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Heat and movement

Computers are of course made out of rocks. Rocks that we taught to think using lightning mind you, but rocks nonetheless. So there is a more primitive aspect to them. One of those aspects is, like most metals, they react to heat, and parts of them expand and contract accordingly. This is generally not a problem for laptops, because so much of them is made out of plastic and/or designed to quickly dissipate heat. But desktop computers are another story.

One thing which may happen to you as we come into the hot season is that, as the case and other components of your computer expand with the heat, either a RAM (memory) stick or PCIe card (often a graphics card) may imperceptibly 'pop out' of their slot on the motherboard. A tell-tale symptom of this is that the computer stops booting, or only boots intermittently. There are many reasons why a computer may boot intermittently, but this is a common one to consider at this time of year, going from cold into hot weather.

To check if this is the problem, and to fix it if it is, all that is required is to pop the RAM stick or PCIe card out of their socket (pretty simple to do, there are catches that you have to loosen in either case, but describing the process is beyond the scope of this article), then pop them back in again. If the computer boots after this point, you've probably found your culprit. Of course you need to make sure you're doing this safely - keep the power off at the wall, keep one hand on the metal of the case at all times (or use an antistatic strap), and never touch the gold connectors on the card/stick.

These sorts of things can also happen going into the cold of winter, and for the same reasons - the metal contraction causes movement, which sometimes dislodges something. Even things like power supply cables can sometimes be slightly pushed out. All circuitry eventually dies for this reason - the expansion/contraction of the metals causes micro-fractures over time, which eventually stops circuits from connecting. Luckily, most computers last a good long time nowadays despite the earth's rotation around the sun. Rocks powered by lightning that stop working because of the movement of the planet, wielded by the descendants of apes. How very primitive.

- Matt Bentley, computer expert at Bentley Home PC Support.
Email info@homepcsupport.co.nz or phone 0211348576.

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