Saturday, February 9, 2013

Troubleshoot any Computer Problem

Before we start, A honest confession - I’ve screwed my PC thousands of times, and pretty much 90% of the time, I’ve repaired it on my own. My co-authors and some of the readers who know me personally (from various sources) would agree that troubleshooting computer issues is pretty much second nature to me. I’m very much familiar with that feeling of – Oh crap! Why wont the PC boot? What have I done? My dad’s gonna kill me! *Some more melodramatic lines here* It’s one of those situations where your heart is in your mouth. Arrrggghhh!!! To troubleshoot any kind of problem, you need 1 basic ingredient. For troubleshooting computer issues, that basic ingredient is the right mindset. Yeah! Believe me, with the right mindset, you can Troubleshoot any Computer Problem like a boss!

The Right Mindset:

Right Mindset -
As I mentioned before, having the right mindset IS the basic ingredient to troubleshooting computer issues. If for example, After your PC crashes and gives an error like – Windows cannot boot. Initially, yes, you’re allowed to have a panic attack but after about 10-15minutes, you should be calm and focused on solving the issue rather than crying about it. That’s the right mindset! If you already have the right mindset, feel free to skip to the next ingredient. But, for those who don’t have that kind of a mindset, here are some tips to help you develop this type of a mindset.
  • Be self-confident! If you don’t believe in yourself, seriously buddy, you pretty much can’t do anything in life! You are responsible for your own life.
  • Take risks! Don’t be afraid! I remember being curious about the ‘System Restore’ feature in Windows works, After some tinkering around, I managed to somehow screw my windows installation. But by taking that risk, I learnt what happens when you mess around with System Restore. I have lots of experiences like this one, but let’s not get into all that!
  • Sense of humor! Having a good sense of humor and a cheerful ‘Not a problem, I can try it’ attitude can help a lot during troubleshooting sessions.
  • Try not to worry! If something bad happens or everything doesn’t go well, don’t worry. By adopting this kind of an attitude, you’re going to believe that everything will be OK.
  • Think positive! Don’t pollute your precious mind with something useless. What’s done is done, no point crying about it. Instead, think about how you can solve it and also avoid repeating it in the future.
  • T-H-I-N-K! It’s really important! The root cause of the issue and sometimes, even the solution, is right there in front of you, but you gotta rack your brains! Did you turn off the UPS/mains before the computer was shut down completely? Did you turn off your Anti-Virus and run some unknown program? Think! Think! Think!

Google It!:

Google It -
We all have heard & used this clichéd phrase at some point of time. If you haven’t, don’t worry.. you read it just now!
Jokes apart, Google is by far your best friend when it comes to searching for solutions to problems! Especially the one’s that display error messages that make no sense to you.
80% of the computer issues have already been encountered by some or the other computer user. These users ask for troubleshooting advice on forums.. and the Admins/other genius minds help them! – that’s the protocol! If you encounter a problem like – mss32.dll is missing, simply googling the phrase mss32.dll is missing, would bring up hundreds of websites with the solution.
We all have our own ”methods” to identify and troubleshoot computer problems. Most of us probably have a certain protocol, or steps we follow, and so on. There’s always more than one way to diagnose and fix a problem! and all of them have a lot in common. Many factors like - environment(e.g. – Java), applications etc. that can influence this troubleshooting process. Here’s our take on the troubleshooting thought process.

The most common issues can be classified into the following types:

Hardware failure: This could actually be a failed component — a bad motherboard or hard drive, or it could be a matter of an unplugged cable, a router or modem that needs to be recycled, or something else.
Software issue: This would include the operating system, something affected by a Windows update, an application update, or an actual software bug.
Problems created by user’s actions: These are usually of the unintentional variety where a user might inadvertently disable something, edit something, delete something, and so on.
Vendor issue: We all hate hearing the buck being passed from one person to another, but it’s sometimes real and justified. A custom software or a supported piece of hardware might be experiencing some issues. High-end and high-output printing devices often fall into these categories.
Tip: We recommend trying to identify which category the problem falls in as quickly as possible. It can be so that the problem falls into 2 categories, which makes finding the solution even more of a challenge; but in such cases, the fixes would probably have to be addressed in that order — hardware first, then software (drivers, etc.), and finally the user issues (configuration, etc.). Isolate the issue and solve it!

Possible steps to seek a solution:

Reboot: In some cases, a reboot actually fixes the problem. On the other hand, however, requiring a reboot might really be a symptom of a deeper underlying problem. Rebooting once and getting it over with is one thing, but if it becomes necessary to reboot too frequently to fix the same problem, then digging a little deeper to find the underlying problem would be required.
Replicate the error: If it is indeed a BSoD error, or any such error, try to make the problem happen again, see the error message, etc. Experience the problem yourself to get a better feel.
Trace back to find out what led to the error: What did you do that immediately led up to the problem? What was modified? What was installed (or uninstalled)? The stereotypical answer is usually, “I did nothing different” or something along these lines. But it’s amazing how often we actually can identify that something really was changed by simply asking ourselves some questions.
Device Manager: This is such a quick and easy way to get an overview of the hardware status. A quick look for the yellow or red warning tags might quickly identify the source of a problem.
Error logs: Like the Device Manager, the error logs might reveal the source and frequency of a problem. Use HiJackThis to generate and view logs.
Isolate the problem: As I mentioned before, 80% of the computer issues have already been encountered by some or the other computer user. But the rest 20% are still issues! We need to check if the problem unique to this one particular computer, or are more people experiencing the same issue? For e.g, is it only one computer that can’t print versus all of them that can’t print?
Try Obvious Solutions: Sometimes the most simple and obvious solution is the hardest to see! You would be surprised by the sheer number of times a simple case of unplugged cord or loose cable has given me the chills.

Did this help simplify the process of “troubleshooting” for you? Did we miss out on something? Tell us what your views are in the comments below!


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