As an average computer user what do you do when problems
occur? In last month's article we talked about the
immense complexity of the current computer systems and how
difficult it can be to diagnose and fix problems. Even
experts who understand the inner working of the windows 7 operating
system will often resort to simply reinstalling the whole system
when difficult problems occur rather than trying to find which of
the 80,000 files or 200,000 setting are causing the problem.
The important thing is not to feel that you need to be an expert
on everything and that it is OK to seek help. If you are
competent at your job and with the computer, it doesn't necessarily
follow that you must also be capable of fixing computer
problems. It's a bit like driving a car. You need to have
skills to drive safely and competently but should not be expected
to understand how the engine works, or how to fix the car if it
So what do you do when problems occur? - here are our
list of DO's
- Write down the details of the error.
The first thing to do when faults occur is to write down the time
the fault occurred together with the description of the error
message and any related error codes and which programs were open or
being used. This information is extremely helpful
to those who need to provide help to track down the problem and fix
it. It also makes it easier for the fault finder if you are
able to replicate the circumstances that caused the fault.
- Look up the product help.
If you are not sure whether it is a computer caused error or
simply something about the program you don't understand, then it is
also a good idea to use the help system. Most programs contain
basic help which will refer you to correct documents on the
internet to provide further information. That way you see
whether the problem is, for example, simply a mistaken key stroke
rather than a computer malfunction. Also make sure any
advice is from reputable sources and not just any Joe Blow posting
on the internet.
- Call an expert
Have a good support arrangement with your IT company or software
provider then give them a call to get some advice.
- Restart the computer and/or restore to an earlier
A common way of fixing various glitches is simply to shut down the
computer and restart. For more advanced users it is
appropriate to consider performing a system restore to an earlier
point time. The System restore message may come up when you reboot,
in which case follow the prompts to complete the restoration.
This procedure is completely safe and is reversible to there is no
risk of doing any damage to the system.
- Set a time limit for working on the
One of the key points about trying to fix things yourself is to
set a definite time limit on how long you spend trying to fix
things or research the problem. If you know the value your
own time to the business then you will be more aware that it pays
to seek help sooner rather than later to avoid costing money by not
calling for help. In fact trying to fiddle with a system can
make things worse and make the repair job much more difficult
later. As a rule of thumb, as an average computer user if you have
spent more than 10 minutes identifying the problem and rebooting
once then it is definitely time to seek help either from a
colleague or your IT company. A more knowledgeable computer
user should not spend more than 30 minutes trying to fix a problem
after doing a system reboot or a restore. At that time some
more expert advice should be sought.
If that is the list of things to DO then here is our
list of things NOT TO DO:
- Waste hours trying every fix suggested on the
Whatever you do don't waste hours trying to fix the problem
yourself. Use our guidelines above to set reasonable time limits
for persisting or trying to fix problems. Often the big time
wasters occur when researching the problem on the internet and
trying every recommended fix from top to bottom only to end up in a
- Downloading and running bogus fix it
These come in thousands of guises, some are downright dangerous
and others such as registry cleaners will at best be ineffective
and possibly make things worse. Many of these programs
optimise their website to pick up on key words and pretend to offer
a solution to your problem but are little more than deceptive
- Call your mates for help too often
Many people have mates in the IT industry or knowledgeable
friends who they call on for advice. Getting a little bit of help
is OK but calling them during working hours and taking up their
working or leisure time to have the problem fixed, will most likely
result in you losing a friend and still having the problem.
- Use unlicensed or old software without product
If you run a business then you must have appropriate
support for the software that you run. Avoid free software
unless there is an option to upgrade to paid support options.
As for using unlicensed or copied software this is ticking time
bomb and will eventually cause grief when your system fails, you
cannot get support and the system you need to run your business
cannot be restored.
- Do all of the steps above,
Waste hours, apply every bogus fix from the internet, download and
run registry cleaners, get your mates in, argue with your
mates, call up the IT guy to fix the mess, have a
confused look when the IT guy asks for the program disks and
explains that your software has been downloaded from the net by
your mate and find out you need to buy new software and then
complain when the bill is more than $100.