Troubleshooting Your PC

Troubleshooting

Do you know what to do if your screen goes blank? What to do if your PC or Laptop beeps at startup? Or what if you can’t seem to close an application, or can’t hear any sound from your speakers? Whenever you have a problem with your computer, don’t panic! There are many basic troubleshooting techniques you can use to fix issues like this. In this lesson, we’ll show you some simple things to try when troubleshooting, as well as how to solve common problems you may encounter.

General tips to keep in mind

There are various things that could cause problems with your computer. No matter what’s causing the issue, troubleshooting will always be a process of trial and error using a process of elimination —in some cases, you may need to use several different approaches before you can find a solution; other problems may be easy to fix. We recommend starting by using the following tips.

  • Write down your steps: Once you start troubleshooting, you may want to write down each step you take. This way, you’ll be able to remember exactly what you’ve done and can avoid repeating the same mistakes. If you end up asking other people for help, it will be much easier if they know exactly what you’ve tried already.
  • Take notes about error messages: If your computer gives you an error message, be sure to write down as much information as possible. You may be able to use this information later to find out if other people are having the same error.
  • Always check the cables: If you’re having trouble with a specific piece of computer hardware, such as your monitor or keyboard, an easy first step is to check all related cables to make sure they’re properly connected.
  • Restart the computer: When all else fails, restarting the computer is a good thing to try. This can solve a lot of basic issues you may experience with your computer.

Using the process of elimination

If you’re having an issue with your computer, you may be able to find out what’s wrong using the process of elimination. This means you’ll make a list of things that could be causing the problem and then test them out one by one to eliminate them. Once you’ve identified the source of your computer issue, it will be easier to find a solution.

Scenario One:

Let’s say you’re trying to print out invitations for a Wedding, but the printer won’t print. You have some ideas about what could be causing this, so you go through them one by one to see if you can eliminate any possible causes.

First, you check the printer to see that it’s plugged in and switched on. It is, so that’s not the issue. Next, you check to make sure the printer’s ink cartridge still has ink and that there is paper loaded in the paper tray. Things look good in both cases, so you know the issue has nothing to do with ink or paper.

Now you want to make sure the printer and computer are communicating correctly. If you recently downloaded an update to your operating system, it might interfere with the printer. But you know there haven’t been any recent updates and the printer was working yesterday, so you’ll have to look elsewhere.

You check the printer’s USB cord and find that it’s not plugged in. You must have unplugged it accidentally when you plugged something else into the computer earlier. Once you plug in the USB cord, the printer starts working again. It looks like this printer issue is solved!

This is just one example of an issue you might encounter while using a computer. In the rest of this lesson, we’ll talk about other common computer problems and some ways to solve them.

Problem: The Computer Won’t Turn On …

This is a common problem with some interesting solutions. Often overlooked, some solutions can be the most simple.

There are two main symptoms to take into account before going too far into the repair: Is it the monitor or the computer that isn’t turning on? It would be a shame to start opening up a computer system to test for bad parts if it’s the monitor that’s the problem.

If the tower turns on, and the monitor does not, the first step should be the most obvious, but is often overlooked — check if it’s plugged in. I can’t tell you how many times I have come across a “frozen computer” that was simply a case of an unplugged mouse or keyboard.

Always take a second to try the most obvious things first. It could save you a lot of time.

Assuming everything is plugged in and properly seated, try plugging in another monitor to see if that one works; don’t forget to try different power outlets as well, it isn’t uncommon to blow a fuse, especially with more power hungry systems.

These steps should help you figure out if it’s the monitor itself, the cable, a wall fuse, or possibly the graphics card/motherboard. If the second monitor works, you are likely dealing with a bad monitor. Unfortunately, in this case, there isn’t much you can do. Most of the time, it ends up cheaper to replace the monitor altogether than to try to get it repaired.

If the monitor seems to work, but the tower doesn’t turn on, the first thing you’ll want to check is the power supply. A good test of this is to see if any lights turn on in the front or back of the tower. If they don’t, the power supply unit (PSU) may be at fault. Some PSUs have a dedicated power switch, if it does, ensure that it is switched on.

