Basic Troubleshooting Techniques

Computer troubleshooting is essential to fixing technical issues. When troubleshooting computer lessons like this can help.

Troubleshooting

Do you know what to do if your screen goes blank? What if you can't seem to close an application, or can't hear any sound from your speakers? Whenever you have a problem with your computer, don't panic! There are many basic troubleshooting techniques you can use to fix issues like this. In this lesson, we'll show you some simple things to try when troubleshooting, as well as how to solve common problems you may encounter.

General tips to keep in mind

There are many different things that could cause a problem with your computer. No matter what's causing the issue, troubleshooting will always be a process of trial and error—in some cases, you may need to use several different approaches before you can find a solution; other problems may be easy to fix. We recommend starting by using the following tips.

Using the process of elimination

If you're having an issue with your computer, you may be able to find out what's wrong using the process of elimination. This means you'll make a list of things that could be causing the problem and then test them out one by one to eliminate them. Once you've identified the source of your computer issue, it will be easier to find a solution.

Scenario:

Let's say you're trying to print out invitations for a birthday party, but the printer won't print. You have some ideas about what could be causing this, so you go through them one by one to see if you can eliminate any possible causes.

First, you check the printer to see that it's turned on and plugged in to the surge protector. It is, so that's not the issue. Next, you check to make sure the printer's ink cartridge still has ink and that there is paper loaded in the paper tray. Things look good in both cases, so you know the issue has nothing to do with ink or paper.

Now you want to make sure the printer and computer are communicating correctly. If you recently downloaded an update to your operating system, it might interfere with the printer. But you know there haven't been any recent updates and the printer was working yesterday, so you'll have to look elsewhere.

You check the printer's USB cord and find that it's not plugged in. You must have unplugged it accidentally when you plugged something else into the computer earlier. Once you plug in the USB cord, the printer starts working again. It looks like this printer issue is solved!

This is just one example of an issue you might encounter while using a computer. In the rest of this lesson, we'll talk about other common computer problems and some ways to solve them.

Simple solutions to common problems

Most of the time, problems can be fixed using simple troubleshooting techniques, like closing and reopening the program. It's important to try these simple solutions before resorting to more extreme measures. If the problem still isn't fixed, you can try other troubleshooting techniques.

Problem: Power button will not start computer

Problem: An application is running slowly

Problem: An application is frozen

Sometimes an application may become stuck, or frozen. When this happens, you won't be able to close the window or click any buttons within the application.

Problem: All programs on the computer run slowly

Problem: The computer is frozen

Sometimes your computer may become completely unresponsive, or frozen. When this happens, you won't be able to click anywhere on the screen, open or close applications, or access shut-down options.

Problem: The mouse or keyboard has stopped working

Problem: The sound isn't working

Problem: The screen is blank

Solving more difficult problems

If you still haven't found a solution to your problem, you may need to ask someone else for help. As an easy starting point, we'd recommend searching the Web. It's possible that other users have had similar problems, and solutions to these problems are often posted online. Also, if you have a friend or family member who knows a lot about computers, they may be able to help you.

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Keep in mind that most computer problems have simple solutions, although it may take some time to find them. For difficult problems, a more drastic solution may be required, like reformatting your hard drive or reinstalling your operating system. If you think you might need a solution like this, we recommend consulting a professional first. If you're not a computer expert, it's possible that attempting these solutions could make the situation worse.