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What if your computer won’t work?

How do you feel when your computer won’t work? First, there’s that cold feeling in your stomach, and then you begin to wonder where your old backup disk went, right?

How do you feel when your computer won’t work? First, there’s that cold feeling in your stomach, and then you begin to wonder where your old backup disk went, right?

First, do no harm The first thing to do when your computer is acting up by hanging up or not acting at all is to take a tip from your personal physician: "First, do no harm." It’s easy to start clicking and pushing buttons, but that isn’t usually the best idea. You could make things worse than they actually are. It’s especially important not to make this the time to try out some new technique that you heard about.

Wait a darn minute Time is your friend when you are working with a stubborn computer. Sometimes, just walking away for a minute will solve the problem. It could be that the computer is simply busy running some program in the background like scandisk, defrag or an anti virus scan. If you’ve made a recent change, like adding a new webcam or installing Windows updates, your computer may be finishing the job that you started earlier.

Don’t forget that an incorrect shutdown by cutting the power at the switch or wall in stead of using the start button will cause the machine to take a moment to check for errors the next time you power up.

Usually, it’s the hardware Most non-starting issues are caused by hardware problems. Is the computer plugged in? Is the monitor turned on and connected to the terminal properly? Is your modem or network connection inserted at the terminal and at the other end? Is there power to your cable or DSL modem?

If at first you don’t succeed… An amazing number of computer problems respond very well to the old saying, "If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again." Computers need to go through lots of complex operations just to start up. Many of your software programs have complicated startup rituals, too. Sometimes it’s surprising that these things work as frequently as they do. I always tell people to try a problem twice before trying to find another solution. You’ll be surprised how often this works.

Is someone trying to tell you something? Many times too many times PCs give us some kind of indecipherable error message. Our temptation is to click through these pop-ups and get on with our work. Amazingly, though, they can be the best things that happen to us during a computer problem. You may not understand the message, but if you write it down word for word, you may be able to get some help. First, if you use a technical support person, they will be much more likely to help you if you give them this information. Secondly, if you have access to another computer, are somewhat tech-savvy, or are good at following instructions, you may find help by typing the message into the Microsoft support site http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx. Often, just typing the first long string of numbers and letters in your error message will bring up an article that relates to something that sounds very much like what your computer is doing. If there is a suggestion to correct the problem, as there normally is, and the suggestion looks like something you can follow exactly, you may save yourself a tech support call by giving it a try.

That brings us back to, "First, do no harm," though. If you feel squeamish with the instructions, you could save a lot of trouble by calling a professional.

Alan Thornton has been helping people and businesses with their computers and networks since 1994. You can reach him at [email protected]

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