Next, you can open up your tower and look at the motherboard, most motherboards have a small LED (light) built in to show if power is running to the motherboard. If you can’t find any evidence that power is properly running to the motherboard, you can either try using a PSU tester or a replacement PSU.

It is not uncommon for PSUs to go out, so this is most likely the problem and a replacement is in order. Never try to open a PSU and try to repair it yourself, this is extremely dangerous; with replacement PSUs being so inexpensive, it really isn’t worth the risk.

 

Problem: The Computer Turns On, But Still Doesn’t Work …

If you are able to see lights turn on and power is obviously flowing to the computer system and monitor, there may be a component issue. Whenever I deal with a computer “not turning on” or freezing up, I always like to follow a path running from the wall, to the monitor, and finally to the computer itself.

One thing to note when you first turn on the computer and the power comes on, is do you hear or see anything? Many times, the computer’s Power-On Self-Test (POST) will let you know what’s going on with the machine. If you hear any beeps, that is a great way to figure out what the issue is.

There are a variety of POST “beep codes” listed on the CompTIA A+ exam:

  • Steady, short beeps — The power supply may be bad, this is a good one. We tested the power supply to see if it turned things on, but what if it’s not turning everything on? Or if the voltages are wrong? This POST test helps us narrow the cause down to the power supply. A replacement would usually be necessary.

 

  • Long continuous beep tone — Memory failure. This is usually what you hear when one or both of your Random-Access Memory (RAM) sticks goes bad. If there is more than one stick installed, try taking one out first to see if the computer boots, if it does not, try with the other one. Usually, this will tell you which stick has gone bad, and you can replace or upgrade accordingly. If there is only one stick installed, you will need to replace or upgrade to fix the problem.

 

  • Steady, long beeps — This is another POST code that noted a bad power supply. The difference is, while the “steady, short beeps” code notes that the power supply may be bad, this POST code notes that is has gone bad.

 

  • No Beep — Not hearing a beep is also listed on the exam, and notes the most obvious resolution. Just like we went over in the beginning of the article, the A+ exam will expect you to know that no beep can mean that the power supply is not plugged in, or not turned on. This can also be a sign of the power supply being completely dead.

 

  • No beep (system turns on and runs fine) — This one is a bit elusive, but if you make sure to check every once in a while, you can save yourself some troubleshooting later on. If the system works fine, but does not beep once when you turn the machine on, your “beeper” may have actually died out. Under normal circumstances, most computer systems will beep one short beep.

 

  • One long, two short beeps — This POST code means that there has been a video card failure. Your first action should be to try reseating the video card, if any. This can sometimes solve the problem altogether as some computer systems, especially those that are often connected to projectors, will move the VGA/DVI/Video cable so often, that it will actually slowly unplug the video card enough to stop working. If reseating the video card does not work, it may need to be replaced. Again, once you get into smaller, more complex components, the resolution becomes cheaper to replace than to repair.

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How To Use System Restore with Windows 7,8 and 10

How to Perform a System Restore for Windows 7, 8, and 10

System Restore is a Windows feature that can help fix certain types of crashes and other computer problems. Here’s how it works, how to set it up, and how to use it when things go awry.

We’re going to be using Windows 10, but System Restore has been around a long time–and works pretty much the same way in each version of Windows. The instructions here are good for Windows 7, 8, and 10, and you’ll encounter only minor differences throughout the process.


What Is System Restore?

When something goes wrong on your system as a result of a bad piece of software–maybe an app you installed or a driver that broke something important–it can be hard to fix. System Restore lets you restore your Windows installation back to its last working state.

It does this by creating “restore points” every so often. Restore points are snapshots of your Windows system files, certain program files, registry settings, and hardware drivers. You can create a restore point at any time, though Windows automatically creates a restore point once per week. It also creates a restore point right before a major system event, like installing a new device driver, app, or running Windows update.

