How do you fix a computer that won t turn on but has power?

Quick Overview

There are a few common reasons why a computer won’t turn on even though it has power:

– Faulty power supply – The power supply inside the computer could be damaged and no longer delivering power properly. This is one of the most common reasons for this problem.

– Loose connections – If internal cables or connectors inside the computer are loose or disconnected, it could prevent power from reaching key components needed for startup.

– Faulty motherboard – The motherboard distributes power to all components, so a damaged motherboard can prevent startup even with working power supply.

– Faulty power button – If the power button itself is damaged or improperly connected, pressing it won’t start the computer.

– BIOS issues – Outdated or misconfigured BIOS settings can sometimes prevent startup and need to be reset.

– Short circuit – A damaged component creating a short in the motherboard can cause immediate shutdown when power is applied.

Troubleshooting Steps

Here are some steps to troubleshoot and fix a computer that won’t power on:

1. Verify the outlet and cables – Make sure the outlet is working and computer cables are undamaged and properly connected at both ends.

2. Check the power supply – Listen and smell for signs of a damaged power supply when attempting to turn on. Test with a known good supply if possible.

3. Reseat components – Open the case and reseat major components like RAM, graphics card, and internal cables by removing and reinserting them.

4. Eliminate short circuit – Inspect for signs of loose screws or metal contact creating a short on the motherboard.

5. Test power button – Use a screwdriver to short the power switch pins on the motherboard instead of pressing the case button.

6. Clear CMOS – Reset the BIOS to default settings by locating the CMOS clear jumper and moving the jumper cap to clear for a few seconds before moving it back.

7. Replace motherboard – If testing confirms no power reaching components, the issue likely points to a damaged motherboard needing replacement.

Common Power Issues

Here are some of the most common power related issues that can cause failure to turn on:

Faulty Power Supply

The computer’s internal power supply converts outlet power to usable voltages for components. It contains capacitors, transistors, and coils that can fail over time. Signs include:

– No fan spin or LEDs when pressing the power button
– Burning smell from the power supply
– Visual damage like bulging top or leaking fluid
– Intermittent ability to power on temporarily
– Computer randomly losing power under load

A failed power supply will need replacement with a compatible unit for the model computer.

Loose Connections

All power and data cables inside the computer connect to the motherboard, drives, fans and other components. If these become loose from cable fraying or vibration, power flow can be interrupted. Signs of loose connections:

– Computer powering off randomly
– Intermittent ability to turn on
– Individual components like drives or fans not powering up

Reseating cables and connections can often resolve contact issues. Wiggling cables while powered on may activate a loose connection.

Faulty Power Button

The power button on the computer case connects to specific power switch pins on the motherboard. This triggers the power supply to turn on and power up the components. If the button is damaged or connections are loose, it won’t send the “on” signal. Signs include:

– No response from pressing power button
– Power button feels stuck or loose
– Damage to power button or housing

Testing power switch pins with a screwdriver can bypass the case button. If computer starts, the button needs replacement or internal cable reseating.

Motherboard and Electrical Issues

Problems beyond the power supply can also prevent a successful boot up. These include:

Faulty Motherboard

The motherboard distributes the power supply’s voltages to all other internal components through a series of conductive traces. If these traces are damaged from overheating or physical damage, power flow is disrupted. Signs of motherboard failure:

– No signs of life at all when pressing power
– Individual components not turning on
– Burn marks around traces or ports

Diagnosing a dead motherboard usually requires replacement. However, first eliminate other possibilities like the power supply and connections.

BIOS Settings

The BIOS settings control how the motherboard allocates power and detects hardware. If these become corrupt or configured incorrectly, it could prevent startup. Signs of this:

– Computer previously working then fails to POST
– Prior overclocking or BIOS update
– POST error beeps or codes

Resetting the CMOS can erase any problematic custom settings causing boot failure. This returns the BIOS to factory defaults.

Short Circuits

A short circuit can instantly kill power to a motherboard before the startup process finishes. This may be from loose screws near the board, damaged insulation, or leaking fluid. Signs of short circuit failure:

– Instantly powers off when hitting the switch
– Evidence of moisture or carbon burns
– Metallic debris in electronics
– Prior liquid spill or impact damage

Inspect closely for accidental shorts, isolate the shorted component if possible, and check for damaged parts needing replacement.

Step-by-Step Diagnosis and Repair

Follow these steps to methodically diagnose and repair a computer that won’t power on:

1. Verify Power at the Outlet:

– Plug in a different device like a lamp to ensure the outlet is working
– Try a different power cable if available
– Test the cable with a multimeter for correct voltages
– Inspect the cable for damaged wires or severed connections
– Make sure any power strips are turned on and functioning

2. Check the Power Supply:

– Listen for any sounds from the power supply like buzzing or clicking
– Smell for any burning or smoke coming from the unit
– Look for damage like leaking fluid or bulging capacitors
– Check that the internal fan spins when attempting to power on
– Verify the power supply cables are firmly plugged into the motherboard

3. Reseat Components and Connections:

– Press down firmly on major components like RAM and graphics cards to reseat them
– Reconnect all motherboard power cables and data cables
– Check that power switch, reset switch, and LED cables are properly connected
– Remove and reinsert CMOS battery for 30 seconds

4. Test Power Switch:

– Use a screwdriver to short the power pins on the motherboard instead of the case button
– Check for obstructions if the button is stuck
– Replace case power switch if shorting pins turns computer on

5. Clear CMOS Settings:

– Refer to motherboard or case guide for jumper location and process
– Power computer off, move clear CMOS jumper, wait 30 seconds
– Replace jumper and power on, BIOS settings should reset to default

6. Replace Faulty Power Supply:

– Test with known good power supply if available
– Purchase replacement suited for form factor and power rating
– When installing, connect all motherboard power cables correctly
– Do not use cables from old supply with a new power supply

7. Replace Motherboard:

– If testing confirms no power reaching components, motherboard likely needs replacement
– Purchase replacement compatible with your CPU socket and features
– Carefully connect cables to proper pins and headers based on diagram
– Reinstall other components like RAM, CPU, drives into replacement

Preventing Future Power Problems

Some best practices to avoid repeat startup issues related to power include:

– Avoid cable clutter and strain inside computer case
– Periodically blow out dust using compressed air
– Shut down properly vs. force powering off
– Use a surge protector to avoid electrical spikes
– Maintain stable, high-quality power supply units
– Install updates to BIOS, OS, and drivers
– Only change BIOS when necessary and follow proper procedures
– Handle components properly avoiding static electricity discharge


Troubleshooting a computer that won’t boot up but has power requires methodically isolating the fault. Always start with outlets and cables before suspecting internal issues. Loose connections that prevent power flow are common and easily fixed by reseating components and wires. If the power supply is determined to be faulty or the motherboard is damaged and non-operational, these will need replacement with known good units. Following detailed diagnostics and testing power systematically can avoid unnecessary replacement of still-functional parts. With persistence and care, you can determine the true cause of failure and get an otherwise healthy computer successfully turning on again.