Slow performing workstations trigger numerous help desk calls. The complaint is common within IT departments and among most every IT consulting client. Culprits, however, are as varied as users.
Sometimes slow operation is due to a failing hard drive. Sometimes active virus or spyware infections are to blame. Still other performance issues can be tied to too many applications being installed, fragmented hard disks, or corrupted installations.
Isolating problems and correcting slow-performing desktop or laptop systems could be easy. If that were all IT professionals and consultants had to do, the process might actually even be enjoyable. But it's not. The process is frustrating, sometimes vexing, and occasionally maddening.
While you're trying to remove a Trojan infection with surgical precision to save reinstalling an OS, reloading seven applications for which the user or client no longer has installation media or registration keys, and re-creating a host of undocumented but intricate and critical settings, the phone is ringing. Projects are falling behind. Printers are failing. Servers are crashing.
Most small companies, and certainly most small businesses, don't have libraries of disk images that can be used to redeploy client desktops when such troubles arise. Instead, many IT pros have to go old school and manually repair systems. That's when a strong checklist comes in handy. A simple one-page document can prove incredibly helpful in quickly addressing the most commonly required tune-up tasks.
This is especially true when you have to repair a slow-performing system while also juggling multiple other tasks — which is nearly always. I've yet to meet a support technician worth his or her salt who repairs only a single workstation at a time. Most professionals repair six to 10 PCs simultaneously. And if you're forced to repair a system onsite or in a user's office or cubicle, said user may insist on making small talk, or more likely, will ask you to answer numerous complex technical questions while you work.
Distractions are problematic when performing tune-ups or trying to isolate viruses and spyware. It's easy to overlook important steps (such as performing a quick check disk operation to verify data and hard disk integrity). Unfortunately, real-world distractions are plentiful. You're not likely to have the luxury of a few uninterrupted hours to complete a tune-up, system optimization, or malware removal session.
One good way to stay focused amidst competing demands is to use TechRepublic's Tune-up Checklist. Clients and users can chat all they want. The phone can ring, and email notifications can momentarily command your attention. By working through the checklist, you won't forget critical steps. From leveraging common repair tools and utilities to remembering to confirm proper backups are in place, the checklist covers all the important tasks and processes. And you can record notes and other information as you go, providing valuable reminders for follow-up work or quick review sessions with end users and clients.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.