People who are trained in computers or have a natural skill in using them often take it for granted when they know how to fix things after they go wrong – but for the masses, this is daunting and can be very expensive and disruptive when it really need not be. This scenario-based article hopes to shed some light on how you can help yourself before spending a lot of money and risking losing all your data.
Before we begin – four golden rules for your computer, irrespective of which type of machine you have:
- Buy anti-virus software – and you really do get what you pay for – you will save yourself time and money. McAfee, Symantec and Norton are all good brands.
- Back up your data regularly to a reliable external hard drive (again, you get what you pay for – cheaper brands are not a reliable backup – suggest Seagate, Western Digital or Buffalo).
- Always run the software updates. (Usually your computer will tell you).
- Don’t use any illegal software or websites. This includes file sharing, visiting illegal or dubious websites and using illegal copies of things such as Microsoft Office.
If you’re reading this article and panicking that you do not follow the rules above – it’s not too late to start now.
We wrote an article last week about ‘turning it off and on again‘…we really do suggest you try this first before trying to fix a problem any other way. If this doesn’t work then there are lots of other things to check.
The very first thing to do when you think there might be a problem, is to back up the computer data – all the precious photos, videos, documents…you can’t put a price on them. Then:
- Disconnect the computer from the internet (unplug the network cable and/or turn off the wireless). This will prevent any potential spyware broadcasting your details to the internet.
- Run a virus scan and if anything is detected, follow the virus scanner’s recommended action (it will usually tell you at the end of a scan).
- Check for software updates – pending updates can slow a machine down.
- Restart the computer again.
This may or may not have fixed the problem…read on for some more helpful tips.
- Uninstall any programs that you do not need any more. They take up valuable resources on your computer, that could prevent it working more quickly.
- Uninstall any software plugins (internet browser search bars, weather bars, sports news info etc….) again, they can really slow down the computer and also be a security threat.
- Remove any files that don’t need to be there anymore – photo’s, videos, old documents that you don’t need on computer day-to-day. Place them on an external back up drive and remove them from your computer.
- Check that your hard drive has no errors (definitely backup your computer first). To check your hard drive, click start and type ‘cmd’ in the search box. Select cmd.exe from the search results and in the black box that appears, type in ‘chkdsk /f’ and hit return. Allow the computer to restart if it requests so. It will detect any hard drive errors and fix them if it can (else it will report to you if it cannot).
- Reinstall troublesome software. If you have a piece of software that is causing you issues – it keeps crashing, runs very slowly or doesn’t open at all, then check you have the installation disks and any serial numbers and uninstall it, restart the computer and reinstall the software again.
- Reboot your internet router. It might be your internet is slow, that is making your computer look slow. Usually rebooting your internet router will fix this. To reboot it, pull out the power cord and leave it out for 30 seconds. Reboot it again and allow 10 minutes for it to reconfigure itself before testing the speed again.
- Renew your IP address. Sound scary? It’s not really…and IP address is a number that identifies your computer on the internet. Every device will have one. To renew it on a Windows machine click here (note if you do not have a ‘run’ button, type ‘cmd’ in the search bar on the start menu instead) and to renew it on a Mac, click here.
If you have been through all these steps and you still cannot get your computer to work properly, then either ask us a question, or take it to a specialist. Beware of large companies, if you are an individual (as opposed to a business) because you will probably be charged more and the service might not be as good as a local individual who you could pay to fix it.