Troubleshooting is a systematic process used to locate the cause of a fault in a computer system and correct the relevant hardware and software issues. Approaching problem solving using a logical and methodical approach is essential to successful resolution. Although experience is very useful to problem solving, following a troubleshooting model will enhance effectiveness and speed.
Troubleshooting Process Steps (4.2.1)
In this section, you will learn that to troubleshoot a problem quickly and effectively, you need to understand how to approach the issue. Troubleshooting is a way of discovering what is causing a problem and fixing it.
Introduction to Troubleshooting (188.8.131.52)
Troubleshooting requires an organized and logical approach to problems with computers and other components. Sometimes issues arise during preventive maintenance. At other times, customers may contact you with problems. Taking a logical approach to troubleshooting allows you to eliminate variables and identify causes of problems in a systematic order. Asking the right questions, testing the right hardware, and examining the right data helps you understand the problem and form a proposed solution.
Troubleshooting is a skill that you refine over time. Each time you solve a problem, you increase your troubleshooting skills by gaining more experience. You learn how and when to combine steps, or skip steps, to reach a solution quickly. The troubleshooting process is a guideline that is modified to fit your needs.
This section presents an approach to problem solving that you can apply to both hardware and software.
Before you begin troubleshooting problems, always follow the necessary precautions to protect data on a computer. Some repairs, such as replacing a hard drive or reinstalling an operating system, might put the data on the computer at risk. Make sure you do everything possible to prevent data loss while attempting repairs. If your work results in data loss for the customer, you or your company could be held liable.
A data backup is a copy of the data on a computer hard drive that is saved to another storage device or to cloud storage. Cloud storage is online storage that is accessed via the Internet. In an organization, backups may be performed on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
If you are unsure about whether a backup has been done, do not attempt any troubleshooting activities until you check with the customer. Here is a list of items to verify with the customer regarding whether a backup has been performed:
If the customer does not have a current backup and you are not able to create one, ask the customer to sign a liability release form. A liability release form contains at least the following information:
Troubleshooting Process Steps (184.108.40.206)
The troubleshooting process steps are as follows:
Identify the Problem (220.127.116.11)
The first step in the troubleshooting process is to identify the problem. During this step, gather as much information as possible from the customer and from the computer.
When you are talking to a customer, follow these guidelines:
Table 4-1 lists some of the information to gather from the customer.
Table 4-1 Step 1: Identify the Problem
Open-Ended and Closed-Ended Questions
Open-ended questions allow customers to explain the details of the problem in their own words. Use open-ended questions to obtain general information.
Based on the information from the customer, you can proceed with closed-ended questions. A closed-ended questions generally requires a yes or no answer.
Document the information from the customer in the work order, in the repair log, and in your repair journal. Write down anything that you think might be important for you or another technician. The small details often lead to the solution of a difficult or complicated problem.
Each BIOS manufacturer has a unique beep sequence, a combination of long and short beeps, for hardware failures. When troubleshooting, power on the computer and listen. As the system proceeds through the POST, most computers emit one beep to indicate that the system is booting properly. If there is an error, you might hear multiple beeps. Document the beep code sequence and research the code to determine the specific problem.
If the computer boots and stops after the POST, investigate the BIOS settings. A device might not be detected or configured properly. Refer to the motherboard documentation to ensure that the BIOS settings are correct.
When system, user, or software errors occur on a computer running Windows, the Event Viewer is updated with information about the errors. The Event Viewer, shown in Figure 4-2, records the following information about the problem:
Figure 4-2 Event Viewer
Although the Event Viewer lists details about an error, you might need to further research the problem to determine a solution.
The Device Manager, shown in Figure 4-3, displays all the devices that are configured on a computer. The operating system flags the devices that are not operating correctly with an error icon. A yellow triangle with an exclamation point indicates that the device is in a problem state. A red X means that the device is disabled or removed or that Windows can’t locate the device. An downward-pointing arrow means the device has been disabled. A yellow question mark indicates that the system does not know which driver to install for the hardware.
Figure 4-3 Device Manager
The Task Manager, shown in Figure 4-4, displays the applications and background processes that are currently running. With the Task Manager, you can close applications that have stopped responding. You can also monitor the performance of the CPU and virtual memory, view all processes that are currently running, and view information about the network connections.
Figure 4-4 Task Manager
Conduct research to determine what software is available to help diagnose and solve problems. Many programs can help you troubleshoot hardware. Manufacturers of system hardware usually provide diagnostic tools of their own. For instance, a hard drive manufacturer might provide a tool to boot the computer and diagnose why the hard drive does not start the operating system.
Establish a Theory of Probable Cause (18.104.22.168)
The second step in the troubleshooting process is to establish a theory of probable cause. First, create a list of the most common reasons for the error. Even if the customer thinks there is a major problem, start with the obvious issues before moving to more complex diagnoses, as outlined here:
List the easiest or most obvious causes at the top. List the more complex causes at the bottom. If necessary, conduct internal (logs, journal) or external (internet) research based on the symptoms. The next steps of the troubleshooting process involve testing each possible cause.
Test the Theory to Determine the Cause (22.214.171.124)
You can determine an exact cause by testing your theories of probable causes one at a time, starting with the quickest and easiest. Some common steps to determine the cause of the problem are as follows:
Once the theory is confirmed, you can determine the steps to resolve the problem. As you become more experienced at troubleshooting computers, you will work through the steps in the process faster. For now, practice each step to better understand the troubleshooting process.
