The only thing constant is change. The same statement applies to computers.
The only constant with them are numerous glitches and problems! Crashes,
error messages, and freezes with your computer often occur because of overstressing
it. Computer activities such as the following stress your system: large
file download, large printing job, burning data to CD-R (CD-recordable),
graphics editing, video recording and editing, audio recording and editing,
digital scanning, and video playback. Many of the tips in this article
will help you preclude, identify and/or repair many computer problems.
Whenever encountering problems, first make sure power cords, cables
and connectors are all firmly connected to your computer/peripherals. Now
attempt to identify your specific problem. Initially seek assistance from
the “Help” feature of your computer, and then technical support from the
manufacturer, friends, and/or manuals or other technical resources available
||Before making a call for technical support that may cost you money,
check out the following Computer Help resources on the Web. Protonic.com
is a free support site staffed with experts. To register and ask a question,
just click Ask A Question once on the site. Star
Support also uses volunteers but there is no registration process.
To ask a question, click Free Technical Support and fill out the submission
is a site designed to lend a helping hand by letting you post questions
to a forum. It has a registration process that can be initiated by clicking
Welcome! New Users Please Click Here. The next two Web sources offer online
computer support and information through an extensive database of reference
material covering hardware/software. They are: Computer
Hope and Microsoft’s Knowledge
||As long as you have a functional modem and an Internet account, you
can use online utilities that scan your system, evaluate your computer’s
problem and make recommended solutions. These utilities can perform remote
virus scanning, performance diagnostics, and hardware/software troubleshooting
and even repair with some problems. Online system scanners operate by downloading
and installing a small application on your computer when you sign up for
this service, so choose a utility with a very good reputation! Some of
the better utilities include: PC
Pitstop runs a free basic service with an extensive array of diagnostics
from which you receive a graphical report of your system’s performance
and security. PC
Support.com and Triage
both focus mainly on the corporate market and might be useful to small
companies that don’t hire support staff. PC
Pinpoint is by far the most exhaustive online diagnostic site and guarantees
your problem will be fixed by them, however there is a weekly and/or yearly
fee. First Aid
Online is a performance diagnostic tool that will help you tune up
your machine. McAfee also runs VirusScan
Online if all you want is virus scanning services.
Power-On Self Test:
When a computer boots up, it runs a test of hardware components called
“Power-On Self Test”. Watch your monitor for system warnings and error
messages. Press Pause to freeze the screen if the messages disappear before
you can read them. Look for warnings, too, and note the last initialized
device to appear before the computer locks up if that’s the problem. Also,
listen to unusual sounds with your power supply fan and the hard disk.
Don’t forget to use your sense of smell to detect smoke or overheated gear.
To determine if you have a corrupt file(s), click Start, Run and type in
sfc and then click OK.
ScanDisk (Check Disk)/Defragmentation:
Some problems can be resolved easily by just running your ScanDisk
(Check Disk) and Defragmentation. As a rule of thumb you should perform
these preventative maintenance functions at least once a month or more
frequently depending upon computer use.
If Windows, for example, won’t launch properly or you’re having problems
with moving icons, screen lock-ups, page fault errors, occasional mouse
pointer freeze-ups or audio difficulties start your computer in “Safe Mode.”
Hold down the F8 key just before Windows boots and select Safe Mode from
the resulting menu. Now you can access Device Manager and other troubleshooting
tools. You can use the “Device Manager” to check the status of all the
hardware installed on your computer. In WinXP you can access the Device
Manager by going to Performance and Maintenance, right-clicking System
or the Control Panel with other versions of Windows. Once in Device Manager
look for old devices and discard references to those that are no longer
in your computer.
Start-up Disk or Emergency/Boot Disk:
Another tool available to you at this point is your “Start-up Disk”
and/or “Emergency or Boot Disk” if your computer requires its use to recover
from a crash in order to resolve a particular problem. If you haven’t already
made one, do so as soon as possible.
System Configuration Utility:
The “System Configuration Utility” lets you enable/disable software
and configuration files for trial-and-error troubleshooting, so click Start,
Run and type msconfig or click Start, Search to find and start it from
the Results window. System Configuration is a good tool for isolating and
testing parts of Windows configuration files.
Win98, Me, XP are preinstalled on fast computers, but many still wonder
if they are getting the bang for the buck. The fastest part of your process
is memory and the slowest is reading disks. Using Windows tools such as
the System Monitor will help to isolate the bottleneck. You probably don’t
need a new CPU, but more memory and better disk cache management. To open
the System Monitor, choose Start, Control Panel, and Performance and Maintenance.
