect to your laptop) from fully connecting with your laptop. If this happens, your laptop may show a “battery not detected” error.
Take out your battery and inspect it for signs of damage. Check if there are contact problems or bent pins. If you find any, pushing or bending them back into the correct position may fix the issue. Be careful not to accidentally create a short circuit, which may damage your battery, harm your laptop, or even cause fire or injury.
If you can’t see any signs of physical damage, your battery may be dead and need replacement. Alternatively, the components in your laptop that handle detecting the battery may be damaged. The only way to know for sure is to try replacing the battery.
Laptop Dies When Unplugged
If your battery is in just good enough condition to get detected by your laptop and report a charge level but has deteriorated past the point where it can provide a meaningful charge, your laptop may detect the battery and report it as fully charged, but shut down once you disconnect your charger. In these cases, you’ll have to replace your battery.
Battery Not Charging
Sometimes, a battery can be detected by your system, but be unable to hold a charge. Your system may display a “plugged in, not charging” message. Alternatively, you may see a charging message, but notice that the actual charge levels never move, sometimes remaining stuck at 0% or some other number.
In these cases, the most likely scenario is that your battery can no longer hold a sufficient charge, either due to wear and tear, a factory defect, or other damage. You can try the following to make sure:
- Unplug test – If your laptop turns on when the charger is plugged in but shuts down once it’s unplugged, the battery may be defective.
- Use software tools – Some laptops come with pre-installed manufacturer utilities that let you analyze your battery. These utilities will typically be able to report things like battery health, how many cycles it may have left in it, or whether or not you need your battery needs replacement.
- Check your charger – If you try to use a charger with an amperage that is too low, you may be unable to charge your laptop while it is powered on. Make sure that your charger has the correct voltage, and that the output amperage on your charger is equivalent to or greater than the input amperage on your laptop.
Laptop Shuts Down on Full Battery
If your laptop manages to run unplugged on battery power sometimes, but suddenly unpredictable dies even when the battery is showing sufficient charge levels, it’s possible that you may have a battery problem. But there are so many other things that could be going on that you should try to rule out first.
- Check heat levels – Laptops have built-in safety features which include shutting down automatically if temperatures get too high. Extreme temperatures may be due to various reasons, like excessive CPU usage, malware, or dust buildup.
- Check Power Settings – Make sure that the shutdowns are abnormal and not just due to your laptop being set to shut itself down after inactivity.
- Calibrate battery – Sometimes, right after installing a new battery, a laptop may appear to shut down prematurely. Alternatively, it may stay powered on hours after reporting its battery empty. These issues arise when a laptop is not reporting or recognizing the actual charge level of a battery. In these cases, it isn’t the battery itself that has a problem, it’s just that the laptop hasn’t learned how to accurately gauge the charge level of the new battery, and thus is reporting an incorrect charge level. This may be solved by calibration. You can use your laptop’s built-in calibration tool if it has one; otherwise, you can try to calibrate manually.
- Check Memory – Faulty memory sticks can cause your laptop to shut down. If you have more than one stick, try removing them one at a time and testing if the issue persists. If removing one of the sticks solves the issue, that means you’ll have to replace that stick. You may also be able to do without it, however, your programs will have less memory to work with.
If you manage to rule out these things, it’s reasonable to move on to try replacing the battery. Unfortunately, if a new battery doesn’t solve the problem, you most likely have problems with other critical components, like the motherboard or CPU.
Broken LCD Screen
Laptop screens are both among the most commonly damaged and most expensive parts of a laptop. Unfortunately, due to their complexity, there is no practical way to repair an LCD screen once it sustains physical damage. A broken or shattered LCD screen, or a screen with black cracks that may or may not slowly grow larger, needs replacement.
Touchscreen-enabled laptops have a touch digitizer laid over their LCD display panel. If the surface of the screen appears shattered or cracked, but the display underneath appears intact, you may be able to simply replace the touch digitizer without replacing the LCD display.
Some on-cell touchscreen LCD panels utilize on-cell technology where the display and digitizer are technically separate parts; however, they are manufactured in a way that both are combined in a single component by the time they leave the factory. In these cases, buying a replacement digitizer by itself may not be an option, and you may have to replace the entire assembly.
Fuzzy Display / Snow
An LCD screen displaying static is most likely to be an issue with either the panel itself, the cable, the motherboard, or the GPU. You may see an image distorted with dots, lines, or other patterns, or you may see nothing other than distorted static.
Diagnose the issue by attaching an external monitor to your laptop using a VGA, DVI, HDMI, or DisplayPort cable. If an external monitor works without issue, that means that the problem is either the LCD panel itself or its connection or cable. If an external monitor experiences the same issue, the GPU or motherboard may be the problem.
Dead pixels are pixels that, due to a manufacturing defect or damage, remain permanently dark when powered on. There is no way to repair a dead pixel, fortunately, one or two inconspicuous dead pixels shouldn’t prove to be anything more than a minor annoyance. However, multiple dead pixels, especially if they are clumped together, or right in the center of the screen, can severely impact viewing. If this is the case, you may want to replace the LCD panel.
Stuck pixels that remain stuck on a particular color. They become obvious when displaying a solid color on the whole screen, like when using a Dead Pixel Checker. Stuck pixels may be temporary or permanent. You can try using a stuck pixel repair tool like JScreenFix to see if it fixes the issue.