Tech Class – Week Five
Welcome to week five!
This week you’ll be learning the basics of Troubleshooting on your computer.
But first… a little computer humor:
It happens to everyone. You’re going along feeling like you’re doing well and finally getting this techy stuff, when all of a sudden BOOM! You get an error message. Something’s not working. Or suddenly, your screen goes dark and you can’t seem to figure out where you are or how to get your screen back. Maybe a program won’t let you type or click on anything, or even your mouse is frozen and you can’t move it anywhere.
I promise you that even I run into these types of problems on a weekly basis, if not more. Our computers can only do so much. They require certain programs and plugins to run certain software. They get overloaded. They freeze up. So, what do you do when this happens. I’m going to give you my top 10 tips for troubleshooting on your computer.
1. If your computer is frozen or won’t let you click, there are two things to try. First, open your TASK MANAGER.
If you’re on a Mac, you’ll hit and hold the following 3 buttons together: Command, Option, & Esc. These will bring up a box that says “Force Quit Applications” and you’ll be able to select the programs that are not responding and force them to quit so that your computer can start working again. You may not even know how many programs you’re running that could be slowing down your computer. Here’s how to see which programs are running and close the ones that aren’t responding.
If you’re on a PC, hit and hold the following 3 keys together: Alt, Control (Ctrl), & Delete. This will bring up your task manager where you can select the programs that are not responding and force them to quit.
An application that isn’t responding can really cause problems with getting anywhere because it slows everything down.
Second, if you cannot get the application to force quit, and you can’t get to your menu to shutdown the computer, it may be time to hit and hold the power button to FORCE RESTART the computer. Always attempt to restart from your menu first, but if that won’t work, you can hold down the power button for about 11 seconds and it will force it to shut down. Then count again for 11 seconds and press the power button to turn it back on.
2. If you are getting an error message when trying to run or open a program, my advice is to copy the error message text, and paste it into a GOOGLE SEARCH. If the results aren’t specific enough to what you’re looking for, search for that same error message, but with the name of the program you’re trying to open after it. Chances are, someone else has run into this problem and asked the exact question you need an answer to on a forum online. I’ve rarely had a problem that I can’t find a solution to by searching Google. Remember to be specific to the problem, program, and operating system. ie: “zoom won’t install on my mac” or “photoshop video driver problem on PC”. The more specific your search, the more likely you’ll find exactly the answer you need. Look at several different forums and see if they all have similar answers.
3. Keep your programs, software, and operating systems UP TO DATE. Choosing to forego updates can be bad not only because you run into incompatibilities, but also because it’s a risk to your security. They may take some time and be a little annoying, but in the long run, you’ll be happy you’re not having to deal with the repercussions of not keeping everything up to date. Some programs may even have auto-update options, which are recommended.
4. If your computer is really running sluggish, even when all your programs are closed and you can’t seem to do even the simplest tasks without an immense amount of trouble, you may have a virus or malware on your computer. Do a VIRUS SCAN to identify and eliminate threats to your computer. I recommend using Malwarebytes. They have a free version that scans your device for possible threats and will eliminate them for you through a simple clean-up. They also have a paid version that will prevent threats from invading your device in the first place.
5. What do you do if you run out of space? You’re trying to download, install, or save files to your computer, but your disc is full! There are a few things you can do in this situation.
First, you can DELETE FILES and programs you don’t need or don’t use. Be sure you know what it is you’re deleting before you send them to the trash! I double and sometimes triple check because I don’t want to lose important files due to carelessness.
Second, you can upload your files to a CLOUD drive and then remove them from your computer to make more room. Google Drive and Dropbox are some of the most common online drives. There’s also the iCloud for Apple users.
Third, and this is my preferred method, buy yourself an EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE (We have a couple of 4TB hard drives because I take so many photos and so much video!) and move all of your files to that drive. Keep it in a cool, dry, safe place. We have a safety deposit box that we like to keep our drive with a full backup of all our photos, home videos, and important documents.
All in all, you’ll probably want to keep a copy in the cloud as well as a physical hard drive (especially for super important files).