If you cannot determine the exact cause of a problem after testing all your theories, establish a new theory of probable cause and test it. If necessary, escalate the problem to a technician with more experience. Before you escalate, document each test that you tried, as shown in Figure 4-5.
Figure 4-5 Work Order
Establish a Plan of Action to Resolve the Problem and Implement the Solution (126.96.36.199)
After you have determined the exact cause of the problem, establish a plan of action to resolve the problem and implement the solution. Sometimes quick procedures can correct the problem. If a quick procedure does correct the problem, verify full system functionality and, if applicable, implement preventive measures. If a quick procedure does not correct the problem, research the problem further and then return to Step 2 to establish a new theory of the probable cause.
After you have established a plan of action, you should research possible solutions such as the following:
Divide large problems into smaller problems that can be analyzed and solved individually. Prioritize solutions starting with the easiest and fastest to implement. Create a list of possible solutions and implement them one at a time. If you implement a possible solution and it does not correct the problem, reverse the action you just took and then try another solution. Continue this process until you have found the appropriate solution.
Verify Full Functionality and, if Applicable, Implement Preventive Measures (188.8.131.52)
After the repairs to the computer have been completed, continue the troubleshooting process by verifying full system functionality and implementing the preventive measures needed, as outlined here:
Verifying full system functionality confirms that you have solved the original problem and ensures that you have not created another problem while repairing the computer. Whenever possible, have the customer verify the solution and system functionality.
Document Findings, Actions, and Outcomes (184.108.40.206)
After the repairs to the computer have been completed, finish the troubleshooting process with the customer. Explain the problem and the solution to the customer verbally and in writing. The steps to take when you have finished a repair are as follows:
Verify the solution with the customer. If the customer is available, demonstrate how the solution has corrected the computer problem. Have the customer test the solution and try to reproduce the problem. When the customer can verify that the problem has been resolved, you can complete the documentation for the repair in the work order and in your journal. Include the following information in the documentation:
Common Problems and Solutions for PCs (4.2.2)
As a technician, you will run into technical problems in your day-to-day routine that need your attention. As the issues arise, take the time to better understand the causes of problems and work through possible fixes. Be sure to document all that you do. This section discusses several common PC problems and suggested solutions.
PC Common Problems and Solutions (220.127.116.11)
Computer problems can be attributed to hardware, software, networks, or some combination of the three. You will resolve some types of problems more often than others.
Some common hardware problems are as follows:
Common Problems and Solutions for Storage Devices (18.104.22.168)
Table 4-2 shows the probable causes and possible solutions for storage devices.
Table 4-2 Common Problems and Solutions for Storage Devices
Common Problems and Solutions for Motherboards and Internal Components (22.214.171.124)
Table 4-3 shows common problems and solutions for motherboards and internal components.
Table 4-3 Common Problems and Solutions for Motherboards and Internal Components
Common Problems and Solutions for Power Supplies (126.96.36.199)
Table 4-4 lists common problems and solutions for power supplies.
Table 4-4 Common Problems and Solutions for Power Supplies
Common Problems and Solutions for CPUs and Memory (188.8.131.52)
Table 4-5 lists common problems and solutions for CPUs and memory.
Table 4-5 Common Problems and Solutions for CPUs and Memory
Common Problems and Solutions for Displays (184.108.40.206)
Table 4-6 lists common problems and solutions for displays
Table 4-6 Common Problems and Solutions for Displays
Apply Troubleshooting Process to Computer Components and Peripherals (4.2.3)
Troubleshooting requires that you always have a plan of action. Asking the right questions, narrowing down the cause, re-creating the problem, and attempting to fix the issue based on your plan is a good process for both internal and peripheral components. Once you start troubleshooting, write down each step you take for your future use and that of other technicians.
Personal Reference Tools (220.127.116.11)
Good customer service includes providing the customer with a detailed description of the problem and the solution. It is important for a technician to document all services and repairs and that this documentation be available to all other technicians. The documentation can then be used as reference material for similar problems.
Personal reference tools include troubleshooting guides, manufacturer manuals, quick reference guides, and repair journals. In addition to an invoice, a technician keeps a journal of upgrades and repairs:
Internet Reference Tools (18.104.22.168)
The Internet is an excellent source of information about specific hardware problems and possible solutions. Visit the following for helpful information:
Advanced Problems and Solutions for Hardware (22.214.171.124)
Table 4-7 lists advanced problems and solutions for hardware.
Table 4-7 Advanced Problems and Solutions for Hardware
In this chapter, you learned that there are many benefits of conducting preventive maintenance, such as fewer potential hardware and software problems, less computer downtime, lower repair costs, and less frequent equipment failures. You learned how to keep dust from damaging computer components by keeping air filters clean, cleaning the outside of the computer case, and using compressed air to remove dust from the inside of the computer.
You learned that there are components that should be regularly inspected for dust and damage. These components include the CPU heat sink and fan, RAM modules, storage devices, adapter cards, cables and power devices, and keyboards and mice. You also learned about guidelines for ensuring optimal computer operating performance, such as not obstructing vents or airflow and maintaining proper room temperature and humidity.
In addition to learning how to maintain the hardware of a computer, you learned that it is important to perform regular maintenance on computer software. This is best accomplished with a software maintenance schedule that covers security software, virus definition files, unwanted and unused programs, and hard drive defragmenting.
At the end of the chapter, you learned the six steps in the troubleshooting process as they pertain to preventive maintenance.
The following activities provide practice with the topics introduced in this chapter. The labs are available in the companion IT Essentials v7 Labs & Study Guide (ISBN 9780135612033).
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