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Sep 16, 2010

Troubleshooting Your PC

PC Troubleshooting
Here are a few tips to avoid getting stuck in a troubleshooting rut.

State the problem clearly, even if it's only to yourself. If you need to, write it down. "The system won't boot" isn't good enough. Instead: "The system won't boot; when it tries to boot, it generates an error saying that no operating system is installed. When I try to reboot, I can see that my hard drive isn't visible to the BIOS."

Pay attention to your system's changes. If something isn't working that was working before, ask yourself, what's different? Was an app installed? A new driver update? A BIOS update? In the above example, of the system not booting, you might realize that you just installed a second hard drive in your system.

Make only one change at a time. If you're experienced, it's particularly tempting to shortcut this process. "I'll update the BIOS, detach the second new hard drive, and swap out the power supply." If the system starts working, you don't know what actually solved the issue. If the system still doesn't work, it's possible that one of your multiple changes may be the new cause of the problem. Make one change at a time!

Document your changes. You don't have to keep a detailed lab notebook. Just grab a sheet of paper and note each step along the way, what worked and what didn't. Once you solve the problem, throw the page or pages into a folder for future reference.

Getting frustrated? Walk away from the problem. A little downtime can bring new inspiration or help you catch clues you may not have noticed.

Ask for help. If you're still having problems, bring in a second pair of eyes. Even a nontechnical person can make useful suggestions, if you've explained the issue clearly. Also, try an online forum. If you go online for help, make sure you present a detailed description of the problem, including brand names and model numbers, if appropriate.

Using a well-defined process to work through problems will result in speedier, more satisfying solutions--and save you a few bucks. While it can be tempting just to throw money at a problem, make sure to pull out your credit card only after you're sure you'll need it.