What To Do Before You Call Tech Support


By: , CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, an on-site computer and laptop repair service company.

I am clueless when it comes to appliances. More than once I have called out a repair person to fix my dishwasher or dryer, only to discover that the power cable is loose, or that the exhaust is clogged with lint. A little basic troubleshooting could have saved me $100 or so (luckily for you, Nerds On Call doesn’t charge for estimates), if only I’d known what easy things to try before having someone out. Over the years at Nerds on Call I have discovered that there are some simple things that fix a surprising number of computer problems, and trying them before you call a computer repair company could save you time, money and frustration.

Shut Down your computer and Restart: Shutting down is a good first step for just about any electronic device that is frozen, has stopped functioning as it should, or has given you a cryptic error. From computers to printers, routers, even personal electronics like MP3 players and cell phones, you’d be surprised how often a random problem just never returns after a system re-boot. If your system is frozen, resist the urge to pull the plug. Pressing and holding the power button for five to seven seconds should cause your system to do a hard shut down. Make sure you restart the tower, not just the monitor.

Having Trouble With Your Internet Connection: When your internet network goes down, there’s a specific order in which you should restart the various parts. If you have a high speed internet connection and more than one computer, you likely have a modem and a router. If one or all of the systems on your network can no longer get online, try a network ‘power cycle’ before you spend the next few hours on hold with your internet provider. Shut down all systems that can’t get online, the modem and the router. Shutting off a modem or router often requires disconnecting the power cable. You’ll know you’ve got it when the lights on the unit turn off. Turn them back on in the following order, allowing each device a few minutes to connect before moving on to the next: modem, router, and then computer(s).

Power Off: If restarting the system or device doesn’t work, try shutting down and unplugging the tower from the wall before plugging it back in and restarting. If you have a laptop or other portable electronic device, remove the battery (if possible) to ensure that your system has fully re-booted.

Check cables: You’d be surprised how easy it is for cables to get pulled loose. Check all cables in and out of the device, at both sides of the connection.  This can save you pointless hours on the phone with tech support.

Recreate the problem: This probably sounds counter-intuitive. Unfortunately, it’s common for computers to encounter a rare series of circumstances that causes something to malfunction, and after restarting you may never see the error or behavior again. In order to fix a problem, any technician is going to need to be able to see it happen. If they can’t recreate the problem, they won’t be able to find the cause which will waste your time and possibly money, so make sure that you know how to show the tech exactly what’s happening.

Google the error message: While this may result in an even more confusing wave of codes and cryptic information, some easy to fix problems result in really bizarre error messages. You may just need to change a printer cartridge or load more paper, or re-install a driver. If the solution to your problem seems to confusing, then at that point, you can call a computer repair company.

Run your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs: I know, I know, you hear this from me over and over. If you’re encountering an odd error, pop-up, or slow system, updating and running your protection programs certainly isn’t going to hurt.

If these tips don’t keep you away from tech support, at least there’s a good chance that it’s worth calling a professional. If you (gasp!) are having trouble with your Mac computer, drop me a note for my list of what to try before calling Apple Care.

About The Author: Andrea Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, an on-site computer and laptop repair service company for consumers and businesses. Andrea is the writer of two weekly columns; Computer Nerds On Call, a nationally syndicated column for Scripps-Howard News Service, and Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight. She regularly appears on ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, The CW, and CNN on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, Good Morning Arizona, and Good Day Portland, offering viewers easy tips on technology, Internet lifestyle, and gadgets. Andrea recently has begun working with Demand Media to produce content for eHow.com and has written a book for them Smartphone 101: Integrating Your iPhone Into a Windows World. Andrea is available for Q & A’s, expert tech quotes and will appear on your show, call today! See Andrea in action at callnerds.com/andrea.

Video Transcription:

Hi everybody. I’m Ryan from Nerds on Call and today we are going to be 
talking about what to do before you call tech support.

So, one of the first things you want to do is turn off the device, whether 
it be a computer, a phone or a tablet. Turn it off and get all the way 
powered down first and then restart it. See if the error or the problem still
 exists.

The next thing you want to do is check the cables, if it’s a computer and you
r monitor suddenly turns off or for some reason a USB device is no longer
 working, just go into the back of the machine and make sure everything is
 still plugged in, make sure they are nice and tight. One little error every
 now and then isn’t that big of a deal but if Windows consistent errors keep 
coming up, that tells you that something’s wrong.

So, if you get an outlook error or if your hard-drive suddenly gives you
 some beep or noise, you want to see what you can do to try to get that happen
 again. That way when you hire a professional to come look at it, you can 
tell them exactly what’s happening.

Figure out what the error code is and type that in Google. Often times, you 
will figure out really quickly what the problem is. Whether it is hardware 
or software like for example, Photoshop just crashed and you got a blue
screen, then maybe you just have to re-install Photoshop and not have the
 hire a professional to fix it for you.

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