Anyone that owns a PC knows that at some point, some piece of software or hardware will fail to operate as expected. If you're lucky, the error message offers a suggestion. But what's a good approach if you don't see a solution to your PC problem?
Here's the approach I take in handling PC problems and troubleshooting:
Yes, computer problems are frustrating. But, I also know that being frustrated doesn't resolve the issue. I learned that emotions and troubleshooting don't mix as you're apt to do something stupid. And yes, this comes from first hand experience.
If you're still upset and not pressed for time, you may want to pause after item 2.
2. Define the problem
Regardless of how or who solves the problem, a good problem definition is needed. I tend to take notes about the problem as it helps me frame the issue. The added benefit is some of these problems recur, such as networking issues, and I can refer to my previous notes. Typical items to include:
a) Did an error message display? If so, do a screen snap or write the message down. You can capture error messages that stay on your screen by pressing Alt + Prt Scrn and then pasting the contents to Word. I've often used a unique portion of the error message as my search phrase in Google.
b) What were you doing when the problem occurred? Was a specific menu or command involved? Were other programs open? You can find out which programs are running by opening Task Manager. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del and then click the Applications tab. If you don't want to write down the program names, you can use the Alt+Prt Scrn tip again.
c) Can you repeat the problem? I'm not suggesting this to have you relive the frustration. The more details you can provide the better. For instance, it's much better to say you clicked the File menu and selected Open then to say you opened the file. Otherwise, the tech support person might think you double-clicked a file to open it. Details can make a difference.
d) Note the version of the software you're using. You can usually find this by selecting About from the Help menu. The more you know about your PC, the better. You might want to check our earlier article on Getting to Know Your PC for more tips.
e) Have you made recent changes to your PC such as adding or removing hardware or software? It's common for another software program to interfere. As example, you may have used an anti-spyware tool or uninstaller that removed or quarantined a needed file. Or, you might have an add-in or extension that conflicts with another program. This last example is true with Microsoft Outlook or browser extensions.
f) Is this a new installation or upgrade? If this is a new installation or upgrade, it could be the install procedure failed in some way. Some upgrades require that you first remove the previous version. On some occasions, I've had installations fail because I neglected to close other programs first.
You might try uninstalling the application using Add or Remove Programs in Control Panel. If you get an error message saying that a log is missing and the program can't be deleted, re-installing the program usually adds back the required log file.
3. Check the Program's Help and ReadMe Files
Many companies list either a troubleshooting section or support options in their Help file. A related resource some companies include is a file called README.TXT which often mentions known issues. If the file exists, it's probably in the main program folder or on the installation CD.
One tip I learned awhile back is before I install software, I view the company's website and check reported issues from other customers.
4. Check the Company's website
The company's website should provide a section for support including contact information. Depending on the site, you may also find a FAQ or Common Problems section which may address your issue. Another item to look for is software updates. It could be your issue is solved by an update or patch file available on the web.
Some sites do a good job of organizing information. Others make it difficult to find information. In some cases, I've found it faster to use Google's Domain Search and several keywords which relate to the problem. This option is available on their Advanced Search page.
If you can't find a number or website, Microsoft maintains a Computer Manufacturers' Contact page which lists many companies.
5. Do a Time Assessment and Know your Limitations
If you're still stuck, you should ask yourself when do you need a solution and how much time are you willing to spend? The reason I ask is that sometimes it's more efficient, when you factor in your time, to pursue paid support options.
I know paid support is a sore point for some people as they think all support should be free. I take the approach that I have a finite amount of time, which might be better used for other activities. I've used paid support options from MozSource and Microsoft and have been very pleased with the results. The costs ranged from $6.99 to $35. In the case of Microsoft, each issue was resolved on the phone and followed by a thorough email with the problem definition and resolution steps. MozSource also provided their answer in email in the stated two business days.
I also know from past experiences that I'm not good with certain support options. For example, I dislike online chat as it never seems like there is a real person on the other end. I also know I need to use a speakerphone when I call support as I'm often required to type something or pull cables.
6. Finding Alternative Online Help Resources
If you do have the time to do further research, the Internet has many resources that can help such as newsgroups. There are also many websites that specialize in support. Some of our favorites include:
Last Updated (Saturday, 29 September 2012 13:07)