Are you new to computers, or do you always have strange little problems with your computer? Are you scared of using your computer / tablet / device because things seem to go wrong – you press the “wrong” button?
Do you want to fix your computer problems yourself?
As a bit of a departure from the usual tone of this website, I’m taking you back to basics – empowering readers (or the people advised and helped by the readers of this website) to feel confident in using a computer.
So, what do you do when there is a problem on your computer? It’s as simple as following the 6 Rs to let you fix computer problems yourself;
Step 1 – Read
I am amazed how many people don’t do this. Conditioned to just press, Next, Next, Next – or hit OK to every message on the screen, many problems can be avoided and fixed by simply reading the error message or warning on the screen. The people who wrote the software will have put time and effort into helpful error messages (usually), to tell you what is going on. However, what if you don’t understand the message? That’s step 2;
Step 2 – Record
Once you have read the error message, write down what it says. This includes error codes and the title of the error box / window. Once you have recorded what it said, it’s much easier to either explain to someone else (instead of just telling them it did not work!) and also easier for you to search in Google, or post into a discussion forum. Can you get a screenshot – or even take a photo of the error? Try copy and paste with the error text…
No error message to write down? Well, this is the stage where you record what you were trying to do, and what actually happened. You need to do this while you remember, as someone helping you might ask something easily forgotten, such as – “did you click, or double click?”.
Once you have given it a go, then the next step is;
Step 3 – Retry
Try again – perhaps there was an issue that is outside of your control, and simply doing it again can work. There can be problems with data ‘timing out’ (when a response was not received in time), over the Internet or even locally on your device. Try it again – perhaps what you read in the error message might even help you this time? Otherwise the next step is;
Step 4 – Reboot
Whilst this might not be the best option for all issues (for example, not a good idea if the problem is that you can’t save 4 hours of your work), restarting the computer / tablet / device can help. The computer might have a temporary issue such as a background component that has failed, a conflicting application or process, or you could be running low on available memory. A reboot causes the device to re-load all the required software, in the correct order and with nothing else running.
Step 5 – Reach out
Once you have done that, if the problem still happens, then you can ask Google, or ask someone more skilled than you – but that’s where Step 2 is really helpful to them. And I can pretty much guarantee that they will ask if you have done either step 3 or 4!
If you type in the error message or symptoms to Google or even Bing, you might find that other people are asking about the same error or problem – you might find discussion forums. If your error is persistent and no-one else posts the answer or help, try registering on a forum (try one related directly to the software you are using – best of all, the software developer/publisher’s site), and post the error and your symptoms (it also helps to tell people what you have tried do fix it yourself) – and then potentially millions of people on the Internet can help you!
Step 6 – Reinstall
Persistent errors can be an indication that there is a damaged file or component. Only if you have tried to investigate the problem, then you can try the following; Locate the Uninstall capability for the application or software (it might be with the original install CD), and remove the software – if given an option then choose to keep you files and settings. Then reboot. Then try re-installing the software (following the advice in Step 1, of course), and once fully installed, reboot again. The reboots make sure that nothing is still running. I wouldn’t recommend doing this for something like Windows itself, but for applications and software, this can help.
Still have problems?
(Step 7 – return / remove)
If you have really buggy software, consider an alternative…