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How to Troubleshoot a Computer

Learn important steps to troubleshoot your computer issues before you head out to buy another one.


  • Step 1: Shut down your computer If your computer freezes, turn off the power. Software and hardware problems can sometimes correct themselves automatically once you power down the computer.
  • TIP: Write down any error messages that pop up – this is important information to communicate to technical support, or to look up in the computer manual.
  • Step 2: Disconnect all external devices Disconnect all external devices including printers, external memory, and zip disks before restarting.
  • Step 3: Listen for unusual sounds and lights Listen for unusual sounds from the hard drive such as loud fans or monitor humming, and watch for blinking lights.
  • Step 4: Check the cables on the back of your computer Check the cables on the back of your computer to be sure the keyboard and mouse are completely plugged in. Try unplugging and re-plugging each of them.
  • TIP: Run Scandisk on your PC and defragment regularly –Use a defragmenting, or optimization, utility for a Mac.
  • Step 5: Start Windows in safe mode Start Windows in safe mode by hitting the F8 key at start-up. If using a Mac, hold down the shift key as soon as you hear the startup tone, and release when you see the Apple icon and progress indicator, or spinning gear.
  • Step 6: Start using the start-up disk If restarting fails, start the computer from the start-up disk that it came with.
  • Step 7: Uninstall or remove any newly installed software or hardware Uninstall or remove any newly installed software or hardware. Reboot, and try installing it again.
  • FACT: Positions involving network and administrative technical support are growing faster than other jobs on average.

You Will Need

  • Basic computer skills
  • A record of error messages
  • Your computeru2019s start-up disk

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