It’s apparent that many of us will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future, which means that many of you will also be the first-responder for technical support issues in your home office, whether you wanted to be or not. While we’re not expecting you to become a seasoned field technician, there are quite a few problems that can be resolved without picking up the phone if you know what to look for or try. What we do isn’t magic, but just like magicians, we have a set of tricks we keep handy, just up our metaphorical sleeves.
“Yer a wizard, Harry!”
Trick #1: Reboot. It bears repeating, but only because of how effective it actually is in about half the problems that come to us. Lately, Windows 10 has been a bit of a problem child with a series of updates that alternately break and fix your computer, and one thing we’ve noticed is that when computers start behaving strangely, there’s usually an update queued up, waiting to be applied. Try a reboot to see if it clears up whatever is ailing you, but be prepared to wait for updates to apply, especially if you haven’t rebooted in a while. NOTE: Many of you don’t realize that putting your computer to sleep, nor logging out and back in, isn’t the same as rebooting your computer. To reboot, go to the start menu, select the “Power” icon (the circle with one vertical line bisecting the upper part of the circle) and select “Restart.” If you see the manufacturer’s logo appear before the Windows logo loads, you’ve achieved an actual reboot.
Trick #2: Try a different port. This mostly applies to USB devices, but if it stops working, or is behaving strangely, try moving the device to a different, available port. Loose cables can easily become disconnected, and if it’s an older cable/device, the port itself might be getting worn, resulting in a less-than-perfect connection. Swapping ports, like swapping light bulbs to see if it’s burned out, will help identify the root cause of a device failure. If it’s a port that has a tighter connection, it may help sort out a flaky printer or scanner. NOTE: not all USB ports are created equal. On devices that have both 2.0 and 3.0 ports, the latter will be blue, and while some devices can work on either port, some USB 3.0 devices will be slower when connected to USB 2.0 ports. Also note that USB connectors WILL fit in an HDMI port or Ethernet port if pushed hard enough, and that will most definitely break something expensive.
Trick #3: Check the lights. Most (but not all) technology devices have indicator lights that will help you determine if something is powered up and working properly. If you frequently have trouble with your home internet, take a picture (or short video) of the modem/router lights when it is working properly, and use that as a reference for when things are not working properly. If you are feeling particularly intrepid, take a closer look at the lights to see if they are labeled (they usually are) and check the manual to see what they indicate. If one of the lights that is normally green appears yellow (or is dark), that might be a significant clue as to what is wrong. The same goes for your PC and printer – both will have some form of power and function indicators that will flash sequences or different colors to let you know what is going on. Most important to identify on your computer: the hard drive activity LED. If your device has one (most of them do), you should know that light blinks to indicate that your data storage devices are active. Normally, this LED will be blinking intermittently, especially when opening documents, saving files and the faster and more frequently it blinks, the harder your PC is working. If that light goes solid and your computer seems to be frozen or working in slow motion, your hard drive is “redlining” meaning it is hard at work on something. But it could also be a sign of technical trouble, especially if it happens frequently.
Next week – more tricks for you to learn!
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay