Since I'm the "computer expert" among my friends and family, I often get those late night phone calls and e-mails asking me what's wrong with their computer. I'll be honest. It does get quite frustrating and annoying at times when people start off with "What did I do?" I understand that they're only asking me because they trust I can do a good job, and they really don't have anyone else to turn to.
When I start fixing a computer, 99% of the problems I see are software related. Most of the time it is you, the user that wrecks, breaks, crashes, or kills your computer. Sorry, I have to be blunt about it, but it's true. New processors, hard drives, video cards, memory and motherboards are just inanimate objects we can lay blame to.
Most of the time the main problem with these broken computers I tend to are due to too many programs loading up at start up. All those little programs add up, and sometimes eat up all the system resources.
Every now and then though, I do see a hardware problem and the first thing I do when I turn the computer on is listen to how it beeps.
When the computer makes those funny sound via the system speaker, it's not doing it because it wants to be heard. The computer is trying to talk to the operator/technician and tell them what's wrong. In testing computer components on and off for the last three to four years, I find that almost all motherboards adhere to the IBM BIOS standard beep codes... I think a few OEM's have developed their own or use Phoenix or AMI beep codes, but for the most part motherboard manufacturers uses the IBM based ones because they are grandfathered in.
Beep Code: Description of Problem:
No Beeps Short, No power, Bad CPU/MB, Loose Peripherals
One Beep Everything is normal and Computer POSTed fine
Two Beeps POST/CMOS Error
One Long Beep, One Short Beep Motherboard Problem
One Long Beep, Two Short Beeps Video Problem
One Long Beep, Three Short Beeps Video Problem
Three Long Beeps Keyboard Error
Repeated Long Beeps Memory Error
Continuous Hi-Lo Beeps CPU Overheating
So as you can see, if your computer doesn't start up and starts beeping away like a mime you can start the process of figuring out what is wrong by stopping for a second and listening. From a single beep which tells you everything is okay, to three long beeps which indicate a keyboard error to the siren like Hi-Lo beeps that tell you the CPU is overheating - listening to your computer is good!
As you become more and more experienced with computers, friends and family will naturally start to bring sick computers to your door to fix. When that happens, or when your own machine suddenly stops working, try listening to it first and see if it tells you what's wrong. If you are able to diagnose the problem just by listening to it, you will surely impress all your computer friends!