To troubleshoot is the process of solving a problem or determining a problem to an issue. Troubleshooting often involves the process of elimination, where a technician will follow a set of steps to determine the problem or resolve the problem.

Computer troubleshooting overview

Below is a brief overview of the basics of troubleshooting a computer problem. Following these steps can help identify or solve most computer problems.

Is the computer turning on?

If the computer or display is not turning on, you can quickly determine that the computer has a connection or other hardware issue. Follow either of the links below for steps in troubleshooting these problems.

Any error messages?

If you're getting any error messages, write down the error and search for that error message. Computer Hope and millions of other Internet sites have documents relating to error messages.

Reboot the computer

If the computer is acting strange, frozen, or encountering errors and can boot, reboot the computer. Often rebooting the computer can solve many computer issues. We highly recommend not doing any of the steps below until the computer has been rebooted.

Has any new hardware or software been added?

If any new hardware devices have been connected to the computer or any new software has been installed, it may be the cause of your problem. Try removing the hardware, or uninstalling the program, then rebooting your computer. If the problem goes away, that's a strong sign that the new hardware/software was causing the problem.

Has the computer moved?

If your desktop computer has been moved recently, something may have come loose inside the computer. A cable might be loose, or modular hardware such as your RAM or GPU may need to be reseated.

You can open your computer case to inspect your hardware for any loose connections. Before touching the hardware inside your computer, always make sure the computer is properly powered off, and that you are physically grounded. Grounding yourself will ensure that electrostatic discharge does not travel from your fingers to your hardware, which can damage the circuitry.

Have there been any power outages or electrical storms?

A computer that is not running on a UPS may improperly turn off during a power outage or brownout. When a computer is improperly shut down, data corruption and in some cases even hardware failure can occur.

If the computer is not connected to a surge protector and there have been electrical storms, a power surge may have caused damage to hardware in the computer.

Reconnect and check power cords

If the computer is not getting enough power or the power is getting interrupted, the computer can encounter problems. Disconnect your power cables from any power strip or UPS and connect the computer directly to a known good wall outlet.

Is it a hardware/software issue?

Update drivers or install latest patches

Hardware manufacturers frequently release updated device drivers and firmware to keep their hardware compatible with changes in technology. If you're encountering a hardware issue, make sure that the latest drivers for that device are installed.

Similarly, your operating system and the software installed on your computer may also have an available patch that might resolve any problems you are having. Make sure your OS and software are up-to-date.

Scan for malware and viruses

Computer viruses and malware can cause a variety problems, from system slowness to inability to start the operating system.

When was the computer last running with no problems?

If the computer has worked in the past and you're running Microsoft Windows consider running a Windows system restore to restore the computer back to an earlier date. The system restore will not erase any data but will get settings back to how they were on an earlier date.

Other computer hardware and software troubleshooting

Below are more specific troubleshooting steps related to specific computer hardware and software.

Hardware related troubleshooting

Software related troubleshooting

What to do if troubleshooting doesn't help?

The goal of troubleshooting is to try to isolate the problem by eliminating the possible problems one at a time. If you've gone through all the steps on this page and you're still not sure what the problem is, you should bring the computer to a repair shop and have the issue evaluated by an expert.

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