Self-Help

Basic Troubleshooting

Restart your computer:  A large percentage of problems can be solved simply by restarting your computer.  In windows, click on the Start menu in the lower left corner of your screen and click on Shut Down.  In earlier Windows versions this is a two-step process, where you must then choose Shut Down from the menu and then click OK.  Once the computer shuts down, please wait about 10-15 seconds and turn it back on to start it up normally.  If your problem is with a printer, scanner, or other peripheral, it is often helpful to turn these off after shutting down your computer, waiting for ten seconds, powering them back on and then powering your computer back on.  If the above procedure does not work, you can press the Ctrl Alt and Delete keys simultaneously several times.   As a last resort if the computer still does not restart, you can turn off the power to your computer or power strip, wait ten seconds and then turn the power back on.

Check to make sure that all external equipment and cables are connected properly:  The time spent waiting for your computer to restart is the perfect opportunity to ensure that all cables are firmly connected to your computer equipment.  Take the time to ensure that the cables are snugly connected both to the computer equipment and to the wall outlet or network jack.  In the case of an internet-related issue, you may also power-cycle your modem and/or router, as well as check the settings on these devices to ensure they are set properly*

If the problem persists, create a complete record of the problem, and give us a call:  You may also use our direct-contact tools at the right.  When communicating with us, it is helpful if you provide the exact error message you get if any and information such as what program(s) you were running and what you were trying to do in the program (if a website, please list the address).  Submitting the exact error message is vital as it can help the technician immensely in determining what the cause of the problem is and reduce the time it takes to correct it.

Advanced Troubleshooting

Use the Microsoft Configuration Utility:  Often times, software you install will want to start every time your computer boots into Windows. To eliminate these "self-starting" programs as a source of your problems, you can use the MS Configuration tool.  Click START, then RUN, or hold down your Windows Flag key and press R.  Next, type MSCONFIG and tap ENTER. The STARTUP tab is usually the place you'd want to look for rouge startup applications. Best practice when troubleshooting is to UNCHECK or DISABLE the majority of the startup programs, click APPLY, then OK, and restart. Then, promptly go to ADD/REMOVE PROGRAMS, also in Control Panel, and uninstall any software that doesn't look familiar. Give us a call if you need assistance identifying "legit" Windows software. Note that some antivirus software will still start up normally even after being "disabled" with the MSCONFIG tool -- this is expected, and okay, because it means that a "bad" program cannot disable the antivirus software on purpose. 

Run an antivirus scan: Most computer users are familiar with the term "virus" and do know well enough to have an antivirus program on their systems. The important thing, however is to make sure the program is UP TO DATE with the latest virus definitions or signatures, which change almost weekly these days. Check with your antivirus software manufacturer or computer vendor to find out how to obtain updates to your antivirus software. The popular antivirus vendors are listed on this page.

Check for Spyware: Besides the run of the mill computer virus, there is a new type of "infection" that plagues Windows computers today, and that is the installation of spyware or ad-ware. This type of software is often "piggybacked" onto software you install for another purpose, such as file sharing or gaming, or it can be installed by clicking on an authentic-looking Windows-like dialog box while browsing the Internet (this is actually a banner ad which is made to look like a Windows box). More information about this technique is provided here.

Surfing with an Alternate:  One way of avoiding some of the malware introduced through Internet browsing is to use an alternative browser like Mozilla FireFox or Google Chrome.  This is because most spyware popups and downloads take advantage of vulnerabilities and functions in Microsoft Internet Explorer; functions which are not present in these other browsers. For more information about Firefox, see http://www.getfirefox.com, and for Chrome, see http://chrome.google.com.

Network Troubleshooting

In Windows, run Network Diagnostics.   If running Windows XP, the network diagnostics tools are available from within Internet Explorer; if running Windows 7 or 8, you can right-click your network icon, and choose TROUBLESHOOT PROBLEMS.  Often times, that will clear temporary problems or suggest corrective action on your part.

Disable GREEN ETHERNET.  Non-scientific research has shown that various network card drivers, switches and routers that employ "green ethernet" technology deliver sub-optimal performance with some configurations under Windows 7 or 8.  This new technology dynamically adjusts the power output of the various ports depending on cable length or connection state.  Issues and problems include random disconnects, slow speeds, and other instabilities.  Network card manufacturers should have a way to disable "green" ethernet in their driver, but if your router or switch uses green ethernet technology, a replacement with a standard router or switch may be in order.