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A tool-free way to fix your computers, even some appliances: The true “cold boot”

January 17, 2011 · 8 comments

I’ve kept an air conditioner running years after it stopped turning on, and fixed some seemingly impossible-to-diagnose computer problems, all in seconds without any tools. This is possible because electrical charges can build up on some circuit boards (like the motherboard in your computer), and removing those charges can be just the magic you need.

The true “cold boot:”

Boot means to start or restart, and here’s how you can achieve a true “cold boot” on your computer. Yes, it’s completely safe:

  1. Shut down your computer normally—once it is completely off, unplug the power cord. Yup, unplug the power cord to the computer.
  2. Hold in the power button for 20+ seconds to drain voltages off the motherboard (yes, it is unplugged and you are acting like you are trying to turn it on!). Waiting that long before restarting will also reset your RAM memory;
  3. Plug the power cord back in and start as usual.

About laptops

If you have a laptop, remove the battery completely for a brief period. That may be all you need to fix things. Holding down the power button after removing the battery can be a good idea, but there can be a number of difference between laptops, so do this at your own risk. (However, I’ve done it on many laptops and netbooks over the years without any trouble.)

More tips for computer problems

If you are trying to fix a problem on a Windows computer, even better is to restart in safe mode, shut down and then do a cold boot. A safe mode start plus a cold boot will bring you back from a number of problems. Safe mode reinitializes Windows to a degree, and can clear out some issues completely.

Also: clean out your computer twice a year! The dust and hair that gets in there lowers the ability of your machine to cool itself, and heat shortens the life of the small electrical components in your machine. Too much heat can even destroy them suddenly, such as running a dust-clogged computer in a hot room.

Tip: If a program ever asks you to restart, choose “No,” shut down any running programs, and do a cold boot. Never click OK when a program asks you to restart—always do it yourself after manually shutting down any running programs.

Fixing air conditioners? Appliances?

Pretty much the same steps: Unplug the device, hold down the power button for 20+seconds, plug in and restart. Try it! This is an especially good idea if you have a device that has any kind of ionizer built in (which you may not realize is in may air filters). Ionizers can contribute to electrical charges building up.

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1 Twana G. Greco February 6, 2014 at 6:19 am

All my appliance are all unplug before i sleep. I see to it that all are unplug not just to conserve energy also because for a longer use of it.


2 Steve February 17, 2013 at 5:50 am

An addition ‘cold boot’ fix for your hard drive. If you know it’s going bad, sometimes removing it, then placing it in a zip lock bag, (to keep out moisture), then in the freezer for a few hours, may let you get your data back! P.S. -> don’t forget to plug it back into your PC…;-)


3 Kim Reynolds September 26, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Thanks so much for the tip. I retweeted it…hopefully, that counts as my good deed for the day! Kim 🙂 @qwikrme_


4 Khaled A September 25, 2011 at 3:32 am

Nice tips, thanks


5 Ken Mabry September 24, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Do you unplug the power cord from the wall outlet or from the back of the computer? Or does it matter?


6 Dave Larson September 26, 2011 at 6:30 pm

It doesn’t matter. Good question 🙂


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