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The "DOA" PC
"DOA" stands for "dead on arrival". It's a medical term for someone who shows up at a hospital having already passed away; its analog in the technical industry is a component or system that does not work from the moment it is initially set up and turned on. While not common, it does happen that a brand-new PC is "DOA" right out of the box, or shortly thereafter.
Fortunately, in many cases a "DOA" system isn't really dead; it's just resting. (My apologies to those of you who aren't Monty Python fans, and even to those of you who are. ;^) ) Recall that most PCs are tested by the manufacturer before shipping. PCs are relatively delicate but not so delicate that they normally will be damaged in shipping (though it does happen). Few PCs are truly damaged to the point of requiring repair when they are brand new.
A more common reason for a dead new PC is components that have come loose as a result of the box being jostled while in shipment. This can happen not only to a mail order PC, but even to a retail unit, as a result of the machine being moved around before it got to the shelf on the retail store. The most common problem is a cable coming loose from its socket. For example, if the cable that sends the "power on" signal to the motherboard is loose, the power button won't turn on the system. Hard disk cables also sometimes come undone while the system is in transit.
If you discover that your PC is DOA very soon after getting it home, contact the technical support department of the company that made the machine and explain that the PC is dead. Ask them if you can open the system case and see if anything is obviously loose. Most often they will agree to let you try this, because you run a good chance of solving the problem quickly and saving everyone the hassle of a return or warranty claim.
If you decide to open the box, carefully look to see if anything looks obviously out of the ordinary. It's normal for there to be unused connectors coming from the power supply in some systems, but most other cables should go somewhere. You may also find this troubleshooting procedure related to general loose connection issues helpful.
Of course, if you don't feel comfortable opening up the machine, or if it is going to cost you time and hassle rather than save them, just return the machine for exchange. You don't have to accept a defective unit. See this section.
Warning: Do not open the system
case on a brand-new PC without first contacting technical support. You may void your
warranty, something you don't want to do on a brand-new box. Better to just return it for
exchange than that!