Solutions to Common Computer Problems - CCUG-PC


Solutions to

Common Computer


New Orleans Personal Computer Club

May 2010

Hardware Issues - Desktops

• Unusual noises

– Failing fans

– Hard drive dying

• Power supply dying or underpowered

– Consumer-level machines usually have small supplies

• Bad capacitors

• Electrical issues

Hardware Issues – Desktops

• Environmental issues

– Dust

– Pets

– Food particles

– Vermin

• Usually through missing slot covers

– Tobacco stains mixed with any of the above

Hardware Issues – Desktops

• Preventative Maintenance

– Use canned air periodically to dust out insides

• Depending on environment, you might take want to take PC outside for its dusting

– Use a good surge suppressor or better, an

Uninterruptable Power Supply

– Use power saving functions responsibly and turn off (or Standby) computers when not in use for more than a few hours

Hardware Issues – Laptops

• Loose screen hinges

• Power jack coming loose

• Battery unable to hold a charge

– Average lifespan of laptop batteries is about

3-4 years

– Time span of charge usually will depreciate towards end of life

– Third-party replacements are widely available for most models

Hardware Issues – Laptops

• Environmental issues

– Dust

– Pets

– Food particles

– Accidental abuse

• Cracked display most common

Hardware Issues – Laptops

• Preventative Maintenance

– Get a good carrying case or knapsack with adequate padding

– Keep it away from environmental hazards

• Pets

• Short-tempered people

Windows OS issues

• Blue Screens Of Death (BSOD)

• Viruses, Spyware, Ad-ware (Malware)

– Make sure security program’s definition/ pattern files are up-todate

– Beware of drive-by downloads!

– Recommend ad-blocking extensions

• Cryptic Error Messages

– Plug error message into search engine; somebody else is likely to have experienced it and inquired about it

• Application errors

• Driver errors

– Check manufacturer site for any possible updates

Windows OS issues

• Performance (overall speed) issues

– Many items/folders on Desktop, items in System Tray

• Do NOT store any data files on the desktop!

• MSCONFIG is diagnostic utility; do not check Selective

Startup, disable individual items and leave it

– RAM amount

• Many hardware vendors will cheap out on this since RAM is expensive when new

– When adding RAM, use fastest speed supported by PC’s motherboard; usually no or little price difference

– Stick with name brands; don’t use generic/OEM compatible modules

• XP needs 512mb, recommend about 1gig

• Vista/7 needs 1gig, recommend about 2gigs or more

Windows OS issues

• Performance issues

– Clutter

• Most new consumer machines are bundled with what can be termed as shovelware – can be uninstalled with enough effort

• On Vista/7, turn Sidebar off

• Windows accumulates a lot of files that are supposed to get automatically deleted but don’t

– Fragmentation

Windows OS issues

• Preventative Maintenance

– Periodically run a cleaner utility such as CCleaner

– Periodically defrag the hard drive(s)

– Run virus scanner on some type of schedule

• Install ONE antivirus program

– Store data files somewhere under Documents or My

Documents folder

– Delete obsolete data

– Uninstall trialware from system

– Develop backup regimen

Windows OS issues

• Preventative Maintenance

– Resist the urge to install any new program or add-on that claims to make life easier

– Limit programs running in the System Tray

– Limit access to physical computer

• If not possible, set up strong password on user account(s), and also on the Administrator account

Windows OS issues

• Reinstallation, rebuild, Nuke & Pave

– Do it only as a last resort

– When properly maintained, Windows installations can run properly for many years

– If your PC uses a recovery partition with the option for user-generated recovery media, DO IT!

– If rebuild is needed, schedule a large amount of time for this task

• Backup all data first

• Have all install media at hand

• A good Windows install can take at least 3 hours

Internet Service Provider Issues

• Connectivity

– Verify PC is getting IP address

– If using wireless, try wired connection

• Dell laptops automatically disable wired network port when on battery power!

– If using a wireless or wired router, sometimes it is necessary to bypass it for effective troubleshooting

Internet Service Provider Issues

• Connectivity – cable modem setups

– If switching around equipment on cable modem, power cycle modem for at least

*three minutes*

– Cable modems require RG6 coaxial cable in order to maintain a steady connection (many older installations have RG-59, which is much thinner)

– Many Motorola SURFBoard modems have a

Standby button on top- never touch it!

Internet Service Provider Issues

• Connectivity – DSL modem setups

– Make absolutely sure filters are in place

• Make sure DSL modem is NOT filtered!

– Fax machines, answering devices all need to be filtered

– Alarm systems with auto-dialers will likely need outside filter

– When using routers with DSL modems, set modem to Bridged Ethernet, set router to

PPPoE with UserID + Password

Internet Service Provider Issues

• Slow speeds

– When in doubt, check using a good testing site like

– Check only on wired network connection; wireless and USB connections do not count!

• Many cordless phones use 2.4ghz band

– Check multiple times, and turn off unnecessary internet-using apps

– Upgrade router firmware, if available

Internet Issues

• Preventative maintenance

– Do NOT click on any type of link on a web page that is an obvious advertisement

– Resist signing up for “special offers” and other ploys to get your marketing information

– Use strong passwords on sites that require a login ID

• Use special characters when allowed

– Use a browser other than Internet Explorer

– Make sure wireless connection is locked down using encryption, at least WPA-level

Getting Outside Help

• Sometimes it’s necessary; recognize your limits

• Minimize outside distractions

• Communicate clearly

• Follow troubleshooting instructions, be able to read error messages that are showing

• Treat the tech professionally

• Answer all questions as best as possible

Getting Outside Help - ISPs

• Problems such as passwords, mail client configurations, and power cycling do not require on-site trouble call visits

• If the ISP has to send a tech for a trouble call and the problem is found to be anywhere in

Customer Premise Equipment, the service call is billable to the customer

– Exception: the customer is paying extra for insurance on services