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Solutions to Common Computer Problems New Orleans Personal Computer Club May 2010 Hardware Issues - Desktops Unusual noises Failing fans Hard drive dying Power supply dying or underpowered Consumer-level machines usually have small supplies Bad capacitors Electrical issues

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solutions to common computer problems

Solutions to Common Computer Problems

New Orleans Personal Computer Club

May 2010

hardware issues desktops
Hardware Issues - Desktops
  • Unusual noises
    • Failing fans
    • Hard drive dying
  • Power supply dying or underpowered
    • Consumer-level machines usually have small supplies
  • Bad capacitors
  • Electrical issues
hardware issues desktops3
Hardware Issues – Desktops
  • Environmental issues
    • Dust
    • Pets
    • Food particles
    • Vermin
      • Usually through missing slot covers
    • Tobacco stains mixed with any of the above
hardware issues desktops4
Hardware Issues – Desktops
  • Preventative Maintenance
    • Use canned air periodically to dust out insides
      • Depending on environment, you might take want to take PC outside for its dusting
    • Use a good surge suppressor or better, an Uninterruptable Power Supply
    • Use power saving functions responsibly and turn off (or Standby) computers when not in use for more than a few hours
hardware issues laptops
Hardware Issues – Laptops
  • Loose screen hinges
  • Power jack coming loose
  • Battery unable to hold a charge
    • Average lifespan of laptop batteries is about 3-4 years
    • Time span of charge usually will depreciate towards end of life
    • Third-party replacements are widely available for most models
hardware issues laptops6
Hardware Issues – Laptops
  • Environmental issues
    • Dust
    • Pets
    • Food particles
    • Accidental abuse
      • Cracked display most common
hardware issues laptops7
Hardware Issues – Laptops
  • Preventative Maintenance
    • Get a good carrying case or knapsack with adequate padding
    • Keep it away from environmental hazards
      • Pets
      • Short-tempered people
windows os issues
Windows OS issues
  • Blue Screens Of Death (BSOD)
  • Viruses, Spyware, Ad-ware (Malware)
    • Make sure security program’s definition/ pattern files are up-to-date
    • Beware of drive-by downloads!
    • Recommend ad-blocking extensions
  • Cryptic Error Messages
    • Plug error message into search engine; somebody else is likely to have experienced it and inquired about it
  • Application errors
  • Driver errors
    • Check manufacturer site for any possible updates
windows os issues9
Windows OS issues
  • Performance (overall speed) issues
    • Many items/folders on Desktop, items in System Tray
      • Do NOT store any data files on the desktop!
      • MSCONFIG is diagnostic utility; do not check Selective Startup, disable individual items and leave it
    • RAM amount
      • Many hardware vendors will cheap out on this since RAM is expensive when new
        • When adding RAM, use fastest speed supported by PC’s motherboard; usually no or little price difference
        • Stick with name brands; don’t use generic/OEM compatible modules
      • XP needs 512mb, recommend about 1gig
      • Vista/7 needs 1gig, recommend about 2gigs or more
windows os issues10
Windows OS issues
  • Performance issues
    • Clutter
      • Most new consumer machines are bundled with what can be termed as shovelware – can be uninstalled with enough effort
      • On Vista/7, turn Sidebar off
      • Windows accumulates a lot of files that are supposed to get automatically deleted but don’t
    • Fragmentation
windows os issues11
Windows OS issues
  • Preventative Maintenance
    • Periodically run a cleaner utility such as CCleaner
    • Periodically defrag the hard drive(s)
    • Run virus scanner on some type of schedule
      • Install ONE antivirus program
    • Store data files somewhere under Documents or My Documents folder
    • Delete obsolete data
    • Uninstall trialware from system
    • Develop backup regimen
windows os issues12
Windows OS issues
  • Preventative Maintenance
    • Resist the urge to install any new program or add-on that claims to make life easier
    • Limit programs running in the System Tray
    • Limit access to physical computer
      • If not possible, set up strong password on user account(s), and also on the Administrator account
windows os issues13
Windows OS issues
  • Reinstallation, rebuild, Nuke & Pave
    • Do it only as a last resort
    • When properly maintained, Windows installations can run properly for many years
    • If your PC uses a recovery partition with the option for user-generated recovery media, DO IT!
    • If rebuild is needed, schedule a large amount of time for this task
      • Backup all data first
      • Have all install media at hand
      • A good Windows install can take at least 3 hours
internet service provider issues
Internet Service Provider Issues
  • Connectivity
    • Verify PC is getting IP address
    • If using wireless, try wired connection
      • Dell laptops automatically disable wired network port when on battery power!
    • If using a wireless or wired router, sometimes it is necessary to bypass it for effective troubleshooting
internet service provider issues15
Internet Service Provider Issues
  • Connectivity – cable modem setups
    • If switching around equipment on cable modem, power cycle modem for at least *three minutes*
    • Cable modems require RG6 coaxial cable in order to maintain a steady connection (many older installations have RG-59, which is much thinner)
    • Many Motorola SURFBoard modems have a Standby button on top- never touch it!
internet service provider issues16
Internet Service Provider Issues
  • Connectivity – DSL modem setups
    • Make absolutely sure filters are in place
      • Make sure DSL modem is NOT filtered!
    • Fax machines, answering devices all need to be filtered
    • Alarm systems with auto-dialers will likely need outside filter
    • When using routers with DSL modems, set modem to Bridged Ethernet, set router to PPPoE with UserID + Password
internet service provider issues17
Internet Service Provider Issues
  • Slow speeds
    • When in doubt, check using a good testing site like
    • Check only on wired network connection; wireless and USB connections do not count!
      • Many cordless phones use 2.4ghz band
    • Check multiple times, and turn off unnecessary internet-using apps
    • Upgrade router firmware, if available
internet issues
Internet Issues
  • Preventative maintenance
    • Do NOT click on any type of link on a web page that is an obvious advertisement
    • Resist signing up for “special offers” and other ploys to get your marketing information
    • Use strong passwords on sites that require a login ID
      • Use special characters when allowed
    • Use a browser other than Internet Explorer
    • Make sure wireless connection is locked down using encryption, at least WPA-level
getting outside help
Getting Outside Help
  • Sometimes it’s necessary; recognize your limits
  • Minimize outside distractions
  • Communicate clearly
  • Follow troubleshooting instructions, be able to read error messages that are showing
  • Treat the tech professionally
  • Answer all questions as best as possible
getting outside help isps
Getting Outside Help - ISPs
  • Problems such as passwords, mail client configurations, and power cycling do not require on-site trouble call visits
  • If the ISP has to send a tech for a trouble call and the problem is found to be anywhere in Customer Premise Equipment, the service call is billable to the customer
    • Exception: the customer is paying extra for insurance on services