How to Check for Causes of Electrical Shorts in a Computer

1
Check For Loose Screws

Picture of a teenager fixing a computer
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Electrical shorts inside a computer are usually caused by stray pieces of metal that form an electrical connection that shouldn't normally exist. Electrical shorts can cause the PC to power off without warning and without an error message. They can also cause the PC to not power on at all.

Warning: Always power off and unplug the PC before troubleshooting causes of electrical shorts. The computer should always be unplugged when working inside the case.

Electrical shorts inside the computer are often caused by stray screws in the case that have come in contact with the motherboard or other internal component. Screws are used to secure nearly every component to the inside of the case including video cards, sound cards, hard drives, optical drives, etc.

Pick up the computer case and gently rock it side to side. If you hear a rattling sound, a screw may have come loose and is rolling around inside your case. A few light shakes will usually knock it loose and onto the bottom of the case.

If the screw is lodged somewhere that you can't reach with your fingers, use a long pair of tweezers to remove it.

2
Inspect Cables & Wires For Exposed Metal

Electrical shorts inside a computer are sometimes caused by wires that have lost their protective coating and are making contact with internal components.

Inspect all of the cables inside the computer and if any are found to be frayed, replace them immediately.

Also, be sure to check any other wires inside the computer including twist ties and other wires that might be being used for cable organization. While most of these are now 100% plastic, some are metal and will wear over time.

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