Computer Troubleshoot Solutions to Common Problems

Most of the time, problems can be fixed using simple troubleshooting techniques, like closing and reopening the program. It’s important to try these simple solutions before resorting to more extreme measures. If the problem still isn’t fixed, you can try other troubleshooting techniques.

Computer Trouble Shoot Basics
Computer Trouble Shoot Basics

Problem: Power button will not start computer

  • If your computer does not start, begin by checking the power cord to confirm that it is plugged securely into the back of the computer case and the power outlet.
  • If it is plugged into an outlet, make sure it is a working outlet. To check your outlet, you can plug in another electrical device, such as a lamp.
  • If the computer is plugged in to a surge protector, verify that it is turned on. You may have to reset the surge protector by turning it off and then back on. You can also plug a lamp or other device into the surge protector to verify that it’s working correctly.
Check Power reset Surge Protector
Check Power reset Surge Protector
  • If you are using a laptop, the battery may not be charged. Plug the AC adapter into the wall, then try to turn on the laptop. If it still doesn’t start up, you may need to wait a few minutes and try again.

Problem: An application is running slowly

  • Close and reopen the application.
  • Update the application. To do this, click the Help menu and look for an option to check for Updates. If you don’t find this option, another idea is to run an online search for application updates.
Check for Updates
Check for Updates

Problem: An application is frozen

Sometimes an application may become stuck, or frozen. When this happens, you won’t be able to close the window or click any buttons within the application.

  • Force quit the application. On a PC, you can press (and hold) Ctrl+Alt+Delete (the Control, Alt, and Delete keys) on your keyboard to open the Task Manager. On a Mac, press and hold Command+Option+Esc. You can then select the unresponsive application and click End task (or Force Quit on a Mac) to close it.
Windows Task Manager - End Task
Windows Task Manager – End Task
  • Restart the computer. If you are unable to force quit an application, restarting your computer will close all open apps.

Problem: All programs on the computer run slowly

  • Run a virus scanner. You may have malware running in the background that is slowing things down.
  • Your computer may be running out of hard drive space. Try deleting any files or programs you don’t need.
  • If you’re using a PC, you can run Disk Defragmenter. To learn more about Disk Defragmenter, check out this page on Protecting Your Computer.

Problem: The computer is frozen

Sometimes your computer may become completely unresponsive, or frozen. When this happens, you won’t be able to click anywhere on the screen, open or close applications, or access shut-down options.

  • (Windows only): Restart Windows Explorer. To do this, press and hold Ctrl+Alt+Delete on your keyboard to open the Task Manager. Next, locate and select Windows Explorer from the Processes tab and click Restart. You may need to click More Details at the bottom of the window to see the Processes tab.
Windows Task Manager - Restart
Windows Task Manager – Restart
  • (Mac only): Restart Finder. To do this, press and hold Command+Option+Esc on your keyboard to open the Force Quit Applications dialog box. Next, locate and select Finder, then click Relaunch.
Mac Force Quit Applications
Mac Force Quit Applications
  • Press and hold the Power button. The Power button is usually located on the front or side of the computer, typically indicated by the power symbol. Press and hold the Power button for 5 to 10 seconds to force the computer to shut down.
  • If the computer still won’t shut down, you can unplug the power cable from the electrical outlet. If you’re using a laptop, you may be able to remove the battery to force the computer to turn off. Note: This solution should be your last resort after trying the other suggestions above.

Problem: The mouse or keyboard has stopped working

  • If you’re using a wired mouse or keyboard, make sure it’s correctly plugged into the computer.
  • If you’re using a wireless mouse or keyboard, make sure it’s turned on and that its batteries are charged.

