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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Troubleshooting Errors On Your PC

I will wager a bet that at some point we've all run into some sort of error on a PC or a MAC.  Errors are inevitable, annoying, and they interfere with what we are doing on our computer system.  Back in the day, the first thing most people would do is reach for the phone and dial the phone number to technical support, and have the person on the other end walk us through a seemingly endless array of tasks to narrow down the problem to find a solution.  In today's world, we are a little more responsive to errors, and with the availability of the internet we can look up a solution to almost 95% of problems that occur.  Depending on your level of expertise, these solutions can be relatively easy to very complex to the point where only an advanced user should be performing the resolution.  There are some tips, though, that can be done by anyone of any usage level to eliminate some key suspects in a situation where an error comes up.

Once more, I have to caution the reader that this information is strictly guideline only.  If you feel your error or problem is much too complex, please contact your system administrator, or go to your local computer repair outlet where a certified and trained computer technical professional can assist you.

As I said, most errors have a commonality to them, and most can be resolved with a few simple tricks.  Listed below are some general tips that I think are the best possible tricks short of taking your computer in for a more thorough examination.  Again, they are just general guidelines.

1) Document the Error - It should go without saying that if you encounter an error that you are unfamiliar with (and even if you are), you should definitely write it down, including all error numbers and codes as well as what you were doing when the error occurred.  This can help you narrow the possibilities down to a minimum and work from there.  The most frequent complaint of techs is the lack of documentation with an error, especially what transpired prior to and during the problem.  Please do us techs a favor and give us as much detail as possible related to the error or problem.  No, we don't need your life story, and no, we don't need to get into how new your computer is, and how much you paid for it.  All we need are some basic items of information such as your Operating System, installed RAM, the program you are using, and what error occurred and what happened before and during that problem.  If it involves porn, come clean and get it over with.  We've heard it all, trust me!

2) COLD BOOT - This should be your first and last troubleshooting technique when it comes to error troubleshooting.  One of my former technical supervisors had a small, but clear message on his emails that he sent out regularly to other techs, which said "If all else fails, COLD BOOT!".  That seemed to always stick, and 65-80% of the time, this trick worked.  Doing a proper shutdown of Windows (or whatever your OS is) is key, and once properly shutdown (if the computer doesn't turn off automatically), you should definitely power down everything on your computer.  After 30 seconds, it should be turned back on until everything has booted successfully, including any background programs.  Once up and running, try performing the task you were doing when the error occurred.  If you are able to proceed, then there is no further need to troubleshoot.

3) Background Applications/Programs - Turning these off may either provide a temporary solution, or resolve the problem altogether.  But, if you're like me, and want these background programs to come on, then you'll want to systematically, and methodically, turn off each program until you've found the culprit that conflicts with what you are doing.  After identifying the cause, there are two things you can do.  Either turn it off for good so that it doesn't interfere with what you are doing, or contact the provider of that other program to see if there is a fix or some other solution.  My personal advice would be to do the former since background programs aren't really that necessary, and just clutter up memory.

4) Websites - Often a program vendor has a website that you can go to, and some even have user forums where you can chat with others who may have experienced the same error or problem.  Forums often provide a rare opportunity to share knowledge to other users, and is a great way to earn friends.  A word of caution though.  Those same forums also have users who are simply there to belittle others for what they do not know.  I've had the unfortunality of going to one such forum where my question had been met with ridicule from a few inconsiderate individuals with nothing better to do than to troll forums and be jerks.  This avenue often offers patches for programs and applications that can solve a lot of frustration.  Check to see if your application has a website that you can check to see if there's a new update to your program version.

Finally, if you've exhausted all other avenues, it's time to call technical support and be guided through some other procedures.  A tech support agent will most likely walk you through steps that you may or may not have done before.  If this happens, please do us techs another favor and don't get all bent out of shape about it.  We're just doing our jobs, and would appreciate a level of respect during the phone call.  Just let us do what we do, and we'll get you the quickest possible resolution.

Have a comment? Suggestion? A topic you'd like to have discussed on my blog? Email me at And if I don't know the answer, I'll post up information on who to ask, where to go, or what to do to get your answer. :) Until then, have a great day, and I hope you've enjoyed reading my computer tips so far!