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How to Fix Common Computer Problems (with Checklist)

how to fix common pc problems

It’s a fact: there are a million different things that can go wrong with your computer. And while you can always call IT support, many problems have simple solutions that you can quickly take care of yourself.

After all, who wants to sit on the phone describing an issue to support when you could be getting back to work and moving on with the day?

Even if you’re lucky enough to have a great Managed IT Services Provider (MSP) looking out for your organization’s technology, and your call for help isn’t costing your company extra dollars, it is still costing you time that could be spent more productively.

That’s why we’re taking a look at how you may be able to resolve your latest computer issue with a few simple troubleshooting solutions instead of calling IT.

To make things even easier, download our checklist of common computer fixes at the end of the article to keep as a handy reference for the future.

Try the two best IT troubleshooting “magic tricks”

Before you pick up the phone to IT or submit that help ticket, always try a good, old-fashioned reboot! This goes for computers, as well as mobile devices and other office machines, like printers and copiers, too. So remember…

  1. Turn it off and turn it back on again. (Or sometimes, just pull the plug for a few minutes before plugging it back in and restarting.) If this didn’t resolve your issue, move on to step 2.

2.  Google it. Especially if you’re encountering specific error codes or peculiar problems, just ask Google. You can be sure that lots of other people have already had the same problem, and there are scores of discussion threads, articles, and websites out there offering DIY fix-it advice.

Do be aware that some troubleshooting starts to get very complex, very quickly. If you’re also having to Google unfamiliar terms and abbreviations, it’s always a good idea to stop what you’re doing and call the IT support experts.

Follow these troubleshooting “hacks”

If you’ve tried both restarting and Googling to no avail, there are some other steps you can take depending upon your specific issue. Here’s what you can do to attempt to fix the most annoying common problems before you make a support call.

If the computer won’t turn on

It may sound silly, but have you checked that the computer is plugged in (to the wall, that is)? An unplugged computer, or one that’s incorrectly plugged in, can be blamed for systems failing to power on way more often than you might think. And sometimes the surge protector or battery backup unit that the computer is plugged into is not turned on. These usually have power switches, which can get flipped by accident.

As you’re examining cords and connections around your computer and desk, make sure to look for indicator lights or listen to see if the computer is making noise. Your computer may not really be off but in a sleep or hibernation mode. And, on desktop models, make sure monitors are connected and plugged into a power source. Press the power button on your computer again once you’ve verified that everything is plugged in where it should be.

If the Internet isn’t working

First, determine whether it’s just your computer that can’t connect. Ask co-workers if they’re experiencing problems, too. Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) could be to blame if everyone is having problems, or there could be an issue with your company’s network. Call IT if these widespread connection issues persist for more than a few minutes.

If it is just your computer that’s not online, check to see if you’re connected. On Windows computers, you’ll find an Internet or Wireless icon at the bottom right corner of the taskbar near the clock. Click that and see whether the pop-up menu indicates whether you’re connected or not. You can right-click the icon to try troubleshooting steps within Windows. Also, make sure that desktop computers without wireless receivers built in have a network cable that is plugged into your network outlet or modem/router.

Windows internet connection icon troubleshooting

If the computer is too slow

System sluggishness can be a symptom of a long list of different problems. In a previous blog post, we recommended possible fixes for eleven common reasons your computer might be running more like the tortoise than the hare. You’ll want to check it out.

If programs are crashing

Some of the same problems that cause overall computer sluggishness may also cause programs to crash. For example, you may have too many programs open that are taxing your system in the background. Close your open apps and restart only the one that’s crashing. It also doesn’t hurt to try restarting your entire computer.

Sometimes the cause of crashing programs is a bug or glitch in the underlying code. Check for updates to the program, or to your operating system itself, which may contain bug fixes to prevent crashes.

A word of caution: sometimes locating updates can be difficult, and it may require going to the software manufacturer’s website for more information or downloads. Always be extremely careful when downloading files from the web. Generally, it’s a good idea to contact your IT support resource when problems with crashing programs crop up.

If you’re seeing lots of error messages and pop-ups

Googling the error messages or pop-ups that are appearing on your screen may help you pinpoint the issue, but it’s highly possible you have a virus. Run a virus scan immediately. If you don’t have an antivirus solution installed on your computer or network, stop what you’re doing and call IT. Windows has some very basic virus protection built in, but it is not nearly enough to protect you from the exploits of hackers and other cybercriminals today.

If a program or document is missing

Just because it’s not saved where you expected it to be, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your missing program or document is gone forever. Sometimes errant clicks can drop folders or files into places they weren’t intended to be.

First, check your Recycle Bin to make sure you didn’t accidentally delete a file or shortcut. If your missing item is in there, remove it right away before opening it or saving any changes to it. Next, take a quick look at your taskbar – is the program or document already open? Last, you can type the name of the program or file into the Search Box prominently featured beside the Windows button on the taskbar.

If it’s a document or spreadsheet that’s gone missing, you can also use File Explorer. Click the folder icon on your taskbar in Windows and use the search box at the upper right of the window that opens. Additionally, Word and Excel in Microsoft Office both feature an “open recent” function that’s quite handy. Just click the File tab, select “Open,” and Recent Documents (Word) or Recent Workbooks (Excel) will be the default choice. You can also use this navigation pane to look for your missing file elsewhere, such is on OneDrive.

Check out our checklist

Want a quick reference guide to keep handy near your computer for the next time you run into trouble? Refer to our troubleshooting checklist for the most common computer problems.Download our troubleshooting checklist

Call for backup

If you’ve exhausted all of the troubleshooting tips and tricks we’ve shared with you here today, or you’re just stressed and pressed for time, it’s a good idea to call your IT support provider right away. These individuals, whether in-house employees or contracted outside service providers, have specialized training and knowledge that can get you back up and running quickly. You should never feel hesitant about calling for backup on particularly tricky computer problems!

Of course, maybe your current IT support provider isn’t easy to reach or doesn’t quickly respond to your problems. If you’re looking for a reliable IT services partner in the Lancaster, PA area, give the EZComputer Solutions team a try. Contact us for a quote today. We’re happy to help, and we’d love to be your backup!

© 2018, EZComputer Solutions. EZComputer Solutions is an IT service provider providing computer support service in Lancaster, Harrisburg, York, Lebanon & Reading, PA