Basic Trouble Shooting

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If youíre anything like me, you have a love/hate relationship with your computer.  When it works all is right with the world.  When it acts up, you just want to hurl it through the nearest window and watch how fast it hits the ground. Whether itís a programming or manufacturing glitch, phases of the moon, or user head dysfunction, computer catastrophes are bound to happen.

We receive tons of email from our readers with PC problems so we decided to put together a list of helpful solutions that we hope will come in handy for those times when you find yourself having to troubleshoot your own PC woes.

Starting With The Obvious

No matter what strange behaviour your computer is exhibiting, donít panic.  Just start with the obvious.  Many computer problems appear more serious than they really are so relax and breathe deep.

  • Canít start up? Check the surge protector.  Make sure it is on and working.  Try plugging in a lamp or the like to verify there is not a power issue.
  • Check all cables, connectors, and power cords.  Be sure they are seated properly.
  • Reboot Windows.  Rebooting your system can resolve many problems with Windows.
  • Write down error messages.  You can use Google to do a search to find others who may have had the same problem. 
  • Ask yourself what has changed since the last time it was working properly?
  • Make sure the floppy and CD ROM drives are empty.

Hardware or Software

Basic operational malfunctions can sometimes be very time consuming.  When you donít know exactly what the problem is, itís time for process of elimination.  The first step is to determine whether you have a software or hardware problem.  Usually, itís the software.

Software fixes can sometimes be tricky. Does the problem only occur in one program, or in all programs? Does it happen when you have certain applications or devices running at the same time? If you have warranty support, use it.   You can also try uninstalling then re-installing a problem application, which will often cure the problem.  You can also check the manufacturer's web site.  A good site will list known problems and fixes.

Check your device manager for hardware conflicts.  If you see any yellow exclamation points, select the device and view the properties. Sometimes you just need to re-install drivers to establish normal functions.  You can also try disabling the conflicted device and reboot the system.

Process of Elimination

Many problems require more digging.  If, after doing the above, the problem still hasnít been resolved, then it is time for process of elimination.

  • Verify your virus software is up to date.  Install any engine or DAT updates and run a full scan to be sure you have not been infected with anything.
  • Check the Windows Update site and install any patches and updates.
  • Verify you have enough disk space on your primary partition (usually C:).  If you are running low on space, uninstall unused programs and run Disk Cleanup to remove any unnecessary files.
  • Verify you have anti-spyware software installed.  If you donít have a good one, try Spybot.  This program is really great for getting rid of existing spyware and keeping new files from being left on your PC.  Be sure to check for updates after installing any anti-spyware program.  Just like viruses, new spyware comes out frequently and requires updates.
  • Run ScanDisk and Defragment your hard drive.  To make it easy, you might want to consider starting your system in Safe Mode to run both of these utilities and then rebooting when finished.
  • Check your firewall.  Some firewalls like Zone Alarm will cause problems.  Disabling it for the moment will tell you if your firewall is the cause of the problem.
  • Run MSCONFIG. Un-Check every item that is listed and reboot your machine. See if the problem still persists. If not, youíve now isolated it to a problem at startup. Proceed back into MSCONFIG and re-check the items one at a time, re-booting in between, to see which process is causing the problem.

More Specifically

If you have a pretty good idea of what the problem is, you can use the following resources for help resolving it.

The Troubleshooting Expert, from PC Guide.com, is a database of questions and answers that will help you quickly find a solution to the most common PC problems.

Common Networking Problems, from PC Mechanic, can help you troubleshoot network issues. 

TechTarget.com provides a list of common Internet problems with a table of error codes and common fixes.

For printing problems, visit FixYourOwnPrinter.com and scroll down to the troubleshooting section. For other How To guides, check out PC 911.

Calling The Experts

When itís time to call in the experts, note what you were doing when things went awry - what application you were using and what you were working on.  It is often the case that a problem resides with a specific application or file and this information may help a technician repair the problem.  Also note any changes made to the computer system shortly before, and, at the time the problem occurred.  Sometimes installing new software, adding a new peripheral, or otherwise altering the configuration of the computer can cause problems in seemingly unrelated areas.

Regular Maintenance

Performing regular maintenance can improve the overall speed and performance of your PC and can help reduce the amount of time you spend fixing problems.  Go to PC Worldís Scheduled Maintenance page to see a list of maintenance tasks and a schedule of how often you should perform these functions.

In Closing

We could write volumes on this subject, but to keep it condensed, this is just a very brief and basic overview of what to do first when your computer is misbehaving.  By checking a few simple items and trying a few things on your own, you just might repair the machine yourself.  If a quick solution is not found, this process may help you describe the problem more effectively to a computer technician.  Good luck!

Note:  As with any piece of electronic equipment, be wary of the electrical hazards.  It is not wise to open up your computer unless you know what you are doing.  There is a risk of electrical shock and a high risk of damaging the electronic components inside the PC.

Disclaimer - The Micro 2000 Tech Tip is a free service providing information only. While we use reasonable care to see that this information is correct, we do not guarantee it for accuracy, completeness or fitness for a particular purpose. Micro 2000, Inc. shall not be liable for damages of any kind in connection with the use or misuse of this information.

Micro 2000 Inc has been helping to solve the day-to-day challenges that IT departments face in order to keep their businesses operational as well as profitable for over 14 years. The company's primary goal is to put the customer first - through feature-rich, simple-to-use IT tools that can help IT administrators manage their jobs more effectively.

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