What You Should Know About Troubleshooting

Troublehooting problems on a computer can be very quick, or can take a substantial amount of time to methodically find the source of the problem(s). It can usually be quickly determined whether the problem(s) will be easy or hard to correct. Typically, over half of the problems encountered are easily repaired in an hour or two. More complex or difficult problems pose a dilemma because you certainly don't want to spend more on troubleshooting than your computer is worth. With this in mind, here are some tips for basic troubleshooting and/or preparing for technical support.

  • If Windows doesn't start, try starting the comptuer in SAFE MODE, which is a diagnostic mode in which only the bare essentials needed to run the computer are loaded. Background applications, programs and drivers can be slowly added, one at a time, and the computer rebooted each time, until the problem reappears and is identified. Restart the computer and then press the F8 key repeatedly until the boot menu is displayed. Use the cursor keys (arrow keys) to select SAFE MODE and then press the ENTER key. If the computer starts in Safe Mode, then try to restart it normally and see what happens.
  • If you have lost your internet connection, first make sure that the modem is not in standby mode. Not all modems have a standby button - but if yours does, then check to see if the standby light is lit and all other lights on the modem unlit. If the modem is not in standby mode or doesn't have a standby button, then try unplugging power from the cable or DSL modem and the router (if you have one). Also, shut down your computer in the normal manner (START | SHUT DOWN, etc.) and your router if you have one (by disconnecting the power cable.)Wait 30 seconds, then reconnect power to the modem. Wait another 30 seconds and then reconnect power to the router. Now restart your computer and see if you can get on the internet.


Before calling anyone for technical support, you should have as much of the following information written down as possible. This will save a lot of time, and some of your money. If you don't know some of this information, or don't know what it means, it's fine to just say that.

  • A list of your concerns, in order of priority. In other words, a list of what problems you are having on your computer.
  • The text of any error messages you receive, and what program you were using or what you were doing when the message appeared.
  • What version of Windows you are using (Windows 95/98/ME, 2000, XP, Vista, 7)
  • If your concerns are related to a specific program (i.e. Excel, WordPerfect, etc), what version of the program are you using (i.e. Office 2010).
  • Have you updated Windows to the latest Service Pack.
  • How much memory (RAM) does your computer have.
  • What anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall programs are you using?
  • Is your internet connection a dial-up, DSL, or Cable (or no internet). Who is your internet provider (Cox, AT&T, etc)?
  • Have you done anything to try to determine the cause of the problem(s), and if so what?
  • When your technical support person arrives, be sure to have all software installation CD's handy, including (1) your original Windows CD, (2) the CD that came with your computer which contains drivers and utilities, (3) any CDs that came with peripherals (such as your printer, sound and/or video card, modem, etc), and any software installation CDs (such as Quicken, etc).