SolutionBase: Techniques you can use to troubleshoot your BlackBerry

BlackBerrys present a whole new set of troubleshooting challenges for IT professionals. To keep your mobile users working trouble-free, try using these techniques.

A good IT manager will, if you asked, probably tell you that one of the most challenging aspects of managing new IT professionals is the ability to properly convey the basic principles of troubleshooting and apply them to an actual situation. With the growing popularity of BlackBerry devices, troubleshooting these handheld devices present new challenges. With a basic understanding of the steps involved in setting up the device, troubleshooting a stop along the way should be that much easier. In this article I will discuss some of the common problems that can occur when a user is setting is a BlackBerry device and how they can quickly be resolved.

Troubleshooting the Wireless Network

Obviously, a BlackBerry is very much dependent on the strength of the wireless signal. As with wired network troubleshooting, one of the first things you usually do is check the connection. This rule also applies to BlackBerry devices. The strength of the signal will indicate to you whether the device is able to send and receive data. A user can check the signal strength using the steps listed below:

  1. Turn on the BlackBerry device.
  2. From the Home screen, click the Options icon.
  3. From the Options screen, click Status.
  4. The Status screen will appear.
  5. Check the value listed in the Signal field.

The connection strength should be less than 100dBm. A value higher than this would indicate a weak wireless signal and could therefore be causing communication problems.

If the signal strength is not the cause of any problems, you can have the user check the network settings configured on the BlackBerry. Incorrect network settings can result in the handheld device being unable to send and receive data on the wireless network. To verify the settings, instruct the user to click Options from the Home screen and then select Network. Click the Scan for Networks options to check that the device is configured to run on the correct network.

Troubleshooting Wireless Activation

There are a number of problems that can occur during the wireless activation. One of the ways that the Enterprise Activation program can be initiated is by using the related icon on the Home screen of the BlackBerry device. If Enterprise Activation icon is not available from Home screen on your BlackBerry, verify the version of software you are running. This feature requires BlackBerry Wireless Handheld Software Version 4.0 If you are running the correct version, the icon is more than likely not available because you have already performed the enterprise activation.

Once you complete the Enterprise Activation, the icon is removed from the BlackBerry's home screen. However, you can still find the program from the list of Options.

It is possible for users to receive an error message after entering the activation password. The message will likely say "Please enter a valid password". The cause of this problem is that the user has entered in the incorrect activation password. Have the user enter in the correct password.

In order to run the Enterprise Activation program on a handheld, the radio must be turned on. If it is not, the following message will appear when the user attempts wireless activation:

Activation request failed, your radio is off

When the Application Loader is run, the handheld radio is automatically turned off. You can resolve the problem by having the user turn the handheld radio back on and launch the Enterprise Activation program again.

Another problem a BlackBerry user may encounter during the wireless activation process is that the program stops responding. However, this is a little more difficult to troubleshoot since it can be caused for a number of reasons including:

  • Unknown reasons
  • Incorrect email address
  • Incorrect activation password
  • A service book is corrupt

Part of troubleshooting problems that can creep up during the wireless enterprise activation is identifying where in the process the problem is occurring.

During the activation process, encryption keys are generated. For unknown reasons, the process may stop responding at this point. The BlackBerry user should cancel the activation process, verify that the handheld radio is turned on and then retry.

Before the activation process begins, the BlackBerry user must type in their corporate email address and the wireless activation password given to them by an administrator. If the user does not type in the correct information, the activation program will halt and in some cases, maybe even hang.

You can verify the user's email address from the BlackBerry Manager on the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES). Open the BlackBerry Manager and click Server. From the User List tab, right click the appropriate user and select Properties. Using the information on the General tab, verify that the email address being typed in by the user matches the email address listed. As for an incorrect password, you can have the user retype the password or you can reset it on the BES.

Another problem that may be encountered is the desktop service book becomes corrupt, causing the wireless enterprise activation process to stop responding. Instruct the user to delete the Desktop service book from the BlackBerry and retry the activation program. The service book can be deleted by clicking Options from the Home screen and the selecting Service Book. Select Desktop (SYNC) and click Delete. The user can then return to the Home screen and start the Enterprise Activation process again.

Troubleshooting a Wired BlackBerry Connection

If a user is unable to use wireless activation for setting up their BlackBerry, they will require a wired connection. One of the first things you should instruct a user to do if they encounter problems is to confirm that the connection between the BlackBerry device and their computer.

A user can easily accomplish this by checking that the handheld device is properly connected to the cradle and that the cradle is properly connected to the computer. If they close and reopen the BlackBerry Desktop Manager on their computer, it should indicate that the device has been detected.

Troubleshooting Email Problems

Email issues can be caused for several different reasons. After you have checked the wireless network connections and network settings, make sure the correct redirector settings have been configured. If a BlackBerry Enterprise Server is this email redirection must be selected.

You can also instruct the user to try sending a test message from their email account. If the message is successfully sent, it will verify that the mail server is not the cause of the problem.

Other Helpful Hints

Many Problems with a BlackBerry can be resolved by performing a reset. For example, if the screen is frozen try performing a soft reset by pressing the [ALT][CAP][DELETE] keystrokes. If this does not resolve the issue, you instruct the user to try doing a hard reset by pressing the small RESET button located on the BlackBerry device and the device will restart. You will probably need a pin or other small object to press the RESET button.

A user may encounter problems when they attempt to synchronize their handheld with their PC. First, verify that the handheld and cradle are properly connected. On the computer, make sure that Microsoft Outlook is set as the default email client. You can also check the Intellisync settings through the Desktop Manager software using the steps listed below:

  1. Verify the handheld is connected to the cradle.
  2. Open the Desktop Manager application.
  3. Double click the Intellisync icon. The Intellisync window appears.
  4. From the Intellisync dialog box, click Configure PIM. Select the application check boxes you want to synchronize.
  5. Verify the applications that are being synchronized.

For troubleshooting purposes, it is also useful to know how to reregister a BlackBerry device on the network. From the Home screen, click Options and select Network. Press the trackwheel and select Register Now.

Follow the basic rules of troubleshooting

As you can see, there are many problems a user can encounter when using a BlackBerry device. However, troubleshooting is solving a problem. It doesn't matter whether it's a handheld problem, computer problem, or a car problem: it's still troubleshooting. Here's the number one rule for troubleshooting: use the scientific method (the process of elimination) and have at least a passing familiarity with BlackBerry devices.