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Computer Troubleshooting
to Fix Your Own Computer

Computer troubleshooting is one of the most helpful skills to have in this era in which we live. Everyone has computer problems sooner or later, and cries out in panic, "Who will fix my computer?" Naturally, individuals with a bit of experience in doing their own computer repair, soon offer or are called upon by their friends to do some computer troubleshooting for them.

After you have forked over some $60 per hour or more to some sort of computer tech support, and discovered that your computer still has the same problem, or has developed new computer problems, you will be alert for any tip that here or there is a computer troubleshooter who really knows what he - or she - is doing.

Being on a super short shoestring budget, I've had to learn to do my own computer troubleshooting out of sheer necessity. I only call upon someone else when I've exhausted all the computer repair tricks I can find on the internet or in any manuals I might have. And those manuals seem to go obsolete in a hurry!

If you have a Windows operating system on your computer (i.e. Windows 98, WindowsXP or Vista, or even Windows11), you will usually be directed to the Microsoft site for anything to do with your software and basic windows system problems. There are plenty of other websites that offer computer help and computer support if you have other hardware problems All you have to do is learn to do smart searches online.

If you have a linux operating system you will learn to hunt for specific linux websites that offer computer troubleshooting help. There are not so many general sites, although I find the forums that discuss all the various distros are probably best for your computer problem solving. Google has a special search engine for Linux sites, and I've bookmarked that, so I can zero in on the right help to fix my computer.

Just resign yourself to the fact that at first you will need to do lots of reading on many different sites, until you learn what terminology to use for specific computer problems, so you can find the site with the answers for your particular situation.

One site I have discovered that has good diagnostic flow charts for determining what might be the problem when you don't know where to begin, is this one at those charts have helped me a number of times to troubleshoot my real problem.

In my course, I would like to allow about a week of daily lessons to just be about some of the most basic hardware computer troubleshooting. That's because I think everyone else should have some of the basic knowledge I have gathered, so that it can save you some time and expense in computer repair or upgrading. Why pay someone else $80 for an hour, when you could open up your computer, and replace the RAM strip, or put in a new DVD burner drive yourself, and be done in about 10-15 minutes?

So what Computer Troubleshooting could you do yourself? How can you tell when it really need to take it into a trained computer support office?

Opening up your Computer box

Pull out all the cables from your computer box, and set it up on a clean table or counter. Get the right sized screwdriver (one with an X on the tip is usually needed), and undo the screws at the back of the box to get the cover off. This can be tricky with some models as the factory has hidden them. Sometimes you are dealing with panels that slide in and out in just a certain way. Remember to lay the screws in a shallow dish, so you can find them again later. Once you have the computer cover off, you can explore inside and remove or replace or fix things.

No power - Your computer seems dead. No life, nothing on the screen.

Do the obvious first. Check to make sure the monitor is turned on, and the cables are all in place as they should be. Is the electricity on for your house or office? It can go out while you are looking away. Try re-booting again. If there's still no life, ask yourself if new hardware was plugging in recently? It may have shorted out something or blocked the power. Remove the new stuff and try again. If the computer seems to hum and come to life but still nothing on the monitor, listen for the sound of the hard drive. If there is nothing, it may mean replacing a dead hard drive. If the monitor remains dark and you've tried everything in that regard, try hooking up a different monitor. This one may have died. Very often you will have solved this problem before too long. the last possible answer may be that your motherboard is toast. For that you might need a techie to determine that for sure, and to replace it.

Hard drive troubleshooting

You can tell your hard drive may be the problem when you have trouble booting up. If you have just installed one, it may be merely a matter of correcting the Master and Slave settings, especially if you have more than one drive. On the other hand, it may simply mean that you left a bootable CD or DVD in the drive when you powered down, and now the computer can't find the instructions to boot up from your hard drive. Get the disk out and re-boot again.

Oh, and did you know that you could install a hard drive by yourself? Easy! Remove the cover, undo the screws holding the drive in it's bay, and unplug the IDE cable to the motherboard, and also the smaller one with the five coloured electrical wires, and then slide in the new drive which you bought at a good price. Turn in the screws to set the drive in the bay, and plug in the IDE cable and the electrical plug once more, making sure that the red wire is nearest the inside, rather than the outside. If you reverse that you may destroy your hard drive before you get to use it.

CD and DVD Drive troubleshooting

This is much the same. There doesn't seem to be any point in trying to fix a bad drive, but if it isn't working right, or you want to upgrade to a better type of drive, it is quite easy to unscrew it, pull the plugs out at the back, and slide in a new one and screw it in, and put the plugs back on. Sometimes you need to watch for master and slave settings, but that's more with the older ones. If you have a windows operating system, you will need to insert a CD to set up the drive the first time you boot up after that, but that is not required for a linux system.

Adding or Replacing RAM memory

Here again, you will determine from the computer whether you need more or better RAM memory, and you can buy a strip or salvage from an older computer heading for recycling, as long as it is the right type. You open the computer, and look for the strips that are set into holders in the motherboard. There is a trick to learning how to press the release levers just right, and up pops the old strip. Handle with care. Now press in the new RAM strip carefully but firmly, and the levers should pop back up into place. If they don't you may have tried to press it in turned around. Check and do it over if necessary. This should only take a minute or two.

I do have one warning I learned the hard way. If you try to put, say a 1 gigabyte strip of RAM into an older computer that is not able to handle that much, you will smell roasted electrical fire and smoke when you boot up the computer. Turn it off and take it out. You will probably be too late though, for the wee little gold teeth on the RAM strip will have melted. Make sure you check before-hand to see how much RAM that computer can handle.

Sound, Modems, and Networking Trouble-shooting

These areas are a combination of software and hardware problems. You will need to research and work through more steps with these, but you CAN do this computer troubleshooting on your own too in a lot of cases. When you have exhausted all the smaller, ordinary issues, you can call in a trained tech support person, knowing that you have eliminated all the smaller causes or explanations.

When your computer problems are more in the line of software, or configuration and settings, you don't need to get inside the box so much as find out what drivers or programs you need to run these, and if you have all those files on the computer, maybe you need to fine-tune some settings, and then all will be well.

It helps to make friends with people more experienced than yourself. Often they will have good advice about what to try, or where to go for help to fix your computer yourself.

Computer Skills Lessons

Your Computer's Hardware and Components

Set Up a Computer and Peripherals

Installing a Linux Operating System

Keyboarding Skills and Tips

Computer Troubleshooting

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