Many of my clients, even the ones that I’ve worked with for years, view my tech troubleshooting skills as supernatural. While some of this is attributable to the perverseness of mechanical devices, “It was doing the thing until you walked into the room, and now it’s working,” the rest of the time it looks easy or magical is primarily because I’ve spent over 30 years honing my craft. Along the way, experienced technicians gather useful “shortcuts” to figuring out what’s wrong, and many of them are so simple that their use may be considered “magical.” So if you are having odd problems with your technology, either performance is slow or apps are unpredictable, here are some of the trusty tricks we troubleshooters use on taciturn technology.
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”Arthur C. Clarke
- Reboot. No, I’m not trolling you. This is every master technician’s secret weapon: we are not afraid to reboot. This is the doctor’s equivalent of, “Drink lots of water, get plenty of rest and take your vitamins.” Computers (and phones!) are so stable these days that you can go months(!) without rebooting. This also goes for home routers, Wifi access points and other “smart” devices. For older devices, rebooting might be painful and slow, but it still needs to be done.
- Check your data connection. Despite how pervasive and relatively reliable wireless data has become, it’s still reliant on the inherently unpredictable nature of EMF. If you are having intermittent issues with internet-powered apps, frequently this may be attributed to an unreliable Wifi signal or spotty cellular reception. If you can eliminate that variable by going hardwire for computers and getting to full-bars for cellular devices, many problems evaporate. If you have the option to change networks, try that as well, such as switching from the local Wifi to your phone’s hotspot, or disabling Wifi on your phone and using strictly cellular data, you can identify or rule out local network problems that might be out of your control.
- Close apps you aren’t using. Remember the good ole days when running two programs was considered multi-tasking? Me neither. Having half a dozen applications running on a computer is trivial even for budget computers and mobile devices, and you can bet that even though your device is putting on a brave face, it might be one straw shy of a broken back. If you are inquisitive, try closing apps one at a time and testing if the problem still exists. If you ain’t got time for that, see #1. And yes, you can close apps running in the background on phones too!
- Make sure you haven’t run out of storage space. Computers and mobile devices can store a ton of data, but today’s technology also creates way more data than ever before. When your device runs out of space, it can’t do the things it needs to do (like upload those 16-megapixel photos and 4k cat videos to the cloud, see #2), which just creates a vicious circle. Smartphones are notoriously bad at letting you know you are out of space, and will confuse the issue with trying to sell you more cloud storage when you just need to remove some old apps to give your phone some breathing room.
- Check the date & time. Most of the time, computers and mobile devices can check on the internet and keep their clocks proper, but that doesn’t mean that it’s doing so reliably, especially around Daylight Savings Time or if you are crossing time zones while traveling. If your clock is off by even a little bit, some security systems flag that as a possible hack and can result in web pages not loading, passwords not working, and various other unpredictable behavior. Also, a consistently incorrect time on a device is indicative of other issues, especially if the clock is regularly slow or fast, which should not occur on modern technology.
- Try switching ports/devices. If the problem is related to something connected to something else, try either device with something else. Thumb drive not showing up? Try a different port (or computer). Phone not charging? Try a different cable or charger, or try a different phone to identify the culprit. Solving a problem properly requires knowing exactly which device is the actual root of the problem. Be careful though – just because something fits does not necessarily means that it will work, especially devices that supply power. Try to stick to the same type of device/cable/port if that is available to you.
- Did you try rebooting?