Problem: The sound isn’t working

  • Check the volume level. Click the audio button in the top-right or bottom-right corner of the screen to make sure the sound is turned on and that the volume is up.
  • Check the audio player controls. Many audio and video players will have their own separate audio controls. Make sure the sound is turned on and that the volume is turned up in the player.
Check Audio Player Controls
Check Audio Player Controls
  • Check the cables. Make sure external speakers are plugged in, turned on, and connected to the correct audio port or a USB port. If your computer has color-coded ports, the audio output port will usually be green.
  • Connect headphones to the computer to find out if you can hear sound through the headphones.

Problem: The screen is blank

  • The computer may be in Sleep mode. Click the mouse or press any key on the keyboard to wake it.
  • Make sure the monitor is plugged in and turned on.
  • Make sure the computer is plugged in and turned on.
  • If you’re using a desktop, make sure the monitor cable is properly connected to the computer tower and the monitor.

Disable Background Applications

Sometimes, other applications can cause conflicts. If you are experiencing crashes, installation errors, or performance problems, a third party application running in the background may be the culprit. Listed below are the instructions to disable background applications on most common operating systems.

Windows 8​

  • Press Windows Key + R.
  • In the resulting box, type msconfig and press Enter.
  • In the System Configuration window that comes up, select Selective startup.
  • Uncheck the box for Load startup items.
  • Select the Services tab.
  • Check Hide all Microsoft services.
  • Click Disable all.
  • Click Apply.
  • Click Okay.
  • Click Restart.
"msconfig" Hide all Microsoft Services
“msconfig” Hide all Microsoft Services

After restarting, no background applications other than Microsoft’s services will start. At this time, you can attempt to reproduce your issue. If the problem still occurs, it is safe to assume that it is not being caused by a background application. In this situation, re-enable the services and seek other solutions. If the problem seems to be resolved, you can conclude that the issue is being caused by one of your background applications. To isolate the cause, you can re-enable the startup items and services one at a time until the problem returns.

To check for problematic system services, do the following:

  • Press Windows Key+R.
  • Type msconfigand press Enter.
  • Select the Services tab.
  • Check Hide all Microsoft services.
  • Click Disable all.
  • Check the first system service.
  • Click Apply.
  • Click Okay.
  • Click Restart.
  • Attempt to reproduce your problem.
  • If the problem doesn’t occur, repeat this process, checking the second system service instead of the first. Continue repeating the process for each system service on the list until you have either successfully reproduced your problem or checked each system service. When you reproduce the problem, it is likely that the service you most recently re-enabled is the cause of the problem.

To check for problematic startup items, do the following:

  • Open the Task Manager by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc.
  • Select the Startup tab.
  • Close the first application in the list.
  • Attempt to reproduce your problem.
  • If the problem doesn’t occur, repeat this process, closing the second application instead of the first. Continue repeating the process for each application on the list until you have either successfully solved your problem or checked each application. When you are unable to reproduce the problem, it is likely that the application you most recently closed is the cause.

Windows 10

  • Press Windows Key + R.
  • In the resulting box, type msconfig and press Enter.
  • In the System Configuration window that comes up, select Selective startup.
  • Uncheck the box for Load startup items.
  • Select the Services tab.
  • Check Hide all Microsoft services.
  • Click Disable all.
  • Click Apply.
  • Click Okay.
  • Click Restart.
"msconfig" Hide all Microsoft Services
“msconfig” Hide all Microsoft Services

After restarting, no background applications other than Microsoft’s services will start. At this time, you can attempt to reproduce your issue. If the problem still occurs, it is safe to assume that it is not being caused by a background application. In this situation, re-enable the services and search for other solutions. If the problem seems to be resolved, you can conclude that the issue is being caused by one of your background applications. To isolate the cause, you can re-enable the startup items and services one at a time until the problem returns.

