Chapter 3. Is It a Hardware Problem or a Software Problem?

I call it the runaround, and nearly everyone who has a PC has experienced it at one time or another: You have a printer problem, so you phone up technical support for your printer. After wading through the bog of voice-mail menus, you finally reach a tech person who says "Oh, that's a Windows problem." So you phone Microsoft, and someone there says "You really need to call your computer dealer because you didn't buy Windows directly from us." And then you phone your dealer, who says "That's a printer problem." And so it goes.

So, can anyone solve your problem, or is technical support all about passing the buck? Don't answer just yet! That's because there's a valid issue here, and that is whether your problem is related to software or hardware. A computer system is composed of both, so it helps to know whether you have a software or hardware problem first and then ask for the proper technical support if you're unable to resolve the problem on your own. This chapter is about telling the difference between software sorrows and hardware hardships.

Whose Problem Is It?

Step 1 in any troubleshooting investigation should be eliminating the possibility that you have a hardware problem. After all, if the device is working properly, you can fairly assume that it's the software controlling the device that's fouling things up.

  • Hardware is anything physical in your computer. If you can touch it, it's hardware.

  • Storage media — disk drives, ...

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