What to do when switch it off and back on again doesn’t work

Ever had one of those days where you Laptop suddenly decides it’s not going to play ball?  

The simplest of tasks you normally take for granted are all of a sudden impossible and you’re presented with a series of random, incomprehensible error messages.  Very quickly your level of frustration goes from a slightly annoyed 4 to an furious 10 as the usual fix of restarting the program or the machine fail to resolve the issue.

Before we go any further a warning.  This article is over 1300 words and if you don’t have a problem that needs fixing right now then there’s probably better things to do with your time but this article will be helpful to you at some point if you ever need to fix a  problem yourself so  put this somewhere easy to find when you need it.  Print it out, save it on your desktop whatever just keep it around as a free insurance policy for that inevitable time when things go a little bit wrong.

Assuming you don’t have an IT support company to call on the above scenario means you need to resolve the issue yourself.  The good news is that in our experience 90% of the time problems that just randomly crop up can be resolved quickly as there’s usually a common factor.  That factor is change.  If you can identify what changes have happened since the problem has occurred you can usually resolve the issue quickly and to help you do that we’ve put together a checklist of what to look for, where to look and how to reverse any changes that may be causing you grief.  And don’t write off this approach because you can’t remember making any changes.  With most software being connected to the internet changes are always necessary in the shape of security updates and patches it’s simply a way of life in a world where technology is always connected to outside entities.  So assuming you have done the good old switch it off and back on again let’s get started…   

1.Check operating system updates

For all of these stages we will use Windows 7 Professional.  If you’re using another operating system you can either use your best guess to work out what you need to do in the same way on your machine or google the steps.  In this case if you have windows 10 type  “Check operating system updates Windows 10” in to google and the steps will be there.  You can also use You Tube if following video instructions works better for you.

So if you are in Windows 7 select the start icon at the bottom right of the screen and then enter “Windows Update” in the “search Programs and Files” search bar in the menu and then hit enter.

Hopefully you’ll see  a message saying your operating system is up to date.

If it is then proceed to step two.   If you’re operating system is not up to date carry up the updates and see if that resolves the issue.

2. Check anti virus

There’s a lot of Anti Viruses out there so we won’t go into specifics but they are usually very user friendly.  As with the operating system update you’ll want to make sure everything is up to date and you’ll also want to be sure there is nothing on your system that shouldn’t be.  So run a full scan and make sure your antivirus is up to date.

If you don’t have anti virus give us a call or look at products from Web Root, Trend Micro and Symantec.  Bare in mind things may have changed since this post so ask people in the know what they would recommend.  If you can’t work out how to work your antivirus then the manufacturers web site will most likely give you a quick and easy answer for what to do.  

3. Check updates for the software with a problem & reinstall / repair

In most cases if the software relies on updates it will be doing this automatically or least prompting you to initiate an update. A lot of people ok the update and then immediately forget they’ve done it, so although this may seem like the most obvious place to start in our experience there are other areas that are more likely to yield a solution.

Like anti virus, if the software is not up to date this should be a fairly simple and intuitive task.

Failing that your software may have a repair option.  You can find out by using the help facility in the program (if it has one) or searching on the manufacturer’s web site.  If a repair option is not available then try re-installing the software.

4. Check programs that have recently been installed on your machine

This is the one that most people miss.  Computers (despite the rapid and ongoing advance of tech) don’t always like change.  On top of that it’s very easy to introduce change to your computer without even realising it or giving it a second thought.  Free trials of software  and free apps mean it’s very quick and easy to initiate change and sometimes it can have a negative impact to existing software.  So what does this mean?  It means you need to know what’s been installed on your computer since the problem first occurred.

So (if you’re on Windows 7 Profesional) go to the start menu, select “Control Panel”, then “Programs”, then “Programs and Features” or whatever variation gets you to this a screen with a list of programs installed on your machine.

Notice the “Installed On” column?

Select this so the most recently installed programs are in at the top and in order.

Is there anything that’s been installed at a time which correlates with the problems you’ve been having?  If so you may need to uninstall that program but before you do ask yourself the following:

  • Have you backed up the data for the program you’re about to delete?
  • Is the program up to date?  It may be an update on this program will resolve the issue.
  • Do you have access to an up to date copy of the software ready for reinstallation?
  • Do you have the relevant licence keys or login details for reinstallation?

5. Google It!

None of the above worked?  Then it’s time dig a little deeper.  Google is a great place for finding people who’ve had the exact problem you’re having and what they did to fix it.  The down side with Googe is it’s all too easy to get overwhelmed with all the information that’s out there.  So here’s how you can use google to find your solution without going down a seemingly endless number blind alleys.

  1. Be very specific when you enter a search term.  Ideally you’ll have an error message so you can use that along with the program and /or operating system you’re using.
  2. Have the person who’s already got the answer to your problem in mind.  If someone has been through your problem and found the solution online it’s most likely in a forum.  So think what did they search for and what did the person who wrote the solution write.  For example if someone couldn’t save a word document without getting an error message perhaps someone else wrote a response or maybe a blog post  “how to save word documents when you get an error message”  With that in mind if you know what you need to do type that and add the words How to” at the start to help Google find the most relevant results.
  3. Don’t dive straight into what’s suggested. This is especially true if its a forum.  Scan a few threads and see where they end up.  Hopefully it will be with a person (who has the same problem as you) saying thanks because what they’ve been told has worked.  When you’ve found a thread that looks like a good bet start at the top.   It’s likely you’ll see the earlier stages of this post mentioned but go through it in order to be sure.  When looking at the solution that has worked before doing it assess if you have the technical capability to comfortably execute what is been suggested.  If you dont understand whats been suggested don’t do it!  Speak to your local IT Support company.  You could be risking making a problem go from bad to worse.  This can be particularly true when it comes to changing lines of code and making changes with the registry (this is the technical instruction stuff the works in the background that your IT Support company will understand ).  Apply a healthy dose of common sense and if in doubt don’t do it.  If you are going to go ahead with a solution then make sure your backups are up to date as well where applicable.

So there you have it.  If you have any kind of “out of the blue” problem and you don’t have a local IT Support company on hand this protocol should help get you back up and running in the quickest stress free way possible.  Of course if that looks a bit much for you then you can always call us or your own local IT support company like Trenmead – outsource the headache and get on with what you do best.

Good luck!