Troubleshooting General Problems

By: hunter315
December 12, 2010

This is a general guide for troubleshooting, the examples in it will be based off of computer hardware; however, the general methodology is useful for troubleshooting in general.

Step 1. Label the Issue

In one sentence describe your issue as best you can, then Google that sentence and see if anyone else has had a similar issue.

If someone has had a similar issue and has resolved it, do what they did and see if it works for you too.

Step 2. Reproduce the Issue

Have you changed anything recently? Installed new software, or changed some hardware? Does it work if you change back to the setup you previously had?

What were you doing at the time of the issue? A regular task you do often or something obscure?

To remove the chance that something having loaded improperly, when dealing with computer issues, the first step should be to shut down the system, then start it back up again, this simple step solves a surprisingly large number of issues.

Was it a one time issue or can you reproduce it?  If its not reproducible it will be harder to track down and may have been a one time glitch.

If it is reproducible, can you cause it to happen through multiple different means or have you only found one way to reproduce it? Eg. Does the issue occur every time you try to load a game and when you try to load a large picture? Or just from one or the other?

Step 3. Tracking Down the Source

If it can be reproduced through multiple means, what do those actions have in common? Do both place a heavy load on a certain component like the RAM, hard drive, or power supply?

If it can only be reproduced one way, what does that way stress more than a normal task?

Test each of the components that are stressed one at a time with something designed to stress only them to isolate your variables. Use testing and benchmarking programs like Prime95(CPU), Furmark(GPU), and Memtest(RAM) to verify that each component passes those. A failure does not necessarily mean that you have found the component at fault, but a pass of the test rules it out.

Step 4. Rule Out Potential Sources

As you test each component, you are often just testing to rule them out. If a CPU passes Prime95 it is likely not at fault, but if it fails it could be the memory, CPU, or motherboard so you have to continue testing. Once most of the potential sources have been ruled out, what ever is left is likely the source of your issue.

When attempting to find the source of your issue, its important to remember to look for the simplest explanation to the issue, multiple simultaneous failures are unlikely, its much more likely to have a single common source.

At each stage, your theory of what might be causing the issue should be getting revamped as you learn more about the issue and rule theories out. Check the internet each time you come up with a new theory, most issues will have been encountered before by someone else.

Click Here for a Flow Chart to Help Troubleshoot Issues

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