Thursday, December 13, 2007

PC Troubleshooting Basics - Part 1

I'm sure many of us have run into glitch's or error messages at one time or another. Install a state of the art video card only to have Windows burp it back in your face. Find the perfect software you need and the system locks up. I hope to provide some basic steps on troubleshooting your PC or laptop.

Safety First - If you must open the case you should take proper precautions first. One is unplug the PC first to avoid any chance of electric shock. Both to yourself and to your machine. The power supply unit can be danger still even when unplugged. This is one unit that if found faulty it's better just to replace it than to try any repairs for the most part. Also if your still using an old CRT type monitor this falls under the same category. Unless your a trained individual you shouldn't attempt repairs on these two. Secondly protect your machine against ESD (Electro Static discharge). Some components can be destroyed by a shock you can't even feel. To avoid this use a wrist strap or at the very least touch the outside of your case(bare metal) before handling anything inside.

Goosefraba, Goosefraba..(repeat calmly) - Whatever you do don't panic. Don't start clicking every button at random . Many things can be solved by a simple calm structured approach. If something upsets you get up go get some coffee(perhaps a good time for decaf), kick your err... I mean pet your cat. Come back and calmly approach the problem again perhaps with a fresh perspective. I've gotten very frustrated with some problems and I've sometimes discovered if you get too focused on problem sometimes it makes it worse. Many times I've stepped away for a short break and then suddenly thought of something when I've calmed down.

Well duh! - Check the most obvious stuff first. I've lost count how many times I left a floppy in the drive and the machine wouldn't boot or shut off monitor. We all have them don't be embarrassed. Some simple things to check are:
  • Be sure your power plug is properly connected. Check other connections too. Sometimes they come loose over time from getting kicked or moved around. Unconnect and reconnect items if it's a particular item like monitor, printer, usb coffee mug warmer(yes I've seen them in a catalog) etc... I've had this work many times.
  • Restart, many time a simple reboot of your machine will clear up a lot of glitches. This works a lot of times when your machines been on for a long time and just needs a fresh start. Clears out the memory too and see if problems comeback. Some errors are just a one shot deal and this will clear them up. If they repeat then there's usually a problem.
  • Try and keep track of recent changes. Have you added any new software lately? Installed a new drive? Installed new sound card? Installed a freeware program you just had to have? Keep in mind any changes you've made to your machine . If a particular problem starts after an installation of something one of the first steps is to take it back out and see if problem persists.
  • Check your drives for floppies, cd's etc.. that don't belong there.
Ctrl-Alt-Del - Many of those who have been using computers for any length of time know the three fingered salute to Microsoft. This (most of the time) will give you a chance to shutdown the offending program that may be locking up your PC. It'll also give you the choice of shutting down or restarting your system. Giving your monitor the one fingered salute may relieve some frustration, but usually doesn't solve the problem, and no Bill Gates can't see you doing it.

Well this is just the beginning of a series and we'll come back to it later. One of the things I can't stress enough is don't get overly stressed out. Many times a calm approach is best, you'll think a lot clearer. Good luck and I hope you come back again for the next installment. We'll be looking at some prevention tips.

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