Then, if something goes wrong, you can run System Restore and point it to a recent restore point. It will reinstate those system settings, files, and drivers, returning your underlying Windows system to that earlier state.

This can be really useful when troubleshooting certain types of problems. For example, if you install a device driver that makes your computer unstable, you’ll want to uninstall that driver. However, in some cases, the driver may not uninstall properly, or it may damage system files when you uninstall it. If you use System Restore and select a restore point that was created before you installed the driver, this can restore your system files to the previous state before any problem occurred.

Windows Restore can also be very useful for undoing the damage caused by a misbehaving app or Windows update. Sometimes, apps and updates can cause problems with other apps or even system components and by simply uninstalling the app might not reverse the damage. Restoring to a point before the app was installed, however, can often clear up the problem.

 How Does Using System Restore Affect My Personal Files?

System Restore is different than making backups–it specifically works on the underlying Windows system, rather than everything on your hard drive. As such, System Restore does not save old copies of your personal files as part of its snapshot. It also will not delete or replace any of your personal files when you perform a restoration. So don’t count on System Restore as working as a backup. That isn’t what it’s intended for. You should always have a good backup procedure in place for all your personal files.

How Does Using System Restore Affect My Apps?

When you restore your PC to an earlier restore point, any apps you installed after that point will get uninstalled. Apps that were installed when that restore point was created will still be in place. Apps that you uninstalled after making that restore point will get restored, but with a very big caveat. Since System Restore only restores certain types of files, programs that get restored often won’t work–or at least, work properly until you re-run their installers.

Windows allows you to see exactly what programs will be affected when you go through the process, but it’s a good idea to restore to the most recent restore point possible to minimize problems with apps. It’s also a good idea to create manual restore points before you undertake big installations or settings changes so that you know you can revert to a very recent restore point if you need to.

Can System Restore Remove Viruses or Other Malware?

System Restore is not a good solution for removing viruses or other malware. Since malicious software is typically buried within all kinds of places on a system, you can’t rely on System Restore being able to root out all parts of the malware. Instead, you should rely on a quality virus scanner that you keep up to date.

How to Enable System Restore

For many people, System Restore protection is turned on by default for your main system drive (C:) and not other drives on your PC. For others, System Restore is not enabled by default for any drives. Right now, there’s no consensus for why this happens. It does not appear related to whether Windows was installed fresh or upgraded, how much disk space you have available, what type of drives you have, or anything else we can figure out.

If you want to be protected by System Restore, you should absolutely turn it on for at least your system drive. In most cases, that’s all you need, since all the things System Restore protects tend to be located on the system drive anyway. If you want to turn on System Restore protection for other drives–say, for example, you install some programs to a different drive–you can do that too.

To make sure System Restore is turned on–and to enable it for specific drives–hit Start, type “restore,” and then click “Create a restore point.” Don’t worry. This doesn’t actually create a restore point; it just opens the dialogue where you can get to all the System Restore options.

 On the “System Protection” tab, in the “Protection Settings” section, you’ll see the available drives on your PC and whether protection is enabled for each drive. To turn on protection, select a drive on the list and click the “Configure” button.

(In our case, System Restore was already enabled for our C: drive. If it isn’t on your system, that’s the first drive you’ll probably want to enable it for.)

 In the “System Protection” dialogue that opens, click the “Turn on system protection” option, adjust the “Max Usage” slider to the amount of hard drive space you want System Restore to be able to use and then click “OK.”

You can then click “OK” again to exit the System Properties dialogue. Just be aware that when Windows creates a restore point (or you create one manually), System Restore will create a restore point on all the drives that have system protection enabled.

How to Create a Restore Point

As we mentioned earlier, System Restore automatically creates restore points on a week, and whenever a major event like an application or driver installation happens. You can also create a restore point yourself whenever you want. Hit Start, type “restore,” and then click “Create a restore point.” On the “System Protection” tab, click the “Create” button.

Type a description for your restore point that will help you remember why you created it and then click “Create.”