To check for problematic system services, do the following:

  • Press Windows Key+R.
  • Type msconfigand press Enter.
  • Select the Services tab.
  • Check Hide all Microsoft services.
  • Click Disable all.
  • Check the first system service.
  • Click Apply.
  • Click Okay.
  • Click Restart.
  • Attempt to reproduce your problem.
  • If the problem doesn’t occur, repeat this process, checking the second system service instead of the first. Continue repeating the process for each system service on the list until you have either successfully reproduced your problem or checked each system service. When you reproduce the problem, it is likely that the service you most recently re-enabled is the cause.

To check for problematic startup items, do the following:

  • Open the Task Manager by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc.
  • Select the Startup tab.
  • Close the first application in the list.
  • Attempt to reproduce your problem.
  • f the problem doesn’t occur, repeat this process, closing the second application instead of the first. Continue repeating the process for each application on the list until you have either successfully solved your problem or checked each application. When you are unable to reproduce the problem, it is likely that the application you most recently closed is the cause.

Mac

  • Restart your computer.
  • If you have a login window, do the following:
    • Hold Shift and click the Log In button.
    • Release Shift when you see the Dock.
  • If you do not have a login window, do the following:
    • Hold down Shift when the progress bar appears in the startup window.
    • Release Shift when your desktop appears.

Restarting in this way will start OS X without starting non-essential login items. If your problem still occurs, it is safe to assume that login items are not the cause of the problem. If the problem seems to be resolved, it is likely that one of the login items is the culprit. In order to isolate the cause, you can delete your login items, then re-add them one at a time until you reproduce the problem.

To check for problematic login items:

  • Open System Preferences.
  • Select Users & Groups.
  • Select your account’s name.
  • Select Login Items.
    • Important: Before proceeding, make a list or take a screenshot of all the login items in the resulting list. You will need to have them later in order to add them back.
  • Select all of the items in the list.
  • Click Delete.
  • Restart your computer.
System Preferences - User & Groups
System Preferences – User & Groups

Now that you’ve deleted all of the login items, you will be adding them back one by one until you can reproduce your problem.

  • Open System Preferences.
  • Select Users & Groups.
  • Select your account’s name.
  • Select Login Items.
  • Add the first item from the list you made previously.
  • Restart your computer.
  • Attempt to reproduce your problem. If you are able to do so, the login item you added to the list is most likely the cause of the issue.

Repeat the above steps for each login item on your list until you’ve isolated the item causing your problem. Once you’ve done that, delete it again, and make sure to add back any remaining login items from your list.

Solving more difficult problems

If you still haven’t found a solution to your problem, you may need to ask someone else for help. As an easy starting point, we’d recommend searching the Web. It’s possible that other users have had similar problems, and solutions to these problems are often posted online. Also, if you have a friend or family member who knows a lot about computers, they may be able to help you.

Search for Solutions on Google
Search for Solutions on Google

Keep in mind that most computer problems have simple solutions, although it may take some time to find them. For difficult problems, a more drastic solution may be required, like reformatting your hard drive or reinstalling your operating system. If you think you might need a solution like this, please contact me. If you’re not a computer expert, it’s possible that attempting these solutions could make the situation worse.

GCF LearnFree.org
GCF LearnFree.org

Update your System

Updating a running system can be helpful where are a computer device is operating but has some unusual problems. Updates are frequently released to deal with known issues. This process is also a good maintenance practice.

Update your macOS system

It’s very easy to update your macOS system. Just follow these steps:

  • Open the App Store.
  • Click on the Updates tab.
  • Select “Update All“.
  • Wait for the updates to finish.
  • Perform reboot.

Update your Windows system

To check for system updates on a Windows device, first load up your Settings app by either navigating to it from your start menu, then your “All apps” list, or by typing it into your search bar. The process is outlined below:

  • Open the Settings app.
  • Click on Updates & Security.
  • Click on Windows Update.
  • Click on Check for updates.
  • Click on “Install” of there any updates listed.
  • Wait for the updates to finish
  • Perform reboot.

Troubleshoot Flow Chart

Computer Trouble Shoot Flow Chart
Computer Trouble Shoot Flow Chart