Troubleshooting 101: Less expensive lessons to learn

I work at Ibayi PC, one of the busiest IT solutions companies in Port Elizabeth. I’ve worked here long enough to start seeing patterns in the problems customers have, and with my previous personal experience fixing friends’ computers, I though I’d share a bit of my troubleshooting knowledge with you, in the hope that this saves you a truckload of cash.

Rule #1: Its usually a virus or malware infection.

rman1537lIn fact, a large majority of the problems many users face are as a result of an infection. Most viruses floating on the Internet have been analysed and scanned by anti-virus companies, so those that get through are either dormant, or extremely scary. The chances of your PC  catching one increase every day, but not if you have good firewalls and an up-to-date anti-virus suite. Do a scan, have some coffee, relax for a while.

Rule #2: If it isn’t a virus, it’s buggy software.

This is a bone of contention among a few people I know. They spend hundreds on a suite of software to protect their computer because they think it’s a virus, when it’s actually another piece of crummy software that hasn’t been updated in a while. Stuff does get released broken; those of you playing Fallout 3 should be familiar with that. If it hasn’t been updated in a while, then do it now — chances are that it will fix whatever problems you’re facing.

pha0136lRule #3: If none the above, then it’s a driver.

Well, this rule actually changes in the context of things. I recently had a customer with a virus in her e-mail that would kick Outlook Express into an endless cycle of restarts and downloads, eating up her bandwidth. Getting rid of the virus was easy, but doing so caused her network drivers to malfunction. I spent an hour trying to figure that one out and a driver re-install got her ADSL working again. If you’re having sudden errors that only began when you installed a driver for new or existing hardware, logic dictates that those drivers are to blame.

Rule #4: It must be a hardware problem then!

I fix hardware faults on a daily basis. Sometimes the hardware’s too old, other times it overheated from dust build-up, or maybe a certain silly customer tried to clean it with dishwashing liquid (true story). Whatever the case, you can usually use the system logs to find out what’s causing your problem. These can be found by right-clicking Computer and selecting Manage. The logs are on your left, be sure to check the system ones if you suspect a hardware failure.

Rule #5: Okay, it must be a bug.

A little on the less plausible side, but I experienced this first-hand over the weekend. A customer brought in a PC, wanting it to be revived. I had to install a chassis fan into the front of the case and when I opened the front, bugs started crawling out.

Rule #6: Pay attention to the problem.

If Windows dies before it gets to the loading screen or before the desktop loads, its generally indicative of a bad driver. If it consistently fails even in Safe Mode then you need to repair or re-install Windows. If you’re unfamiliar with this, there are plenty of forumites out there who can help. If there’s an error code or if you have an idea of what’s missing, Google it. It’ll help save you that R342 that you’ll blow in less than an hour.