Helpdesk: Flummoxed by flat screen flicker

A: There are plenty of possible reasons why that may happen, including a bad monitor or a bad power supply in the monitor. You'd need both hands to count all the other possible causes, such as a defective video card or loose connections between your computer and the monitor. SUse the process of elimination to pinpoint your problem. This diagnostic method can also be a great help in resolving problems with printers, keyboards and mice and other devices that connect to your computer. Substitute a device that you know is working for the suspect accessory. In this case, attach another monitor to your computer. If it works, you have narrowed the problem to your monitor. If problems persist it is likely -- but not certain -- that the cause of your problem is a bad cable, or loose cable connection, or bad video card. Try tightening all connections, and make sure the video card is firmly seated in its slot.

Q: My laptop computer gets hot to the touch on the bottom of the case. Is that normal. It works fine by the way.
Tom Jordan

A: It depends on how hot the case is getting. If the bottom of the case is truly hot to the touch, rather than just warm, you need to address the problem. It's possible that the laptop's cooling system is failing -- in which case you may need professional help. But first keep in mind that laptop computers, unlike desktops, should not be kept on all the time. At the least, set the laptop to use the sleep or hibernation mode. Your manual will tell you how to do that. For ordinary heat build-up not caused by a system failure, simply placing the laptop on a cookie cooling rack will let air circulate beneath the machine and keep it a bit cooler.

Q: How much power does a computer use when it is on? Is it equal to one, two, three or more 100-watt light bulbs?
Dick Ziglar

A: Not all computers use the same amount of power for the same tasks. And the power used by any computer can vary based on whether it's being booted up, or sitting in sleep mode, or actively working. Most desktop computers in use consume between 100 and 200 watts. Here's a chart that shows the power consumed by various machines: You'll be able to find the power requirements for your computer in its manual or on a sticker on the back of the machine.

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