It can take 30 seconds or so to create a restore point, and System Restore will let you know when it’s done. Click “Close.”

How to Restore Your System to an Earlier Restore Point

Okay, so you have System Restore enabled, and you’ve been diligent about creating restore points whenever you mess with your system. Then, one fateful day, the inevitable happens–something goes wonky with your system, and you want to restore to an earlier restore point.

You’ll start the restore process from the same “System Protection” tab where you configure System Restore options. Hit Start, type “restore,” and then click “Create a restore point.” On the “System Protection” tab, click the “System Restore” button.

 The welcome page of the System Restore wizard just gives you a brief description of the process. Click “Next” to go on.

The next page shows you the available restore points. By default, the only thing showing will probably be the automatic weekly restore point and any manual restore points you’ve created. Select the “Show more restore points” option to see any automatic restore points created before app or driver installations.

Select the restore point you want to remember, the most recent working restore point is ideal–and then click “Scan for affected programs” to have System Restore detect any programs that will be uninstalled during the process.

System Restore will present you with two lists. The top list shows you programs and drivers that will be deleted if you restore Windows to the selected restore point. The bottom list shows programs and drivers that might be restored by the process. Again, even programs and drivers that get restored might not function properly until you do a full reinstall.

When you’re ready to restore, click the restore point you want to use and then click Next. Note that you can skip the scanning step and just click Next anyway, but it’s always good to see what apps will be affected before you start the process.

Next, you’re asked to confirm the restoration. Make sure you’ve selected the right restore point and click “Finish.”

System Restore informs you that once it starts, the restore process cannot be interrupted. Click “Yes” to start.

Windows will restart your PC and begin the restore process. It can take a while for System Restore to reinstate all those files–plan for at least 15 minutes, possibly more–but when your PC comes back up, you’ll be running at your selected restore point. It’s now time to test whether it resolved whatever problems you were having. And remember that System Restore creates an additional restore point right before performing the restore process, so you can always undo your actions by performing this same process and selecting that new restore point.

Other Ways You Can Fix System Problems

If System Restore doesn’t solve your problem, there are other ways you can go about addressing some of the issues System Restore is designed to solve.

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How to start or boot Windows 10 in Safe Mode

Windows 10 Safe Mode loads the operating system with a minimal set of system files and device drivers – just enough to boot the Windows OS. In Safe Mode, the startup programs, add-ons, settings etc, do not run. We usually boot into Safe Mode, when we need to troubleshoot issues. This post will show you how to enable and start or boot Windows 10 in Safe Mode. There may be other ways, but we will cover only 2 of the most convenient ways.

Boot Windows 10 in Safe Mode

There are three easy ways you can boot Windows 10 in Safe Mode:

  1. Press Shift and then click on Restart
  2. Open Recovery section in Update & Settings and click on Restart now.
  3. Use MSConfig or System Configuration Utility and select the Safe boot and Minimal options setting and restart.

Let us take a look at them in detail.

1. Using Advanced Startup Options

The easiest way to boot Windows 10 into Safe Mode, would be to press Shift and then click on Restart. This will reboot your Windows 10 computer into Advanced Startup Options.

Alternatively, open the Settings app > Update & Security > Recovery. Under Advanced startup, click on Restart now.

When you follow any of the two methods mentioned, your Windows 10 computer will restart, and you will see the following screen.

Click on Troubleshoot to proceed.

Now follow the steps laid down in Advanced Startup options in Windows 10. It will take you through the entire process starting with – Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Startup Settings > Restart > Press No 4 key.

If you have followed the procedure correctly, you will finally reach Startup Settings screen, from where you will be able to enable Safe Mode.

Press the ‘4’ key, and your computer will restart and enter Safe Mode. To reboot in Safe Mode with Networking, press ‘5’ key. To reboot in Safe Mode with Command Prompt, press the ‘6’ key.

You will see a black desktop with a Safe Mode watermark in the bottom left and right sides.

