Troubleshooting 101

What is this error? I’m not trying to park a car here! Photo provided by the Author.

Uh-oh. Something is wrong with your computer, your tablet, your phone, your technological doo-hickey. You have no idea what to do to get it working again and if you are like most people, you cringe at the idea of having to call the IT department or that tech savvy relative. Do they sigh when you call? Maybe put you straight to voicemail? Want to get help without feeling like a burden, an annoyance or a moron?

As a former IT person, I found that clients who followed these simple tips fostered a mutually beneficial relationship for both parties.

1. Is your problem happening to only you or everyone else?

If you can’t connect to the internet or if your computer freezes, you want to check if it’s just you or if it’s happening to everyone. Stand up from your cubicle and go next door to your neighbor and ask!

If the issue is happening to everyone, your IT department is probably getting swamped with calls, emails and dispatching everyone to their battle stations. Don’t add to the traffic. Wait it out or ask around if anybody has started a ticket. Be assured, you’ll get a notification somehow (thanks technology!) from the eggheads letting you know that they are working on the issue.

If this issue is ONLY happening to you, read below for more tips before you make that phone call.

2. Reboot

IT will always ask if you rebooted. Do them a favor and do it for them before you call. If you’re into sports, rebooting is like the 7th inning stretch in baseball when they make the dirt all nice and clean again or when the hockey Zamboni smooths out the ice. Start clean and try again.

3. Maybe something is corrupted — try a new thing

Can’t log in with your user name? Try a different one, create a new one or have a friend try to log into your computer with their credentials. Are you in a project? Try a new project. Is the problem still happening in the new project or is it only on the project you are working on? Doesn’t work on your chrome browser? Try Mozilla Firefox or go old school and try internet explorer 10, 11, 12…whatever number we are on now. Just trying a different user, project, browser will show the techies you care about their time.

4. Google your problem

There are copious websites of people that specifically help each other with technical issues. Use the internet for good and google your problem. Type in part of your error message or check if the application has a troubleshooting section and/or FAQ. Sometimes, it’s as easy as ‘This is a bug and you need version x234mdi or this super patch’ (Think of patches as band-aids for techie boo-boos).

5. When you contact your IT person, give as MUCH detail as possible

The MOST annoying call IT people get? “My computer is broken.” What does that mean? Does it mean that you dropped the computer out of the window? Or does it mean submitting your password 18 times has locked you out for 11 hours? The more details you can give the IT person, the happier they will be in trying to solve your mystery. Here’s a handy template I like to use when submitting a ticket:

  • The specific problem:

I can’t start my XYZ application on my computer (or phone or tablet)

  • Any error messages:

When I try to start XYZ application, I get this error message “Dragons hate Bob”

  • Troubleshooting tips (see above) you tried:

I asked Vivonika if she could start her application and she could.

I googled the message and it says to contact your IT person for patch called ‘pink elephant.’

I rebooted and tried again. Same dragon error.

I tried a different windows or mac user called “test” and still the same dragon error.

6. Say please and thank you!

I don’t why some people lose basic manners. Saying please and thank you means you are grateful for the techie’s effort and experience. It makes a world of difference to somebody who deals with irritated people all day.

Try these tips and I guarantee, your IT person is going to know your name and jump at helping you. At the very least, you can avoid the exasperated sigh.



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Sharon Mayo

Sharon Mayo

Sharon Mayo has an undergraduate degree from NYU at Tisch, currently working on her MFA at Columbia University in Creative Producing.