How to troubleshoot computer problems

How to troubleshoot computer problems

You finally finished it ­— the project your boss has hounded you about for weeks. You just put the finishing touches on your presentation. It’s perfect. And right as you’re saving it, the unthinkable happens. Your computer crashes, closes your programs or gives you the Blue Screen of Death. Whatever malfunction you might experience, before you fly into a rage and Hulk smash your monitor, take a few breaths and follow these steps to troubleshoot the problem.

Identify potential issues

First, look at what’s going wrong. What exactly is acting up? Just as with your health, varying symptoms in your computer indicate different problems.

Software problems

If problems start after you’ve started your computer, you may have a problem with the software. Common signs of these issues include unresponsiveness or program malfunctions.

Steps to take

First, restart your computer. If the problem persists, check newly installed software. If the issue began soon after you downloaded a new program, that may be your cause. Uninstall the software. If the problem begins immediately after starting your computer, the issue may lie with a program that starts automatically at launch. Check those programs, and once you identify the troublesome one, stop it from automatically launching when the computer starts.

Hardware problems

Having an issue with the hardware refers to the physical state of the system and your Random Access Memory. If your computer doesn’t power on, the screen’s colors seem off or the keyboard doesn’t work, these indicate hardware problems.

Steps to take

Check your RAM. If you’re using too much, your computer will act sluggish. You can decrease RAM usage by closing programs that start automatically.

Unless you’re skilled in computer repairs, you will most likely need to let a professional handle the hardware fixes. Some issues you can work around — like screen discoloration — but others, like a failed hard drive, you will need to replace it, which ranges in cost from $50 to $750, depending on brand and storage space.

Keep in mind that if your hard drive crashes, you will also lose your data. You can often have a professional recover your data for upwards of $250.


If programs randomly start without you launching them, your computer may have a virus. Some other symptoms include a slow-running computer and pop-up windows.

Steps to take

Run your computer’s anti-virus software. If you don’t have malware protection, you can download software from the Internet for free to keep the malicious programs from taking over your computer. Many times, running anti-virus software will identify and remove the virus.

Advanced viruses, however, can sometimes block you from downloading anti-virus software. In that case, you need to use another computer to download the software onto an external hard drive — for example, a flash drive — and plug it into your computer’s USB port and run the anti-virus software from there. If that doesn’t work, consult a professional.

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