5 IT quick fixes you should try before calling an expert
Updated: Oct 11, 2020
With most of the world living a connected life, many of us rely heavily on having access to our computers at any given time. Often, we are attached to some form of technology as a result of the wired world we now live in. This means that when something goes wrong it turns into a serious problem. For example, when an unexpected power cut decides to make itself known in the middle of your work, it is natural to stress out about potentially lost work.
Luckily developments in technology have provided us with some form of safety net. Often work is constantly auto-saved and could be restored without too much hassle. However, that is not to say that just because technology is at a point where lost work is no longer completely destructive, that there aren’t a limitless number of other things that can go wrong with a computer. This is because everyone’s systems and settings are different and it can seem almost impossible knowing where to begin when it comes to troubleshooting your PC or laptop.
In saying this, it can be surprising just how many computer issues have the same simple root cause. While we advise seeking professional assistance in a lot of cases, there are a few simple measures you can implement to see if you can fix the problem yourself.
Firstly, and typically the most telling is running a virus scan.
This may be obvious, but it is also extremely effective. Simply booting up your virus scanning software and launching the deepest, most thorough scan available may consume a lot of time but will give you the most information. It is important to note that most comprehensive types of scan aren’t necessarily the default option for anti-virus scanners. Be sure to check the programme settings to see what is available.
Antivirus scanners can sometimes miss threats or get disabled by them, so it's worth getting a second opinion. A lot of antivirus developers make lightweight, on-demand scanners you can install alongside your main security software as a second layer of protection—applications like Kaspersky Security Scan for Windows or macOS, Microsoft Safety Scanner for Windows, or Emsisoft Emergency Kit for Windows make pretty sturdy partners in crime to most anti-virus software.
It is also a good idea to ensure that whatever anti-virus programme you have installed is the most recent and updated version before running the scan so it can catch the most recent waves of bad code.
You'll find more antivirus programs around for Windows because it has a history of being attacked by a greater proportion of malware. While macOS is quite comprehensively locked down, especially if you stick to the Mac App Store for your applications, you can never be 100 percent sure of staying safe, so it's always worth having an antivirus program or two on hand to troubleshoot system problems.
Secondly, we have mentioned it several times before, and will likely mention it several times more, but updates, updates, updates.
Many computer problems are caused by outdated and un-patched software, from outbreaks of ransomware to glitchy keyboards that refuse to spit out the correct letters when you tap them. Fortunately, many updates are now applied automatically, because they're so important—which is why your computer might suddenly reboot when you weren't expecting it to.
Be sure to prioritise your operating system first. In Windows, you can look for updates in both software and hardware easily by opening your settings and clicking Update and Security. If you are using macOS simply launch the app store from the dock or Applications screen in finder, then switch to the updates tab.
It is also important to check if there are any updates for other apps you may have installed, including your web browser and your antivirus programme, although these should be automatic, it doesn’t hurt to double-check.
Something as simple as applying updates may well fix the issues that you are having. Though this is as much of a technique for preventing future issues as well as it is for fixing existing ones. Make sure as many of your installed applications are updating themselves automatically in the background, and you should run into fewer computer issues as a result.
Next is cutting down the bloat.
You have probably encountered it several times before. Something we techs like to call the ‘dreaded bluescreen of death’. If your computer has dropped to crawl, crashed at unexpected times, or exhibiting buggy behaviour you have likely been on the receiving end of this infamous encounter. However, it might simply be a sign of your computer cracking under the pressure of all the applications and software you have installed.
This is the same case for your browser - having a vast range of extensions and add-ons installed can be seriously crippling to your computer and allow it to exhibit some erratic behaviour. Chances are you have installed some form extension unintentionally or no longer using that are taking up large portions of processing power. In some cases, with older computers, having a combination of multiple browsers with tens of tabs open and a few other applications running can result in the ‘bluescreen of death’ mentioned previously and will completely shut down your computer. Be sure to close unused tabs and explore your extensions by clicking More Tools in Chrome then Extensions from the main app menu; in Firefox choose Add-ons from the main app menu; In Microsoft Edge, choose Extensions from the main app menu; And for Mac click into the Safari app, choose Preferences, then Extensions.
Following this, Drive Fragmentation can also be a culprit in hindering the performance of your computer.
Whenever you create, delete, or edit a file on your computer, some of that data becomes fragmented. That means pieces of files are stored in various parts of your hard drive. Over time, this can cause your laptop to slow down because your drive has to jump around to find each piece of data.
In order to consolidate and organize the data on your drives, you can defragment your computer. And, while Windows 10 automatically defragments files once a week, you can also do this manually any time you want to.
To defrag a drive, click the start icon in the bottom-left corner of your screen. Then type Defrag in the search bar and click Open. In the pop-up window, click Analyze to check how much space is taken up by fragmented files on your hard drive.
If there are lots of fragmented files, click Optimize. Finally, wait for the drive to reach 0% fragmented before you start using programs or opening files again.
Finally, to get a fully extensive cut down on bloat, you can reinstall the Windows or Mac Operating System.
This will wipe out any troublesome programmes that may not have been previously rooted out in any of the processes above. It will also erase many viruses and potential types of malware that may be present, reset your internet connection settings and generally give you a blank slate to start with. However, you will want to ensure that you have all your data backed up on an external drive or cloud-based application before starting the reinstallation process.
Now if the above solution sounds like a technical process that you feel you aren’t comfortable with doing, and you’re unsure of how to get the process started in the first place, we are happy to inform you that recently both Microsoft and Apple have made reinstalling their respective OS extremely straightforward. On Windows, you can head to Update & security from Settings and then choose Reset this PC to get started, whereas on macOS you need to hold down Cmd+R as you press the power button to turn on your Mac to launch the utility programme.
By setting your system back to square one, you're theoretically wiping away whatever was causing the issue you're having, though there's no guarantee it'll work. You also have to weigh up the hassle and process of getting your computer applications and files reinstalled back on the system, so this is by no means a one-size-fits-all solution but has proven pretty effective and reliable. However, this solution and all the other solutions mentioned previously should be weighed up against practicality and efficiency for your needs and the needs of your business.