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GoLocalTech: So, Your Computer is Acting Funny….

Thursday, September 13, 2012

 

Last weekend, I ran into a couple of problems on my Windows laptop. One (PDF preview on Windows 7) shouldn't have been a problem at all. The other (the fan running for longer than seemed necessary) might have been worth about two minutes of work, adjusting the system settings. The first took many hours, culminating with a problem that fixed itself in a way that I cannot replicate. The second took a half-hour of research and driver updates.

Simple things ought to be simple. We don't mind when difficult things take time, thought and work. Tracking down wireless interference, isolating transient performance problems, or running pre-release software should require effort. Having your computer perform as expected Thursday and again Friday ought not to be remarkable.

In Biggest Time Wasters at Work, we learn that we waste far more time on computer problems than we waste watching dogs-on-skateboard videos. Your time may be wasted as you try to fix the problem yourself, waiting for help to come, and watching as your information technology support person or nephew a) fixes what you broke trying to fix the problem and b) fixing the original problem.

Something will break

Hakkarainen's General Law of Computer Programs: All software will break your heart.

Unexpected things will happen to your computer, your programs, or the websites that you visit. There are several things that you can do now, before you get into trouble.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prepare to restore your system

A Windows system repair disk lets you restore your system from a configuration that you know works. Here's how to create a system repair disc for Windows. You'll need to have your original system disks.
On many Windows and Mac systems, a special portion of the disk is reserved to let you reinstall the operating system in factory-fresh condition.

Here's more about OS X Recovery options.

Perform a system image backup

It's a very good idea to have an external disk drive for your system so that you can back up files locally. These drives generally cost less than $100 and can hold an aircraft carrier full of data. With Windows Backup, Mac Time Machine and other backup products, you can create a complete image of your current system. It's a good idea to do this when before you upgrade your system to a new version of the operating system or adding major new software products.

Back up your files offline

I've mentioned Dropbox, Google Drive and Sky Drive for file synchronization services before. Pick one and use it. For larger backups, use Crash Plan or Carbonite. Pick one and use it.

Getting help after not doing what was suggested

The best thing that you can do is to help the people who are going to help you. If you encounter an error message or a pop-up window that you don't expect, record the complete message. The complete message may give your helper enough information to fix the problem quickly.

System information

Knowing the version of the operating system, the amount of memory, and other details can help you or your support person track down a specific solution to your problem. If your system is operational, use the following steps to collect basic system information:

On Windows: click the Start button, right-click on Computer, and select Properties.

On Mac: Click the Apple icon and select About This Mac. Write down what's displayed.

Print Screen

A picture of your system can be very handy, showing the exact message and other details about the state of things.

On Windows: press the Print Screen key, often abbreviated as PrtScr. Open Paint. Click Edit - Paste and then save the file.

On OSX: press and hold the Command and Shift keys until you press 3. A picture of your desktop will be saved to your, um, Desktop. (It sounds a bit confusing, but you'll get the idea.)

Show the file or email the file to the person who will help you. Look on it as another fine learning experience.

For all the jokes and reports about computers, they really are much more robust and reliable than they were even a few years ago. For this reasons, the troubles that we encounter seem more serious because they are so uncharacteristic. 

 

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