2] Using System Configuration Utility

The other simple way, of course, is by using the built-in System Configuration Utility. From the Win+X Menu, open Run box, type msconfig and hit Enter.

Under the Boot tab, check the Safe boot and Minimal options. Click Apply/OK and exit. On a restart, your computer will enter Safe Mode directly.

You can now work in the Safe Mode.

Before you exit, remember to open msconfig and uncheck the Safe Boot check box, click Apply/OK and then on Restart, so that on reboot, your computer will not again boot in safe mode – but instead will boot to your desktop.

How To Remove Malware- 5 Simple Steps

Five Steps to Remove Malware

Malware and Viruses can be difficult to remove if your PC gets infected. There are a few basic things users should be doing when trying to remove a known infection. Sometimes this technique will work, but occasionally more advanced tactics will need to be done in order to remove malicious code. A lot of experts will agree once your computer is known to be infected, the only real way to know you’ve solved the problem is to reformat and reinstall Windows. Understandably, people do not like that option, as they may not have backups or even a restore disks to perform that task. So what do you do?

How to Remove Spyware and Viruses

  1. The very first thing you should do is try and update Windows. Many newer computers will have automatic updates turned on by default. But sometimes the updates will upload but not install until you tell them to. Click Start, then look in the menu for Windows Update. Click that and you will be taken to the Microsoft Update website.  Install any critical updates that are available. You may need to restart when finished. This update will at least make sure your computer is patched with any KNOWN exploits. It will also download the latest Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool–which is a utility to remove common malicious software.
  2. Next, write down the names of any pop-ups that might flash on the screen. You want to write these down in case you need to manually research and kill out the processes. Generally, you will find tips on how to manually remove malware by visiting SARC.com or any other trusted security site. In addition, Malware can redirect and change your homepage. Write down the new homepage URL as this will give a clue as to what malware you could have.
  3. Restart and go to Safe Mode with Networking. To get there, reboot or power on the computer and tap the F8 key numerous times until you see a boot menu with Safe Mode with Networking. Once in that mode, go to the Internet and visit MalwareBytes.org and download the free version (or they have a good Commercial version of MalwareBytes that will protect you in real-time). Install and run a scan. If it detects anything remove and reboot the computer. Hopefully, this will solve the problem.
  4. If that doesn’t help, you’ll need to download a program called Hijack This, which is a very advanced tool that allows you to remove evil BHOs (Browser Helper Objects). If you have researched your particular infection and know what to look for in this list, you can delete the malicious software directly from the HJT tool.
  5. If all else fails, you may need to reinstall. Backup any important Photos, Movies or Documents to an external drive or CD and either run your Recovery Disk or use your Windows CD to reformat and reinstall the Operating System.

It’s not a bad idea to turn off System Restore before doing your scans. Some viruses will actually reinstall themselves using the System Restore feature built into your Operating System. To turn it off, right-click My Computer, then click Properties. There will be a System Restore tab that has a check box to turn off System Restore.

Free Online Virus Scanning Tools

Free online virus scanner sites are great for getting a second opinion on your computer’s security. Not all antivirus programs are created equal. While the antivirus you run on your home PC might never detect anything when it scans, it doesn’t mean you’re not infected. Not all companies update their virus definitions at the same time. So it’s possible one company may have the most current and accurate virus definitions, while the one you use does not. Likewise, your antivirus may catch malware the others do not. So it’s good to get a second opinion. With that said, you should never install two antivirus programs on a computer, as they will conflict and likely slow your system down. Use one of the website below to scan your computer from the Internet.

Housecall – Trend Micro has been offering this free malware scanner online for several years.

Eset Online Virus Scanner — From the company that makes the reliable NOD32 antivirus, Eset has a fast and easy online virus scanner.

Remember, no matter which of the above you use, understand that these scanners do not prevent you from getting viruses. They are for detection after-the-fact. Make sure you keep Windows up to date and have a current antivirus running on your PC that provides real-time protection. For more tips on how use an online virus scanner to keep your PC safe and remove infections,