IT geeks are just like you except that we can fix computer problems. But we aren’t born with that knowledge; it’s not coded in our genes. Instead, we have a simple 11-step programme, which I use when my computer is not working and which solves nearly all problems:
- Is it plugged in? This works surprisingly often. Things get disconnected and new things don’t get plugged in properly. Same goes for Wi-Fi and projectors.
- Did you reboot? Most of the time when the internet doesn’t work, the router needs rebooting. And most of the time when something goes wrong on a computer, rebooting is an essential first step.
- RTFM. Read the, ahem, manual! Geeks don’t like to admit it but we sometimes read manuals to find out how to do things. But ssshh, don’t tell anyone!
- Keep a log. But if none of the obvious things work, you’re going to need to do some diagnostics. I find it very helpful to keep a log of what I tried and what worked or didn’t work.
- Make the problem repeatable. If you can repeat the problem consistently, it’s much easier to fix it. You can try something and see if it helps or not.
- Form a hypothesis. Start with a theory of what’s going wrong – ‘the upgrade didn’t install properly’ or ‘the password is wrong’ or whatever.
- Google it. Type in a description of the problem, ‘windows upgrade failed’ or ‘change my password in XYZ application’. Look for sites that look plausible, such as vendor support sites.
- Have an escape route. Sometimes, Googling a problem produces lots of different possible explanations and you may need to try several different solutions so always give yourself a way back. The log will help and if you’re doing serious computer surgery, it’s a good idea to have a backup.
- Test it. Apply the solution you discovered and see if it fixes the problem. If it does, then you’re done. Hurray. If not, go back to step 6.
- Repeat steps 6-9 three times. ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again but then give up. Don’t be a bloody fool about it.’
- Get proper help. If you can’t solve it in a reasonable time, get more help. Call company tech support. Call the vendor. Call a friend. (Not me!)
(Hat tip to xkcd for the fabulous flowchart)