Thursday, May 16, 2013

Essentials to computer troubleshooting

The following is a listing of guidelines practiced computer technicians should employ when diagnosing and ultimately resolving computer problems.

1) Isolate the problem

Customers and clients can report and view a problem different from you.  When someone would say my computer is frozen, it could refer to the cursor, a particular program or a feature that is slow to respond. Also, make sure there really is a problem. Ask questions like this:

What do you want it to do?
What recently changed on your computer?
When was the last time you performed this task?

Ask questions that have very definitive and short answers. By isolating the problem very quickly you waste less of your and your customer's time.

2) What does the error message say

Error messages are gold mines for technicians. However many are written similarly between different programs. Ask the customer for the exact error message. Wait for key words like "something like" or "about". This typically means the customer is not repeating the message verbatim. Find out what steps lead up to this error. Error messages were put into code to be read exactly. 

Please do your best to get this information. However, do not repeatedly perform a task, and waste more time, if the error message is not repeated exactly. We, at times, must proceed with inexact information.

3) Write down your own steps

Documentation is the key toward developing and growing a substantial knowledge base. The steps your write down may be the first time a problem is resolved. 

By tracking your steps a more immediate solution could be drafted. Additionally, back tracking bad steps or dead-ends is easier if your steps have detailed information. 

You may also need to pass along these steps if your hand over the task to someone else. This reduces duplication of effort.

4) Repeat the error/problem

This step often confuses and frustrates customers. But by repeating the same steps a customer made you perform some very important tasks:

-Acclimate yourself to the customer's computer environment (look/feel)
-Review the steps / problem with the customer (training)
-Find out how the customer approaches the software/equipment (training)

Sometimes problems are training issues that can be resolved by guiding the customer toward the best practices. Additionally, some errors are not repeatable so you may end of 'solving' the problem just be repeating it. 

Also, you can see other mitigating factors such as if the computer is already performing slow or unauthorized software or malware is installed. 

5) Resolve

Computer support means getting someone else's computer up and running quickly. If your familiar with the error, skip right to the solution if you know it. Get the obvious solutions done first. 

Keeping customers operational is often more critical that digging into the root cause of a problem or gathering complete information. Judge for yourself where the priority lies and fix the problem.

6) Upkeep

After the computer problem is fixed, you have a responsibility to ensure the problem will not come back and other ones won't pop up. Review the steps you took to resolve the problem (Step 3) to ensure that there are no gaps or loose ends that could create other problems. Perform Step 4 to check if you can replicate the error. If it shows back up...start over.

 Review with the customer best practices and hooks to look for to help them become more adept at identifying and reporting problems (Steps 1 &2). Inform them of other things to look for and let them know how to find solutions on their own (if applicable). 

Inform your supervisor if this problem is system-wide or has a potential to seriously disrupt business. 

7) Knowledge

If this is a new problem. Document it in your knowledge base (or personal wiki). Even if you have incomplete information or do not have a solution at first. Your memory of the events may fade and will will definitely have more work soon. 

Once a resolution is formulated and more information becomes available, you can edit the solution and be better equipped the next time the problem appears. 
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