Image shows a young man troubleshooting a computer

Troubleshooting Your Computer

I’d like to share some basic troubleshooting tips in today’s blog post. You may recognize these as some of the more common and perhaps irritating things that those help desk people ask you to do. I’ll include some explanations about why they’re important.

Issue Categories

Hard Drive Full: Probably one of the most overlooked problems. The computer is running slow, there doesn’t seem to be any explanation and usually you go through a series of steps to fix it to no avail. Someone troubleshooting finally says “how much free space does your hard drive have?” and BAM. Delete or archive a few files and everything is back to normal.

Memory Leaks: All software isn’t created the same, and a great deal of it is written poorly. Computer programs are supposed to secure a certain amount of memory in the computer to operate; storing the program and any assorted data it needs to function. When complete, then empties that memory so other programs can use it. Programs may not release the memory properly, use too much, or crash and leave data in memory for some other program to stumble across and crash too.

Bad or badly installed updates: Software manufacturers release updates frequently to address security concerns. In the fast-paced effort to keep your computer safe, they will miss key tests which would identify a bugged update which causes even more problems. Also, some updates can be misapplied due to other computer problems (such as the ones in this article).

Malware & Adware: I won’t go into this too deeply but the mission of these programs are to slow down, corrupt, and damage your operating system and your programs and data. They are sneaky and insidious! Troubleshooting these can be challenging but there’s some good tools out there.

General steps for troubleshooting

There’s 3 big tips I can offer you. I’d try them in the order given for most general issues.

Reboot your computer. Most people give a big sigh when you say this. Slow computers take a while to reboot and they just want to get back to work. Compared with the other easy solutions this one is much faster and really does work most of the time. Believe it or not, you might have to do it more than once if you…

Check for updates. The Windows Update system has come a long way and is not only fairly good at repairing itself, but it also can get updates to updates (yeah that’s a thing), to fix the buggy ones. On most computers you can just click the Start button and type “windows update” (without quotes) and you’ll see the option to do so. Focus on the automatic versions – avoid the recommended ones unless you’re trying to fix a specific issue. Persistent problems might require more than one set of updates to be run. You’ll probably have to reboot a couple times too!

Scan for Malware/Adware. No one antivirus/antimalware tool is infallible and even when you have the best, there’s always new malicious software that gets through. Free for personal use options are great, and MalwareBytes tops the list. If you suspect an infection, be very careful about clicking links. Type in: to get the software. Make sure you choose the For Home, Free Version.

Here are some important things to avoid when looking for solutions.

Registry cleaners or Speed up programs. Most registry cleaners cause more problems than they solve. Using one when you have an infected computer can be disastrous. Nearly every product that claims to speed up your computer will not do so, and in fact will make it run slower, or infect your computer with malicious software.

Generally speaking, if the software claims are too good to be true, they probably are. There’s some stuff out there you can download that claim to GUARANTEE your computer will run faster or your money back. They’re scams. They’ll happily take your money and claim that you broke your computer, nullifying the guarantee.

File Converters. Sometimes we just need a tool to help us out real quick like a PDF converter, something that converts pictures or a YouTube video downloader. I don’t know of a legit one, and I have seen dozens of computers infected by these tools. If you find something that is free, it’s probably coming with some malicious baggage you want to avoid!

The internet has become a place where it’s very easy to get answers, but equally easy to get some really bad advice. Try our update & reboot steps first, and get a good malware scan going. If you still have problems, give us a call and we’ll be happy to help diagnose over the phone to see if it’s a bigger problem we need to help you with.

Here’s some other great advice as well.

Wade Stewart is the Managing Member of Stewart and Son Computer Services, LLC in University Place, WA and serves as a trusted partner to many local small and medium sized businesses.

Content Copyright Wade Stewart (C) 2016

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