Although replacing or repairing faulty hardware might be beyond your capabilities, there are a few hardware-related problems that you can deal with yourself. These problems will often result in intermittent PC crashes and while there are no guarantees, they’re so easy you might as well give them a try.
The first of these problems is the accumulation of dirt. If this clogs up the fans then the processor or other sensitive components could over-heat, leading to occasional system crashes. What’s more, some types of dust can act as a partial conductor of electricity with the obvious consequences if it lands on the motherboard or expansion cards.
You can probably unblock the PC’s main fan without taking your PC apart and you can safely do this with an ordinary vacuum cleaner. However, if you open up your PC to clean the insides, and especially the motherboard, you need to be aware of the risk of static damage.
Don’t touch any of the internal parts with your fingers or with a brush as this could cause a static build-up. It’s been reported that mains powered vacuum cleaners also generate static electricity so avoid those too. The best thing to use is a compressed air aerosol which is intended specifically for this job or, failing that, use a hand-held battery-powered vacuum cleaner but be sure to keep it at least a few inches from any electronic components (fans are ok).
Photo credit: Truong Manh An
Something else to check is that all the components that are in sockets are properly seated as this could be the cause of bad connections and hence intermittent crashes.
Graphics cards, memory modules and connections to your hard drive and optical drive can all be unplugged and reinserted. Be sure not to touch the pins or electrical contacts on the components, again because of the risk of static damage and, ideally, use an anti-static wrist band.
You might find it helpful to get hold of a software utility to monitor the health of your system hardware as this will help you to spot problems such as high temperatures and fans not running correctly. There are plenty to choose from – many of them free – such as HWMonitor from www.cpuid.com, for example.