Troubleshoot Computer Puzzles

Troubleshooting, solving problems, winning the great dominance competition with your computer, by any other name—these skills are essential in a digital world.

Like everything else you need a strategy to give you direction through the process, in addition to skills for addressing the particulars. Computers act up with all users, regardless of experience levels, so you might as well get used to it.

There is so much going on in the background for even the simplest computer task, it is no wonder that systems get messed up on occasion.

So be prepared for problems, develop a self-education strategy, and learn the basics of digital survival:

Then make a commitment to apply your learning in a rigorous and consistent manner when you solve problems—because trouble happens.

Before getting into some process-related coping strategies, I want you to take a minute to describe your relationship with technology. If someone asks you what would you say? How do you feel thinking about it?

Is it lopsided? Do you feel needy, clingy, and at the mercy of your computer? If so you are not alone.

However, I would like to suggest a different mindset.

Get competitive. Call on your inner gamer, and prepare yourself for triumph! Nothing is as self-defeating as a sense of futility at the starting line.

If you have a plan, learn what you need to, then do what you need to, you can put a good deal of trust in your own competence and common sense.

When I have a problem with my computer I do my best to remember some basic principles:

  • Resist panic
  • Do not immediately shift deadlines
  • Write down everything that happens ASAP

The Plan
Keep a careful record of:

  • The event itself—what exactly happened, what crashed first, etc.
  • The exact error message if you get one (be aware it may look like goobldy goop)
  • Circumstances around the event
  • Anything that you do next

Learn What You Can Do

  • Rebooting your computer helps much of the time—if Windows freezes try using the Ctrl-Alt-Del keys all at once, if it works you will get the Windows Task Manager and you can click the Applications Tab to close programs that are not responding (then wait—it may take 60+ seconds so just sit with it…).
  • If that doesn’t work, you can try a normal shutdown, and you can always shut your computer off manually with the power button as a last resort.
  • If you have done much work since your last backup, backup key data files before you continue
  • A reboot will fix many problems but if the problem keeps coming back, it needs to be dealt with
  • Look in the program’s help section for info
  • Search the program’s website for your error code
  • Search the Web for people talking about similar problems
  • Search Google Groups for people who talk about the problematic program

Do it
As long as your data is backed up, once you have an idea of what you can try it is time to get going.

  • Try one thing at a time ONLY!
  • Making multiple changes at once will keep you from figuring out how you solved the problem.
  • Keep your notes clear and up to date. Even if you never need to look at them again, the act of disciplined attention will serve you well.

This is the start of your problem solving and troubleshooting self-education mission. Take it seriously, change your relationship to technology, and WIN!