Have you ever been stuck with a computer problem you don’t know how to solve? But you’re not a computer person. The phone keeps ringing, the emails are stacking up, people keep asking you questions but you’re stuck with some computer problem and it has just screwed your whole day. You’re afraid that if you try and do anything you will only make matters worse.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could fix more of these problems yourself? You are not asking to be an expert and fix everything, just to fix the basic day-to-day annoying problems that seem to occur every now and then.
This article is going to teach you the secrets of how computer people fix things. It’s going to give you some basic guidelines to follow so that you can fix at least some of the problems, some of the time. It’s going to give you the secret of how computer people think.
The truth is, most of the time computer people don’t know the what the solution is any more than you do. The secret of how computer people fix problems is that they have a greater number of things that they will try until they find something that works. Most of the time computer people are just semi-randomly clicking on things and searching for answers until they find the first thing that works.
Don’t be afraid, use the process outlined in this article and you too can be a computer person who is able to solve tall problems faster than a speeding mouse.
Remember to bookmark this post because it will help you solve almost any computer problem and please share it if you find it useful.
# 1. Restart
When in doubt restart. If it has worked before but just stopped working for no apparent reason then you might want to restart the machine. You don’t need to do this for every failure, but if you haven’t got anything else to go on, this is something quick and easy you can try. For example if my home Internet connection stops working the first thing I do is restart the Wireless Router that connects our household to the Telecom company.
# 2. Google
If you have a specific error message, or can trigger the problem with a repeatable sequence of actions then the next most productive approach is probably to Google It, because chances are, someone else has already had the problem before you.
Google can be great at giving you the answer very quickly but it doesn’t always work so the trick is to have a quick look in Google and then move onto some of the other techniques below.
Don’t go beyond the second page of search results and probably only select 5-10 likely looking pages.
# 3. YouTube
If your problem is more of the “How do I do Something?” kind, then try YouTube. There are lots of different tutorial videos that have been recorded showing people how to use various applications.
# 4. The product website
If your problem is related to a particular product, application or company then start with their website next. Dig around on the product’s website and look for things like;
- Forum’s or Community pages
# 5. Contact Support
If things have gotten to the point where you have to submit some sort of support request here are some tips on how to make it as easy as possible and so that you get the right response as fast as possible.
If your available support is via Email, or Forum Post then use this template to explain your problem.
- Start by explaining what the problem is with a high level overview.
- Include the related product names with version numbers. You can generally find the version number of a program by looking under “Help > About” on Windows and “Apple Menu > About” on Apple machines.
- Steps to Replicate. Then include a numbered list of the steps to replicate the problem and most importantly what you expected the behaviour to be.
- Close with the question you want answered
- Remember to use the magic word “please”
Support Question Template
When you need to write down your problem here’s a problem description template you can use. It will save you time and money if you can quickly and accurately describe the problem.
<Overview of the problem> <Products and Version Numbers> Steps to Replicate 1. 2. 3. Expected: <what you expected to happen> Actual: <what actually happened> <Close with the question you want answered>
Before you click send. What you will often find is that while you are writing the support email you often think of other things to try or uncover the possible solution even before you’ve clicked the Send Button. The act of writing the problem down helps your brain to think about things differently.
Telephone support If you have access to Telephone support here are some additional tips.
- Don’t get angry
- Use a headset if you’ve got one and keep your hands free
- You need to walk through their script, it might be a little frustrating but (hopefully) the scripts that they are using have evolved to cover a number of different problems and following the script is actually the fastest way to solve the problem.
Big Company Support Channels. If your problem is not related to a particular product or application but to the computer itself you may need to use one of the following support channels.
# 6. Try it on a different machine
Is the problem unique to one machine, or are you able to consistently repeat it on different machines? If the problem doesn’t occur on a different machine then you might want to try reinstalling the application, or start looking for differences between the two machines.
# 7. Try another web browser
If the problem is happening with a web application then you might want to try using the web application from a different browser. For example a button that you can’t click in one type of browser might work in a different browser. This happens because browsers are not consistent with each other and often the developers don’t test every path through their application with every kind of web browser.
# 8. Read the manual
Occasionally, every now and then when the planets and moon are in the right alignment “The Manual” might actually be a good place to look. The problem with reading the manual and the reason this step has been pushed down the list is that often;
- It’s wrong or out of date
- It’s badly written
- It uses language you don’t understand
- The answer is spread between two different places in the manual
# 9. Ask someone you know
Reach out and ask someone who might know. This is another quick and easy way of solving the problem (it’s also my wife’s preferred approach).
- Your kids
- The most technical person you know
- Your Twitter/Facebook followers
# 10. Hire an expert
You’ve tried your best but now it’s time to bring in the expert. You won’t win every battle but at least you tried and sometimes it’s a more cost effective use of your time to pay someone.
The next time you have a computer problem be brave. Don’t be afraid to have a stab at fixing it. You now have the tools and knowledge of a computer expert. Computer people don’t know all the answers, they just have more ways of finding the answer.
The biggest thing that stops most non-computer people from solving computer problems is the fear of looking dumb and breaking things. When it comes to computer problems we are all dumb, it’s only the computers that truly know what is happening. Don’t be afraid to ask the dumb questions.
The reason that kids are so good with technology is that they are not afraid. They push buttons until they find something that works. They have a thirst to understand how the world works. As we grow older we grow fearful of making mistakes, looking dumb, and eventually we just don’t even try anymore.
Embrace your inner child, go forth and fix your own computer problems.
Have a look at this web comic called The Tech Support Cheat Sheet. It’s supposed to be a joke, but it’s so close to the truth that it actually works.
You don’t need to sit dumbly, staring at the computer screen wondering what to do. Take control and solve your own computer problems.
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