Get into the Guts of Your Computer - dummies

By Dan Gookin

When you are troubleshooting a PC problem, you may have to get into the guts of the computer. If you diagnose the problem using software tools and realize that a part needs to be replaced or added, you open the console to do that work.

Open the computer case

Before you can fix things inside the computer console, you must open the case.

  1. Back up the computer’s data if you haven’t done so recently.

  2. Set a system restore point in Windows.

  3. Turn off the computer.

  4. Unplug the computer.

    This step may seem unimportant because the computer is turned off, right?

    Actually, the computer isn’t turned off. It’s still using power. Look at the PC’s rump and you’ll probably see the network adapter light blinking. Yep, there’s still power.

    Unplug the power cord from the computer, not from the wall. Otherwise, someone may plug it back in “to help you out.”

  5. Remove the console case cover.

    Traditionally, computer cases are screwed shut; you find several screws on the rear of the case. Remove the screws with a screwdriver, though when they’re the large-and-knobby type of screw, you can twist them with your thumb and fingers. Set them aside and don’t lose them.

    Some computers lack screws and feature a case-release mechanism. You may see a button to press or a bar to lift. The case then slides or lifts open.

    After the case cover is released, remove it. Sometimes the whole cover comes sliding off, and at other times you may be removing just a side panel.

Watch Video 181 to see a demonstration of how to open the computer console.

Ground yourself while you work

You pose a threat to the computer’s electronics in the form of something called electrostatic discharge. The resulting spark can damage delicate electronic components.

To help prevent electrostatic discharge, ground yourself. by keeping one hand on the computer’s metal casing while you’re working. By touching both the casing and whatever you’re installing or removing, you reduce the chance of an electrical-component-killing electrostatic discharge.

Close the case

After meddling with your computer’s delicate components, you need to close the case and turn the system back on.

  1. Ensure that your job is complete.

    Check for any spare parts, screws, or other electronic detritus remaining from whatever operation you performed.

    Check any cables you might have loosened.

    Ensure that every latch, screw, and cover you removed has been properly replaced.

    Double-check to confirm that the installation was done properly.

  2. Replace the outside case, side, or lid.

    Do you remember how the thing was removed? Whether it slid off or swung up? Sometimes, a metal lip or some notches must be aligned to properly position and then slide the case back on. Don’t get frustrated! Don’t force anything.

  3. Don’t screw the lid shut just yet.

  4. Plug in the console.

  5. Turn on the computer.

    It should come up right away.

  6. If you haven’t yet screwed the lid shut, do so after confirming that the computer works just fine.

    If the upgrade didn’t work, you will need to go right back into the console. You save a step by not screwing the thing shut right away.

  • A computer’s case must be properly shut for the system to meet radio frequency interference (RFI) standards. These standards, monitored by the FCC in the United States, help keep the electronic noise generated by a computer inside the case from messing with other radio signals.

Watch Video 182 to see these steps demonstrated.