I am clueless when it comes to appliances.
More than once I have called out a repair person to fix my dishwasher or dryer, only to discover that the power cable is loose, or that the exhaust is clogged with lint. A little basic troubleshooting could have saved me a lot of money, if only I’d known what easy things to try before having someone out. Over the years at Nerds on Call, I have discovered simple fixes for a surprising number of computer problems. Trying them before you call a repair company could save you time, money and frustration.
• Shut down and restart: It’s a good first step for just about any electronic device that is frozen, has stopped functioning as it should, or has given you a cryptic error. From computers to printers, routers, even personal electronics like MP3 players and cell phones, you’d be surprised how often a random problem just never returns after a system reboot. If your system is frozen, resist the urge to pull the plug. Pressing and holding the power button for five to seven seconds should push your system into a hard shut down. Make sure you restart the tower, not just the monitor.
• When your Internet network goes down, you should restart the various parts in a specific order. If you have a high-speed Internet connection and more than one computer, you likely have a modem and a router. If one or all of the systems on your network can no longer get online, try a network “power cycle” before you spend the next few hours on hold with your Internet provider.
Shut down all systems that can’t get online, the modem and the router. Shutting off a modem or router often requires disconnecting the power cable. You’ll know you’ve got it when the lights on the unit turn off. Turn them back on in the following order, allowing each device a few minutes to connect before moving on to the next: modem, router, and then computer(s).
• Power off: If restarting the system or device doesn’t work, try shutting down and unplugging the tower, then plug it back in and restart. If you have a laptop or other portable electronic device, remove the battery (if possible) to ensure that your system has fully rebooted.
• Check cables: You’d be surprised how easy it is for cables to get pulled loose. Check all cables in and out of the device, at both sides of the connection.
• Recreate the problem: This probably sounds counterintuitive. But it’s common for computers to encounter a rare series of circumstances that causes something to malfunction, and after restarting you may never see the error or behavior again. To fix a problem, a technician will need to be able to recreate the problem. Otherwise, he or she won’t be able to find the cause, which will waste your time and possibly money. So make sure to show the tech exactly what is happening.
• Google the error message: This might create an even more confusing wave of codes and cryptic information, but some easy-to-fix problems result in really bizarre error messages. You might just need to change a printer cartridge or load more paper.
• Run your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs: I know, I know, you hear this from me over and over. But if you are encountering an odd error, pop-up, or slow system, updating and running your protection programs certainly isn’t going to hurt.
If these tips don’t resolve your problem, then at least there’s a good chance that it’s worth calling a professional. If you (gasp!) are having trouble with your Mac computer, drop me a note for my list of what to try before calling Apple Care.
Andrea Eldridge is CEO of Nerds on Call, which offers onsite computer and home theatre set-up and repair, based in Redding, Calif. Contact Eldridge at www.callnerds.com/andrea