1. Check your connections.
This may sound obvious, but check all the cables to make sure they are
plugged in securely. Don't ignore this step because USB, printer, and
serial cables have a way of working themselves loose and causing
Windows sometimes gets into a state of confusion or overload and locks
up. You can clear the memory and set things straight by simply rebooting
your system. Similarly, if you're having a problem connecting to the
Internet, try rebooting your cable/DSL modem and router by unplugging
them for 15 seconds and allowing them to reset themselves.
However, this isn't something you should have to do often. If you find
yourself rebooting your router once a day, the problem is a bit deeper.
If you still can’t resolve the problem yourself, then here are a few
more steps to take before calling support that will save a lot of time
and get your problem resolved quicker…
3. Try to
narrow down the problem as much as possible.
Identifying what went wrong is 90% of the journey to the solution. Try
to isolate when and where the problem happened and note the last thing
you installed, changed, or plugged in to your computer. You’ll also want
to narrow down the error message as much as possible.
For example, if you discover your printer isn't working from Word, try
to print from another application. Also note the order of events leading
up to the problem.
Maybe you can print when you first boot up, but everything seems to go
haywire after you scan a document. Does the problem occur all the time
or only after the machine has been running for a while? Does the problem
repeat itself or is it only occasional? Observing what situations lead
up to a problem can be a great help in determining what is causing it.
4. Access crash logs.
If you are using a Microsoft operating system, you can access an
application called Dr. Watson that will report information about your
memory and configuration to a crash log file.
In Windows XP, the default location is C:\Documents and Settings\All
Users\Application Data\Microsoft\Dr Watson. The crash log is a text file
called Drwtsn32.log, which can be read in Notepad or sent via e-mail to
a tech-support person. Dr. Watson can also create a crash dump, which
contains similar information but is readable only by a debugging
5. Know your system.
When you talk to a support technician on the phone, they are going to
want to know what specific hardware, operating system, and software
To save time, know the make and model numbers for all your hardware. You
can access CPU and memory info by selecting Control Panel | System.
Drill down from here into Hardware | Device Manager for information
about other devices such as your sound and graphics cards.
Write down new software, no matter how small or insignificant, that
you've downloaded and installed lately, including upgrades, screen
savers, emoticon software, and web browser updates. It can also help to
jot down any services running in the background.
To access a list of what is running on your Windows XP system, press
Ctrl-Alt-Del and select Task Manager. You can also get very detailed
info from Start | All Programs | Accessories | System Tools | System
6. Back up your data.
Before you start following directions over the phone from a support
technician or tearing your system apart to fix it yourself, make sure
you have a backup of all your important documents, e-mail, and other
Although many fixes will be as simple as downloading a new driver,
you'll be glad you have a backup if you find yourself reinstalling the
operating system. You should also have your original CDs around in case
you need to reinstall applications.