PC World Talks To CEO David Milman on Damage from Power Outages

Power Outages and Surges Can Cause Major Headaches for PC Users

What to do when a power outage or surge damages your PC

By PCWorld on Jan 21, 2016 3:30 AM

You may be able to revive the PC, or at least retrieve any files stored on it.

Sharon Hanan wants to know what to do about her husband’s PC. A power outage left it unusable.

Electricity doesn’t always behave itself. Sometimes a power surge can fry a piece of your computer, rendering it useless. A surge protector significantly reduces the risk, but it’s still a possibility. And yes, a power outage often ends with a power surge.

Should an electrical disaster leave your PC useless, you’ll want to protect your data, and then figure out what’s damaged. It’s easier and cheaper to replace a power supply than a whole computer.

If you don’t have a backup of your data (and you should), recovering your library files is your first priority. See my instructions on recovering files from a dead PC (you can probably skip the part about Safe Mode).


Power supply

Once you have your files back (assuming the disaster didn’t ruin your hard drive or SSD—more on that below), you need to figure out which part of your PC is fried. You can get a good idea by how it fails to boot.

If the PC doesn’t turn on at all—no lights, no sounds—the problem might be the motherboard (more on that below), but it’s probably the power supply. If you have a tower PC, that’s a reasonably inexpensive and easy replacement. You can buy power supplies anywhere and likely swap them out yourself.

That’s not the case with a laptop. Unless you’re extremely skilled at this sort of thing, I’d recommend taking it to a professional.

If your PC turns on, then turns off again, it’s probably the motherboard. But there’s also a slight possibility that the information in the CMOS has been scrambled. To find out, find the small, coin-like battery on the motherboard. Remove it, wait five minutes, insert it again, and reboot. You may be in luck.

But if that doesn’t solve the problem, it’s your motherboard. In that case, you should probably buy a new computer. A new motherboard effectively gives you a new computer anyway.

If you really want your old computer back, you might recover it with a motherboard identical to the original. David Milman of computer repair company Rescuecom told me, “we can [often] find replacement motherboards on eBay for under $100.00, and putting them in usually takes between 1-2 hours.”

If your PC boots to the BIOS screen, or an error message, or just a blinking cursor, the damage is probably to your internal hard drive or SSD. (You may have already discovered this when you tried to restore your data files.) You can replace the drive relatively easily. The hard part, if you don’t have an image backup, is reinstalling your operating system and programs, and recovering your data files. You’ll probably have to send the drive to a data recovery service and hope for the best.

Google Reviews

E. Caldwell
E. Caldwell
in the last week
Rescue SAVED MY LIFE!!! Hallelujah for them! I have a business & I participate in other activit
...Rescue SAVED MY LIFE!!! Hallelujah for them! I have a business ~amp~ I participate in other activities. I've worked w/ Bill the most -- very professional individual. Thx U Bill, David, Forrester, ~amp~ all you guys. I don't know what I would have done w/o you. less
Sabrina Ali
Sabrina Ali
in the last week
My experience was wonderful. Bill was patient and accommodating. The issue I had, he resolved it. It
...My experience was wonderful. Bill was patient and accommodating. The issue I had, he resolved it. It was a pleasure working with him. less
marjorie gaitan
marjorie gaitan
in the last week
Thank you William at Rescuecom for addressing and resolving my issues.
...Thank you William at Rescuecom for addressing and resolving my issues. less
Howard Reviews
Howard Reviews
a week ago
Rescuecom has been the most professional and knowledgeable group that I have ever dealt with in rega
...Rescuecom has been the most professional and knowledgeable group that I have ever dealt with in regard to my major computer problems.David, Bill and Forrest have helped fix my computer issues which other companies couldn't fix.I was glad i signed up with Rescuecom after researching many other computer companies. Thanks again guys. less
View all Google reviews

Featured in:


Feature Inthe New York TimesFOX NEWSUSA TodayComputer WorldCNNForbes