Five years ago, consumers having computer problems were more likely to go out and purchase a new PC or laptop rather than seek out a computer repair service to fix the issue. Times have changed. Consumers either don't have the extra cash they once did for upgrading computer systems or they are leery of their own financial future and therefore are holding onto extra cash until times are better.
This has resulted in a surge in work for computer repair shops.
This also has resulted in a surge of phone calls and home visits with computer users who believe they have a major computer problem but really have simple, easily overlooked issues that they can fix themselves.
Before calling a local computer repair expert, it is a good idea to ensure your computer's problem isn't caused by an overlooked user error. So many laptop and PC owners forget to do some initial assessing before calling in reinforcements.
A few things to check before you call in a computer IT professional are provided as a helpful checklist to computer users everywhere:
- Power Source: Did your laptop or PC shut down or turned itself off? If you're using a laptop, the battery may have died and simply needs to be recharged. If you have a desktop, you may have accidently kicked out the power cord. Check all cords to make sure they are properly connected and try to start your computer.
- Reboot: Is your computer frozen or not allowing you to run certain programs? Try restarting (rebooting) it. If you can't reboot from the desktop, look for a restart button on the computer, usually located on the sides, above the keyword or in the back. NOTE: you may lose your most recently entered data if you force a reboot; it pays to save often.
- Virus Check: Are your browsers or software programs turning themselves on and off randomly? This could indicate a spyware or virus problem. Run a virus check on your operating system using anti-virus software (several options are available to home and office users).
- Slow Performance: Is your system simply running poorly? Consider updating your software applications. Old programs can cause your entire system to run slow. Most operating systems when connected to the internet will send you notices when a new software update is available. If that isn't the case for your computer, you can go to a software company's website and download updates from there. If you don't have internet access, you will need to go to a computer supply store and buy software update packages in person.
- Slower Performance: Are you still experiencing slow performance? You may need to evaluate your system and do some clean-up. If you have a lot of large data files like pictures, music, or videos, they could be sucking up your computer's memory and slowing up the overall process. Erasing old files you don't need any more or saving them to an external hard drive will bring your computer back up to speed. If you have a lot of programs installed on your laptop that you don't need, remove them also to free up disk space and allow your system to run more smoothly.
If you've gone through this checklist and continue to have problems, then pick up the phone and call an IT help desk or local computer repair service. Some IT services will even provide a free consultation visit to evaluate the problem before they commit to making any fixes. In this way, you can avoid any fees should the problem be something simple that you may have overlooked.
~Ben Nystrom, 2009
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