The CPU is your computer’s primary source of processing power. As such, a dysfunctional or dead CPU can cause your computer to lose functionality entirely. Knowing how to detect a dead CPU helps you know when it’s time for a replacement so you can avoid any further damages.
Common symptoms of a dead CPU include frozen boot-up screens, no POST (Power-On Self Test), overworking fans, rapid shutdowns after powering on, and a complete lack of functionality. You can isolate the cause of your computer’s issue by testing the CPU and motherboard and checking for signs of damage. Also, by the sounds your computer makes when powering on.
Sometimes, the problem with your computer is not a result of a dead CPU, but another malfunctioning component instead. I’ll discuss how you can test for this, as well as how you can tell if your CPU is dead, in this article.
Symptoms of a Dead CPU
Generally, if you notice one of these symptoms, it’s an indicator of a dead CPU. While some of these issues can occur from other malfunctioning components, if more than one of these symptoms is occurring, your CPU is almost certainly dead.
A surefire way to tell if your CPU is dead is by trying to power on your computer. If nothing happens, and your PSU is functional, then it means your CPU is incapable of processing even the power necessary to boot up your PC.
A POST screen shows when your CPU performs a Power-On Self Test, which it does every time you turn your computer on. The test is meant to test the components of your computer and ensure they are all functioning properly, as well as to detect which parts are not.
To view the POST screen, you can enter your computer’s BIOS settings and alter the visibility and length of the POST screen’s display when booting your computer up. If your PC still doesn’t display the screen upon boot-up, your CPU is likely the culprit.
When a CPU dies, the fans in your computer have nothing to regulate them. So, when you power up the computer, the fans will default to max power, which will be audible with any fan.
If your computer shuts down almost immediately after powering on, it could be either your CPU or your PSU that’s causing the problem. Generally, it’s a result of the CPU being dead, as the power surge has no regulator and the system, therefore, shuts down automatically to be safe.
If your screen freezes every time you turn on your computer, your CPU may be dead. Typically, the screen will freeze on the loading screen, though sometimes the computer will boot up and freeze on your home screen as well.
System-halt errors will display when something is wrong with your CPU. The most notorious of these errors is the “blue-death screen”, which looks exactly what it sounds like.
How to Isolate the Cause
If any of those symptoms are showing on your computer, the next step is to try and isolate the problem. Even if your CPU isn’t the culprit, at least one component in your computer is malfunctioning.
The first thing you can check is your motherboard. If there was an electrostatic discharge, power surge, or even blunt force applied to your motherboard, it’s often visible to the naked eye.
Electrostatic discharge, or ESD, occurs when static electricity is applied to metal in your computer, causing the surge of electricity to overload some of your PC components. The same thing happens with a power surge, but this is usually a result of a faulty PSU or poor assembly.
Check your motherboard, especially around your CPU socket, for scorch marks. This is a sure sign of electrical overload, as the unprecedented electrical currents overheat the metal beyond its electrical rating. This causes scorching and a loss of functionality.
Most medium-to-high-quality motherboards come equipped with a beep code speaker, which plays beeps when components are faulty. When you turn on your PC, listen to the sounds it makes.
If you test your motherboard without a CPU and run the POST process, you may hear one beep, two beeps, or none at all. One beep means there is an issue with your system’s memory, two beeps means there is an issue with the motherboard.
If you hear no beeps and your screen doesn’t turn on with the CPU attached, there is most certainly an issue with your CPU.
If your motherboard doesn’t have a beep code speaker, you can purchase a standalone attachment for this test process. If that’s out of the question for you, you can also just listen to the sounds your computer makes.
If the fans are working too hard, or you hear nothing at all, there is definitely an issue somewhere within the system.
Partial Process of Elimination
You can narrow down the faulty component by disconnecting everything from your motherboard other than the PSU, CPU, heatsink, power switch, and case speaker. Then, power on and your computer and listen.
If there are long beeps, all the components are functioning properly. The beeps are your motherboard telling you it doesn’t have any memory attached.
If you hear no beeps, it means you either have a faulty CPU, PSU, or motherboard. If this is the case and you are experiencing several of the symptoms above, your CPU is dead and needs replacing.
Connect to Different PC
One surefire way to tell if your CPU is the problem is to attach to a compatible, fully-functioning PC. To do this, you need to know that the computer is capable of supporting the CPU, and that the computer you’re testing it on works properly with its current CPU.
Remove only the CPU from your current computer, replace the CPU on your test computer, and try to turn it on. If all is functioning normally, your CPU isn’t the problem, but something else is.
If the computer doesn’t run properly, and you’re experiencing the same symptoms as your current PC, your CPU is the problem.
Additionally, be sure to use safe practices to reduce the static electricity around your CPU when transferring it to avoid damaging it further.
What Should I Do if My CPU is Dead?
At the risk of impersonating Captain Obvious, my advice is to replace the CPU. Trying to repair a CPU is beyond the skills of the average gamer, and CPUs weren’t designed to be fried and repaired to begin with.
You can also start by contacting the CPU’s manufacturer and explaining the problems to them. Sometimes, the CPU isn’t completely dead, but there typically is still an issue with it. Additionally, if your processor failure falls under its warranty, replacing it becomes less of a headache.
What if My CPU Wasn’t the Problem?
If you ran these tests and discovered your CPU is functioning just fine, you’ll need to either do a further diagnosis on your system or contact your motherboard’s manufacturer.
By contacting the motherboard’s manufacturer, you can explain what beeps you heard when testing the CPU, and they can help you figure out what the beeps mean.
From there, solving the problem gets much easier, and having a professional walk you through it prevents any potential damages from investigating.
Our Final Take
In summation, if your computer is having issues with booting up and staying on, displaying frozen screens, or overworking its fans, your CPU could very likely be dead or damaged. To check this, just listen to the sounds your motherboard makes during boot-up, or test your vital components individually to narrow down the issue.
Can a CPU Die of Old Age?
Generally, no. CPUs can, over time, have worn down circuits due to electron migration. However, this process takes a long time and only really happens to CPUs of poor quality.
If your CPU up and quits on you one day, even in an older computer, it’s likely a result of an electrical event or extreme conditions like high heat or thick dust accumulation.
What Causes a CPU to Die?
CPU death is most frequently caused by overheating or electrostatic discharge, both of which can completely destroy a CPU. Overheating is generally a longer process, whereas electrostatic discharge will instantly ruin your processor.
Other things, like knocking your PC tower over or other blunt force being exerted on your computer, can cause the CPU to die. This is the least common, and typically results in the CPU becoming dislodged, not dying.
Dislodging, however, can cause bent pins, which is a different problem entirely.
How do I Revive a Dead CPU?
Unless you’re an android hiding from Blade Runners, you can’t. You can try and run the CPU with fewer cores, but if it’s a key component of the CPU that’s broken, you won’t be able to fix it. The smartest course of action is to consult the manufacturer and see if the CPU is still under warranty.