Monday, June 6, 2011

Basic Troubleshooting skills for your Computer Problems

Instructions 

Things You'll Need
This applies to any computer. Though a few of the items assume you have a PC.
1  Don't Panic!
The worst thing you can do is panic. You only make it harder to think through the current problem and ultimately become afraid of the next one. Remember that a computer does not think. It is meant to run complex calculations. Everything happens for a reason.
2  When in doubt - reboot.
First thing, reboot. This applies to computers, printers, fax machines... you name it. If rebooting didn't fix the problem, move on to step 3.
3  Start with the basics.
Even the experts miss the little things. Many times a problem is caused by a loose or unplugged cable. Just because it was plugged in before doesn't mean it is now, so check all of them. Even if something is plugged in it isn't seated right. Try unplugging and plugging in the cable. Keep in mind there are two ends, simple, but many people check only one side. Is your wireless not working? Check to see if there is an on/off switch for it. Software that is giving you trouble can sometimes be fixed by reinstalling it or updating device drivers.
The most overlooked of the basics is environment. Make sure your computer is at least plugged into a surge protector, or even better, an uninterrupted power supply. Make sure it is clean and that air can flow freely from front to back. Too many cables, built up dust, or crowded areas around the computer will block airflow and cause it to overheat. Also, check for anything out of the ordinary. For example, fans that aren't spinning, new noises, or abnormally hot areas inside the computer.
Make sure to check everything. Even a faulty keyboard or mouse can cause seemingly unrelated problems.
4 Isolate the problem.
To start isolating problems, see what is working and what isn't. For example, if you can't print from a program, try a different printer or try to print from another program. Don't just keep trying what you did, chances are, it still won't work.
Your first goal shouldn't be to fix the problem so much as to try and isolate it. This is especially true with hardware. More often than not the problem you are facing is a combination of two or more issues, which make it impossible to pick out a single quick fix. If it was, you wouldn't need to troubleshoot or it would have been solved in step 3.
5 Errors are important.
Don't ignore the errors. Take time to read them. Even the complex ones could have a simple hint in them. The error messages were written by someone, which means there is a very good chance you can find what they mean.
6 Read the instructions and research the problem.
Problems don't appear out of thin air. People out there have seen the same thing. If you can, search online for similar problems. Use any error messages that your computer gave you. Read any instructions, troubleshooting hints, help files, and read me information that comes with the trouble part or software. This does two things. Helps you learn how it should work and gives you a good idea of problems other people are having. This is also a great source for finding possible solutions.
7 Trial and Error
Once you can make an educated guess as to the problem, begin trying solutions one at a time. If you followed the steps above you should have narrowed down the possible number of solutions. Sometimes this requires a great amount of patience as you may be dealing with more than one problem and will have to keep repeating these steps untill you are finished.
8 Know when to quit
Sometimes this is the most important step. If you start to become frustrated... back away from the computer. Take a break and go at it again. Every so often, the problem may not be worth the time and money to fix.
  
Tips & Warnings
  • Generally, you can tell the difference between a software issue and hardware issue by how and when issues crop up. Random problems tend to be caused from hardware failing. While software problems are more specific, causing a crash or failure only when that particular program is called up. This is far from an exact science, but it is a good place to start.
  • The POST or power on self test is generally indicated by a beep or series of beeps. It also can give you important information as to what is going on, dig into that manual to find out what they mean.
  • If you have Windows, safe mode can be a valuable tool. Press F8 after POST and select safe mode. It starts Windows without most of the services and programs. If your computer is stable in safe mode, there is a good chance your problem is with something that turns on during a normal start. Try "Last Known Good Configuration" It might work some times.
  • Linux Live CDs like (knoppix linux) (Operating Systems that run off of a CD) are good tools as well. They are very useful for testing system hardware, separate from the installed operating systems.
  • Get a baseline for everything. Take note of as much as possible while the computer is running normally. Knowing how it is supposed to work is invaluable when it comes time to fix it.
  • When you are researching and come across something you don't understand, look that up as well. It might come in handy later on. If you think you are the only one who has to do that, look at the desk of your nearest computer tech, they usually are surrounded by papers, books, and online how-tos.
  • Keep your computer clean inside and out. Frequently blowing out dust from the case helps stop the buildup of dirt that will block airflow. This applies to the Operating System as well. Remove programs that you don't use, try to limit how much you have running at once. Add-ins and free programs can be useful, but many are poorly designed and will cause problems with other software.
  • Try to have a plan of action before you do anything. Having a simple set of procedures and objectives helps you from making mistakes.
  • Ask someone if you are stuck. A different approach can help immensely.
  • Backup your data! There are many tools and online services to help backup today. There should be little excuse for not backing up.
  • Be careful! Think about what you are about to do. It's a good practice to ask yourself if your next step is a good one.
  • Make sure you and your computer are grounded if you intend to work on the inside of the case. There are many good resources explaining how to do this.
  • Be wary of people who are "good with computers." True troubleshooting skill comes from attention to detail and experience. Don't be fooled by a fast talker who knows all the acronyms.


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