While most computer issues are usually software related, hardware failure is a very common reality. So how do you know when the problem is hardware? Determining whether an issue is hardware or software related is very challenging as symptoms are often the same for both problems.
As you may know first hand, hard drives account for approximately 80% of hardware failures. An optical hard drive has moving parts and is a very precise and delicate component. Hard drive failure is not always the end of your data however. Often the disc itself is fine with the data intact and may be recoverable.
After trying the usual software fixes and the problem persists, reboot the machine and listen carefully. Most manufacturers build in a series of audible beeps with a distinct pattern that could help determine hardware issues and point to the actual component causing the problem. This is especially helpful if the system will not completely boot up to run other diagnostics.
So how hard is it to change out a hardware component? Really not that hard and can be a lot of fun! Just ask any of my 6th Graders!
If it has to be a PC, I do like Dell desktops because they are easy to work on and give detailed troubleshooting support. There are many resources available online including videos on how to change out a component. If you are planning on replacing a computer or have an old one laying around, get some small screw drivers and see if you can take it apart and put it back together!