I was helping a client learn about how to use her computer, and we ran into a problem. Later, I was helping my son figure something out, and I realized troubleshooting has three basic steps. 

First, a little background. I was talking with a friend, whose husband is a software engineer. She noted that the education software engineers receive these days is more akin to patching upon patching, rather than learning code origins and truly being able to fix a thing. I am not trained as a software engineer… I am a really good user who understands how technology works. This assessment feels true to my observations. For example, when you are using a piece of software, and it suddenly quits. Or, after you’ve updated your device and a patch is issued to fix the mistakes they missed. Or, maybe it doesn’t do something you expected it to do. There could be a few reasons the application didn’t do what you expected. One reason could be that you hit the wrong key and you told the computer/app to do something and you didn’t realize it. Another reason might be that the 1s and 0s that are running the program fell out of place for a second and it quit working. (This is the best answer I have for what happens.) 

Second, so I was helping my client troubleshoot a problem, and then later my son when these three simple steps came to me. When you are using your computer and it isn’t doing what you want, follow these steps. Often they will get you righted. 

1. Try again

The first thing you want to do is eliminate any user error. Generally, computers will do EXACTLY what you tell them to. So, if you find you aren’t getting the results you want, it probably means that you told the computer to do something wrong. 

For example, I was highlighting multiple email messages for quick deletion. I routinely go through my many emails and select many to delete or archive all at once. Suddenly, when I moved my cursor to the email list, it went nuts! It was scrolling up and down, it deselected everything I had selected! I couldn’t figure it out. So, I stopped, redid it, and the problem persisted. So, I tried again, but I paid closer attention to my hands on my keyboard. Instead of holding ONLY shift or command, I was accidentally hitting the spacebar. Therefore, the computer was doing EXACTLY what it was told, I was just giving it the wrong command.

So, if you encounter a problem, try again. If you are CERTAIN that you told the computer the exact right thing, but it’s still not responding correctly, then proceed to the next step.

2. Restart the app

Here is where the 1s and 0s seem to start getting misaligned. Sometimes programs freeze. They don’t respond the way you want them to. It feels like they are hanging up. When this happens, restart the application or program. Use your computer or devices “force quit” function if the normal quitting isn’t working. If that still doesn’t work, then you may need to restart your device.

3. Restart the device 

Your device could be your computer, your phone, your smart TV, modem, router, DVD, DVR, home security system, digital camera, and so much more. If you can, go through the proper shutdown procedure. If you must do a force restart, do so according to your device. 

Here are some reasons you might restart your device: 

  • If your device is running slow
  • If your device is acting “weird”
  • Unexpected system freeze-ups
  • Driver or hardware error
  • Lagging internet speeds
  • Connecting to the internet
  • After a software or patch update
  • After any type of software or hardware installation

So, what does restarting your device really do? It makes the device run through its original programming where it is designed to turn things off and on and check for errors. Newer operating systems sometimes even have checks to deal with malware and other nasty things. 

Note, if you find yourself having to restart more frequently than usual, it might be time for some more intensive maintenance. Be sure to have your computer checked out by a reputable service provider. 

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