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Many of the calls to the Help Desk turn out to be common problems that could be cured by the person using the computer. These things are not hard to fix. Here are some things to check before calling for a technician to help:
- Check the power cords, the power strip (the box on the floor with the switch), mouse and keyboard plugs and make sure that all the cords are in tight. Check the mouse and keyboard and anything attached to the computer and make sure they are secure and that no damage has happened to them and that each plug is completely inserted into its receptacle. A loose plug can cause a system to stop operating.
- Remove CD’s and Disks in the computer and Restart the computer - this is the first thing we will ask you to do. Often things go wrong that are cured by restarting. You may lose any work that is not saved, but saving often should be something you do as a routine. As the computer restarts look for messages that may give a clue to what is wrong. If you are having problems with networking make sure your computer link light is blinking. (It is the green light next to the plug the network wire goes into.) If the green light is not on check to make sure your network wire is snug in its socket at both your computer and on the wall where it connects.
- Have you installed anything new since the last time it worked? Recent changes can cause problems. Unplug any new hardware added recently like a digital camera or scanner and restart the computer.
- Close down unused applications. Sometimes we think we have quit an application but all we really did was close a window. Check to be sure unused applications are actually closed or quit. Quit the offending application once you have freed up memory from closing applications and start again. Does the problem still happen? If not it may have been a memory problem. Remove unneeded CD’s and stop listening to music if you have been.
- Look for clues. CSI (Computer System Investigation) means looking at the details and not making assumptions as you look for what may be wrong. What is new or changed lately? When did this begin? Does it only do it after certain operations or on certain software? Have you moved the computer or any of its pieces lately? Could a cable have become loose? Find out if others are having similar problems if this is a network thing.
- Tips to help things work better: Don’t move or rename files. Keep files in folders and not scattered on your desktop. Make sure you shut down properly. Keep your virus program up to date. Keep back up data by keeping all your documents in a Document folder which you back up often.
- Printer problems - begin with looking for error lights. Is it out of ink or is there a paper problem? Most printers will print a test page when you start them up by holding down a few buttons. Learn how to do this. Read the instructions that came with it to find out how to do this. If the printer test page works and you still can’t print then it is either a software problem or a network problem. OFTEN things will NOT print from a web site just because they show on our screen doesn’t mean they will print without error. Check to be sure your printer Queue or Cache is not jammed with a frozen job. Empty the Queue and try again. Check to see if ALL applications have problems printing or only this one software. Turn the printer off, count to 100 and restart. Look for warning lights that flash and signal problems (like no ink or toner). Try changing the font of the document.
Try to check these things first before filling out a help desk request. Ask a friend for suggestions on what to do. Ask students for help, they usually know what is wrong. The best solution is prevention by not making changes to computers and learning basic troubleshooting skills to fix the simple things yourself.