Click Administrative Tools and double-click Performance to open the System
Monitor in the console root.
Win98/Me/2000/XP all have Windows’ System Restore capabilities. Win98
has a Registry backup utility called ScanReg that saves five days’ worth
of backups. Win2000/Me let you restore the “Last Known Good Configuration”
from the Advanced Options Menu. WinWP/Me have the System Restore utility.
WinXP also has a “Remote Assistance” feature. It allows you to have
a knowledgeable friend or technician using the Internet to take control
of your system and directly fix problems with it.
As a last resort, if you haven’t already done so and still can, save
and backup your files and then use your “Recovery Disk” to get your computer
back online. Before using a recovery disk, though, check it out. To my
surprise a newly purchased Compaq computer only came with a “partial” recovery
disk. When the hard drive had to be replaced on this machine, I had to
order for a small fee a “full” recovery disk from Compaq to restore all
of the original software on the computer. A computer magazine recently
reported that Hewlett Packard may no longer provide recovery disks with
its new computers.
A driver is a small software application that controls many of the
devices on your computer. They are often troublesome and you may need to
update or replace faulty ones. There are several driver Web sites that
can help you obtain drivers for your computer’s peripheral devices. DriverGuide
is a free site with more than 60,000 drivers. Driverzone
and DriversHQ are
also free sites with many drivers. Conventional wisdom says that
if a patch is available to apply it. That is true for your operating system.
However, if your application software is working properly, leave it alone.
The same is true with your hardware. Sometimes drivers can cause rather
than resolve problems especially with applications/hardware.
From time to time your computer may lockup for some seemingly unknown
reason. Whenever this situation happens to your “frozen” computer, press
Ctrl-Alt-Delete (It makes a difference in the order to press these keys.
Press Ctrl or Alt first and then Delete. Delete must be the last key.)
to open the Close Program dialog box. Select the task that caused the problem.
It should say “not responding” in parentheses and then click the End Task
button. After a few seconds, an End Task dialog box will appear explaining
that the program is not responding. Now click End Task again and Windows
should close just that program. The other alternative, should this procedure
not work for you, is to reboot your computer. In Win2000 Server, you could
have similar problems and may not be able to resume using your computer
by moving the mouse or pressing a key. If your computer doesn't respond
properly after it turns off the hard drive, restart your computer, access
the Power Options window, and in the Power Schemes tab, select the Never
option from the Turn Off Hard Disks drop-down list. These steps ensure
that your hard drive never turns off and produces fewer system lockups.
To prevent potential problems, before installing new programs on your
computer, close all open programs to include your anti-virus software.
You should also close or disable those programs running, noted by icons,
on the System Tray next to the clock on the bottom, right hand side of
your screen. Stop any active programs in the System Tray by right-clicking
its icons and choosing an exit option. Now you are set to install your
new software using Window’s built-in Add/Remove Programs tool. After running
the new program’s setup, simply restart Windows to bring back all of the
icons. Next you need to make sure your system is in an optimum state. Again,
close all open programs to include those on the System Tray. Then press
Ctrl+Alt+Delete to launch Windows Task Manager and halt all tasks listed
with the exception of Explorer and Systray (the System Tray). Run Windows’
maintenance programs ScanDisk (Check Disk) and Disk Defragmenter or third–party
utilities. Finally restart Windows to flush the active or volatile memory.
Occasionally, something happens to cause damage to your Win95/98 registry.
As bad as this can be, there is some help. If your computer is completely
dead, and it appears that the registry may be the culprit, shut down, or
turn off your computer. Turn on your PC, and while booting, hold down the
F8 button until the startup menu appears. Select the "Command Prompt" option.
When the DOS appears, type SCANREG/RESTORE at the prompt. Press Enter at
the MRC (Microsoft Registry Checker) screen to restore the most recent
of the five backups that Windows creates. Now, reboot. If this also fails,
you may have had a serious virus attack. As a word of caution, this
tip should only be used by experienced computer users.
Microsoft Windows ages as it is used every day. As you use it to install,
uninstall, patch, save, load, and all the other functions, Windows actually
goes through a decaying process. After a point, Windows becomes unstable
and unusable. Therefore, knowing that a computer will ultimately have some
type of problem, the wise user will always backup his/her files to one
or more of several options, such as floppy disks, CD-Rs, tape drives, zip
drives, duplicate hard drives, etc. This step is the first and most important
preventative maintenance task that will lessen the impact of any major
computer problem. Thereafter, you will have to format your hard drive and
reinstall Windows and your applications and data.