Zombie laptop

Lesson of the day: Some laptops don’t spin up CPU fans or switch on the screen when powering up

So I had a laptop which stopped working. None of the lights came on except for the charger light when the battery & charger were connected. The power button didn’t do anything.

I assumed it wasn’t working because the CPU fan wasn’t spinning up after pressing the power button (like a desktop computer would.) I tried opening up the laptop, removing and connecting everything up outside of the case, which then got it working. The CPU fan doesn’t spin up at boot time, so it’s pretty hard to troubleshoot the issue.

Basic Checks

Something you can try first is to find the documentation for your laptop/notebook. Try to find the service manual as well.

Check your battery. Get hold of a multimeter and check out the voltages and currents coming out of the battery terminals. You may find the expected voltages/currents in the service manual. This way, you can tell if the battery is working or not. If your battery is working, it should allow you to start the laptop, even if the charger is having problems.

Check your charger. Check if the fuse has blown on the charger’s plug. Check for lights on your power adapter (charger). The charger is often the culprit.

Sometimes your charger is fine, but the charger connector on the laptop is messed up. In this case, you’ll have to wiggle the wire around, and hold it until the charging light shows. Make sure the battery is plugged in when you do this, otherwise the charging light wont show at all. Sometimes, a bit of pressure upwards/downwards or sideways does the trick and gets your charging light showing again.

If you are sure your battery isn’t dead, your battery holds charge, and/or your charger is working, then you can try the power button. Try holding it down for a couple of seconds, and wait around 10 seconds to see if it’s having any effect.

If your power button isn’t helping, you can try re-seating the RAM memory module. You should check your manual for how to do this.

If re-seating RAM doesn’t help, try removing and reinserting the hard disk drive.

You may have a problem with the graphics card/display. Some machines overheat after long periods and this messes up some of the parts and connections which get hot, like the graphics chip.


Your laptop isn’t worth spending a lot of money on to have it repaired? Take it apart and have a closer look. You’ll need a working battery and/or a power adapter, and a service manual to do this. Keep a log of the order in which you take out screws, and keep each group of screws separate. For example, I’d write,

Step 1: remove 3 screws securing keyboard to top of case, and then place them together

This way it makes it a lot easier to put it back together, you just follow the steps backwards. Don’t lose/mix up the screws, you won’t remember which ones go where.