You don’t have to be a computer expert to solve your own tech problems. Here’s how to get up and running quickly when you’re working from home.
- Reboot your computer or device
Sure, it’s a cliche to recommend a reboot, but you’d be surprised at the number of people who don’t give it a try as their first troubleshooting step. I recommend that you use Shut Down then reboot manually, as opposed to using the Restart option. This is called a “cold boot” because it cycles power to the computer, and I find it does a more effective job. That’s true for tablets and phones as well as computers.
- Check cables and connections
Similarly, you’d be surprised at the number of times a simple loose cable is the source of the problem. Double-check your connections and make sure they’re tight. That’s especially true for network problems, where a single loose wire can disable your entire network.
- Run system and app updates
Sometimes problems are caused by buggy software. By keeping your system and apps updated at all times, not only will you prevent problems, you’ll also enhance your computer’s security and privacy.
- Consider possible sources for the problem
Has anything changed lately about your computer? Perhaps a new app or piece of hardware has a conflict with your system. Try removing anything new and see if the problem still occurs.
- Isolate the problem
Try to narrow down the problem. When I troubleshoot, I ask myself: Is it the system, the app, or the file? If you’re having problems with one app, try another. If one file doesn’t work, try a different one. Once you know where the problem lies, you can begin to search for solutions.
- Determine if it’s a hardware or software issue
Most computer problems are software-related, but it’s possible your hardware could be at fault. Check the support site for your computer, tablet, or phone for a hardware diagnostic tool that can scan your system for hardware problems. Windows and Android users should go directly to their manufacturer (Dell, HP, Samsung, and so forth). Apple has a hardware diagnostic program for Macs available on their web site.
- Keep a log of error codes or problematic behavior
This is especially helpful when dealing with intermittent problems. Write down the date, time, and any behavior you notice that is out of the ordinary. I love error codes because they provide detailed information. The codes themselves may be esoteric, but you don’t have to worry about what they mean. All you have to do is look them up online.
- Check the Internet for solutions
Once you’ve narrowed down the problem, you can explore solutions. I recommend that you start with the support site for your device or app. They may have a list of common questions or an FAQ that will help. You can also do a web search for the error message or problem. It’s likely that someone else has encountered the same issue and found an answer.
- Try a built-in troubleshooter
If the problem seems to be system-wide, you can try your computer’s built-in troubleshooter. Here’s a link for Windows 10 users, and one for Mac folks.
- Prevent problems before they start
Running a solid antivirus program, using strong passwords, and keeping your system up to date will help prevent problems before they start. And reliable backups will give you peace of mind when it comes to preserving your data.
Try these Tech Tips articles for more help.
- Tech Tips: How To Create Strong Passwords (2020 Edition)
- Tech Tips: Security Basics For Windows Users
- Tech Tips: Security Basics For Mac Users
- Tech Tips: How To Back Up Your Computer For Windows and Mac
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