Have you ever summoned a friend to help you fix your “busted” computer and then watched in amazement as they fixed the problem with just a couple keystrokes? Alternatively, have you ever been asked to fix someone’s computer for them, only to discover that their troubles could be solved in less than a minute?
There are hundreds of little things that can cause computers to malfunction, and while some “bugs” really are serious issues that are best left to the professionals, others are actually fairly easy to repair at home. Knowing a few quick fixes for common computer problems can save time, energy, and money in the long-run—and maybe spare you a little bit of embarrassment, too!
Here are four common issues that can plague PCs running Microsoft Windows, as well as four simple tricks that may resolve them:
The Problem: Something is going wrong with the computer, and you think it’s a software issue.
Possible Solution: Turn the computer off and then turn it back on again.
This is such a common tip that it’s almost become a joke. In fact, a popular Internet meme is to take a photo of an object malfunctioning horribly (e.g., a toaster on fire or a car flipped upside-down) and commenting, “Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again?”
The turn-it-off-and-turn-it-back-on-again method does have its merits, though. Performing a hard reset often really is what a device needs to “snap out” of whatever is causing its problems. Whether the issue is a bad connection, an endlessly looping script, or updates that need to be installed, a reset will force your computer to stop, rest for a moment, and then try again.
Bottom line: this technique won’t resolve all computer issues, but it’s definitely a good place to start.
The Problem: The computer takes an unreasonably long time to boot up after a restart.
Possible Solution: See if some programs have been set to launch automatically at startup and consider disabling them.
If the first thing you do always do upon logging onto your computer is pull up iTunes or Spotify, then it might seem handy for them to start themselves automatically whenever you load your desktop. However, having programs launch at startup can make the process take longer, just because it gives your computer one more task to complete when it’s trying to get ready. So use CTRL + ALT + DEL to pull up the Task Manager, and click on the tab that says “Startup” to see what you’re working with.
As always, do not disable a program or application unless you’re sure that you know what it is; you don’t want to turn off anything that is necessary for your computer to function properly! However, additional games, programs, or apps (like the ones we mentioned in the previous paragraph) should probably be set to “disabled.” Disabling programs in this context won’t remove them from your computer, but it will make it so you have to launch a program manually instead of it just starting up automatically. The computer will have one less thing to do as part of normal booting procedure, which means that it might be able to perform the process a bit faster.
The Problem: The sound isn’t working.
Possible Solution: Update or re-install your sound drivers.
This issue can manifest as the sound not working at all or just not working when headphones are plugged into the audio jack. Doing a hard reset (like we mentioned in the first section) will sometimes fix this problem, but if that doesn’t work, your audio drivers may be malfunctioning or out-of-date. Check to make sure that you’re current with all software updates; you can even check the audio drivers specifically by launching the Device Manager, right-clicking the list items that mention audio, and selecting “Update driver software.”
If your computer tells you that the software is up-to-date, then there’s one more course of action to take: download the drivers from the Internet and re-install them. Googling “[Vendor and model of your computer] audio drivers” will direct you to the manufacturer’s website, and the site should give you easy-to-follow instructions for completing this task.
The Problem: You think you may have accidentally downloaded a virus, and now the computer’s not working properly.
Possible Solution: Perform a system restore.
Note that this is not the same thing as restoring your computer to “Factory Settings.” Restoring to factory settings (also known as “formatting” your hard drive) will erase everything that wasn’t installed on the computer when you initially purchased it, which—for obvious reasons—should be an absolute last resort! On the other hand, a system restore simply “rolls back” the settings on your computer to the way they were at a previous point in time. Your personal files (e.g., word documents, photos, and music) will not be affected, but system files, certain program files, and registry settings will be. Because these are the aspects of your computer that are often attacked by viruses, rolling back the settings might eliminate the damage that the virus has done.
System Restore is not a replacement for a quality anti-malware program, nor will it help recover files in the event of hard drive failure. However, it can occasionally come through in a pinch. You also don’t need to worry about manually creating restore points on a regular basis; Windows will automatically take “snapshots” of your current settings once a week and before you make any significant software changes to your computer.
Sometimes, it doesn’t take an IT specialist to fix a “sick” device. While some issues really are best left to professionals, others can be overcome by the average computer owner with relative ease. And knowing how to handle these minor issues can save you time, frustration, and money over the course of your computer’s life.
Of course, if you try the solutions we just went over and you’re still having issues, or if you’re just not comfortable performing any kind of maintenance on your computer, then give us a call at 817-756-2241. Our trained technicians can handle problems big and small, so whether a machine needs a major anti-virus overall or just a software update, we’ll be able to get your computer back up and running!
Photo courtesy of Flickr.