6. If you’re having trouble with a piece of hardware, I recommend first checking all the cords to make sure everything is PLUGGED IN and turned on. It sounds like a no brainer, but you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve seen a problem where a cord was loose causing the device to not work. The other thing you can do is CHECK FOR SHORTS in the cords. Those can cause difficulties with hardware. If you have a short, though, it’s much easier (and less expensive) to replace a cord than it is to replace, let’s say, a monitor! So before you go and buy a new piece of equipment, make sure your cords are functioning properly. If you know the cords are working and you’re still having trouble, check your control panel (PC) or system preferences (Mac) to see if your settings are allowing your hardware to work. For example, if you’ve plugged in a pair of speakers, but they aren’t working, you might need to go into your audio settings and choose those speakers as your default for audio. Finally, you’ll want to make sure you INSTALL THE DRIVERS for any equipment you’re trying to make work. This may require a little research through Google search if you’re not sure how or where to look for these. Most external equipment will either be plug and play or it will come with everything you need to install, but occasionally, you’ll have to go searching for them.
7. There are two types of “space” on your computer. There’s the space we’ve already talked about which is how much space your files take up, that’s called STORAGE. Then there’s memory. MEMORY is how much information can be stored on your device. This is why your computer runs more slowly the more programs you have open. Some programs use more memory than others. For example, your video editing software (like iMovie or Final Cut Pro) is going to take up more memory than your office software (like Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat). If you get several programs running that take up a lot of memory, you’ll notice your computer will run a lot slower. This is why people who have to run these programs buy more RAM (memory) for their computers. If you consistently run into this problem, you may need to install more RAM on your computer too!
8. Does your computer get hot to the touch? Does it sometimes sound like an airplane taking off because the fan is so loud? Computers, specifically desktop or tower computers, need to be kept clean internally for their fans and cooling systems to work properly. Dust can prevent the fan from functioning properly. If your computer is vibrating, your fan could be loose. If it’s constantly overheating, your fan may not be working at all! Keep your desktop tower in a well ventilated area and keep the fan well dusted. We once had a tower that kept overheating, and we discovered it was because it was in a closed cupboard with no way for it to “breathe” so to speak. If you’re using a laptop, keeping it off soft surfaces (like blankets, beds, or couches) and up onto a cooling pad or desk will help keep it from overheating. The best thing to do if your computer is overly hot is to shut it down and wait for it to cool off until you can find a solution.
9. Internet problems can be some of the most frustrating, especially if you’re in a hurry to communicate with someone or send something that has a deadline. First, be sure your computer is, in fact, connected to the internet. Check your little symbol that shows how many bars you have (it looks different on PC than Mac). Sometimes it requires entering your network password to log on. Try turning the Wi-Fi off and then back on again, especially if your computer has been sleeping or hibernating rather than having it shut down. Second, check to make sure it’s not a problem with the website itself. Sometimes websites go down. Even large sites like Facebook have been known to crash from time to time. You can check if a site is down by visiting THIS WEBSITE and entering in the URL. If you see a 404 sign, that means the webpage is unavailable. It’s not your connection, the site is down or the page has been removed. There is a really cool website known as the “Wayback Machine” that will allow you to see archived versions of internet pages from long ago, even if they are not available now. This is why they tell you, what you put on the internet is out there FOREVER!
10. Finally, one of the best tips I can give when you’re having technology issues is to STAY CALM. It’s easy to get frustrated, upset, and even angry when dealing with programs and systems that aren’t working. It’s a time suck too. Sometimes you find out the solution to your problem could have been found within a matter of minutes, yet you’ve spent hours searching for how to fix the problem. So, when something is not working, take a deep breath. Get the oxygen flowing and try to stay as calm as you can so you can think and be level-headed. If you really can’t figure it out and you’re spending more than an hour trying to solve one problem, step away from the device. Go for a walk, or write in a journal. Go and eat a snack or meal. Then come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. Finally, if doing it on your own is not serving you, reach out to someone who can help. Email customer support for the problem you’re having, or reach out to co-workers, peers, or to your family and friends to see if anyone else has had a similar problem. Shoot me an email, and if I know the answer right offhand, I’ll happily send it your way. And sometimes, it’s not a user error. Sometimes the software or even the device itself just needs to be replaced. That news can be difficult to hear. Remember it’s not the end of the world and there’s always a way to make it happen. Again, stay calm and create a positive energy. You’ll feel better and probably be able to better solve your problem if you are coming from that mindset.
Below are some resources of articles that might be helpful as you’re learning how to troubleshoot. Your assignment is to read one or more of these articles, especially the ones that you feel apply most to your situation. You’ll be surprised what you learn. If you happen to experience a moment of triumph where you were able to fix a problem through troubleshooting, share with me! I’d be so happy to celebrate with you.
Basic Troubleshooting Techniques
Why Software Updates are Important
Top 10 Sites For Computer Troubleshooting