In a recent article, “Computer problems aren’t always what they appear to be, so start with the basics,” I stated that first impressions aren’t always correct when it comes to computer problems. What seems like a software error may be a disguised hardware problem or physical memory issue. I received lots of discussion comments and e-mail in response to this article. Unfortunately, due to the volume of feedback, it’s not possible to publish every response. However, I believe I have presented the best balance of all the posts and e-mails below. Thank you to everyone who responded!
In Response offers a weekly roundup of feedback from TechRepublic members intended to help inform you and your peers about critical issues in the world of IT. This week, TechRepublic members share their opinions about jumping to conclusions when troubleshooting.
TechRepublic members respond…
Jeff D.
“This type of fault is absolutely typical. The fact that the system was moved will point towards a loose cable, but how long was it unplugged? How dead is the BIOS battery? How long did the user mess around in BIOS before calling you? Was it actually working before it was moved? Sometimes a seemingly simple problem leads to another. That is one of the reasons for going to a job with a full toolkit and not just a screwdriver in your back pocket.”

Michael A.
“On top of all this, I always check to see if anything is in the floppy drives or CD-ROM drives. I’ve solved many a “it won’t boot to the network” problem by having the users remove a diskette that they inserted the day before and forgot to remove.”

“How true it is. I can’t tell you how many times in the last year I’ve been called to a user’s desk to find out that they have unplugged their power cord “by mistake” or their network cable is just hanging there! It’s definitely the first thing I check.”

“Power strips and power outlets: One of the most basic things I do after checking for loose cables, especially on computer equipment that has been moved, is to replace the old power strip with a new one and always to try a different power outlet. You will be surprised what kind of errors you get when the computer gets bad power.”

“Great Article, Bill! The things you wrote I have experienced many times over! The LAN connection was loose to the HP5 printer. The LAN cable was bad. The power cable wasn’t plugged in the surge protector. The surge protector wasn’t on. The user had it in the official position instead of the on position, whatever that is! The old BIOS could only detect a 540 Meg hard drive with a CD attached, even though we had an 850 HD attached. Reduce the size of the HD, reboot to recognize the CD, and then change the size of the HD back to 850 Meg. (That happened on my old 486 computer, and it took me several unexpected discoveries to figure that out many years ago!) We had a running joke in New Mexico—it’s the dust that makes a computer work. Don’t open the case and disturb the dust or the computer will not work!”
If you feel strongly about this topic, join the discussion. Are there topics you’d like to see discussed in future editions of In Response? Let us hear about it. Post a comment below or send us an e-mail.