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Windows XP Annoyances for Geeks, 2nd Edition by David A. Karp

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General Troubleshooting Techniques

Troubleshooting a computer involves more than just whining about it. One of the first things you need to do to solve a problem is to find the right words to describe the problem. You don’t know how many people have come to me simply saying, “It doesn’t work.” I have to prod them to find what they did (or didn’t do), whether or not they received an error message, if they saw smoke billowing out of one of their drives, or if the computer simply didn’t do what they expected.

Like it or not, most problems are simply caused by poorly written software. As soon as you remove yourself (the user) as a potential cause of the problem, it makes it much easier to track down the real source of the problem and fix it.

Computer problems can come in many forms: error messages, crashes, lock-ups, unexpected results, and corrupted data. A crash is usually accompanied by a cryptic error message of some sort (General Protection Fault, Blue Screen of Death, etc.), followed by having the application—or the entire operating system—shut down abruptly. A lock-up is what happens when an application (or Windows) stops responding to the mouse and keyboard; sometimes you can recover from a lock-up (often by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del or just waiting a few seconds), and sometimes you can’t.

Much of this chapter focuses on some specific problems and their solutions, but most troubleshooting requires nothing more than a little reasoning. If you’re looking for a chart of every conceivable ...

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