Do-It-Yourself Fixes to Common Computer Problems/Issues

Do-It-Yourself Fixes to Common Computer Problems/Issues

By the End of This Tutorial. You’ll Be Able To:

Ø Figure out what to do in a crisis (and what not to do)

Ø Sniff out the cause of a problem

Ø Make sense out of at least five DOS error messages

Ø Bring your mouse pointer out of hiding

Ø Get your keyboard back to normal when it flips out

Computers are fickle. You might use your computer all week without a problem. Then, on Friday, you try to run a program you’ve been using all week, and the following message appears on-screen:To place an order for the Complete Project Material, pay N5,000 to
GTBank (Guaranty Trust Bank)
Account Name – Chudi-Oji Chukwuka
Account No – 0044157183
Then text the name of the Project topic, email address and your names to 08060565721.  

Bad command or filename

Or you try to print a file, and the file won’t print. The printer is on, it has paper in it, and everything else seems to be okay. But no matter what you do, the printer won’t print the file.

What should you do? In this tutorial, you will learn how to react in a crisis and how to solve your own computer woes. Although I can’t cover every problem, I will cover many common ones and give you some strategies for solving problems that aren’t covered here.


Troubleshooting Tactics: Solving Your Own Problems

With a little patience, you can solve most of your own problems. You just have to know how to go about it—what to do and what not to do. The overall approach is twofold: you need to trace the problem to its cause, and not make the problem worse than it already is.

When you run into a problem that doesn’t have an obvious solution, the best course of action is inaction; that is, don’t do anything. If you’re fidgety to do something, take a walk or watch Oprah. Then come back and try some of the following tactics.

Look for Clues

The answer to most problems is probably staring you in the face. So, the first thing you should do is look at the monitor for any messages that indicate a problem. Although on­screen messages are usually very general, they provide a starting point. If you don’t see anything on screen, start asking yourself some questions.

Is everything plugged in and turned on? If a part of your computer is dead—no lights, no sound, no action—it probably isn’t connected or isn’t turned on. Turn everything off and check the connections. Don’t assume that just because some­thing looks connected that it is; wiggle the plugs.

When did the problem start? Think back to what you did before the problem arose. Did you install a new program? Did you enter a command? Did you add a new device? Recently, my sound card stopped working. I realized that the problem

started after I installed a new hard drive. I had apparently knocked a tiny jumper off the sound card during the hard drive installation.

Is the problem limited to one program? If you have the same problem in every program, the problem is probablycaused by your computer. If the problem occurs in only one program, it is probably caused by the program.

When did you have the file last? If you lost a file, it probably did not get sucked into a black hole. It is probably somewhere on your disk, in a separate directory. Use theSearch menu in File Manager, or open the Startmenu and select Find in Windows 95, and search for the file

Check the Obvious

Many problems have quick solutions. Maybe the printer’s not turned on, or a cable’s loose or disconnected, or maybe you are looking for a file in the wrong directory. Sometimes you need to look away from a problem in order to see it.

It’s Probably Not the Computer

Most novice computer users (and some experienced users) automatically assume that whenever a problem arises, the computer is on the blink. Although the computer itself can be the cause of some major problems, it is rarely the cause of minor, everyday prob­lems. The problem is usually in the software: DOS, Windows, or one of your applications.


It’s Probably Not a Virus

It’s easy to blame a computer problem on some evil computer virus. However, 95 percent of the problems that people blame on computer viruses are actually bugs in the software, or problems with specific devices. Work on the assumption that the problem you’re having is not caused by a virus.

My Computer Won’t Boot

A computer is a lot like a car; the most frustrating thing that can happen is that you can’t even get the engine to turn over. To solve the problem, consider these questions:

Is the computer on? Are the lights on the computer lit? If so, the computer is plugged in and is on, and make sure the power switch on the system unit is turned on.

Is the screen completely blank? Even though the screen is completely blank, the computer may have booted; you just can’t see it. If you heard the computer beep and you saw the drive lights go on and off, the computer probably booted fine. Make sure the monitor is turned on and the brightness controls are turned up.

Is there a disk in drive A? If you see a message on-screen that says Non-system disk or disk error, you probably left a floppy disk in drive A. Remove the disk and press any key to boot from the hard disk.

Can you boot from a floppy disk? If you still can’t get your computer to boot from the hard disk, try booting from a bootable floppy disk. Insert the bootable floppy disk in drive A, close the drive door, and press Ctrl+Alt+Del. If you can boot from a floppy, the problem is on your hard disk. You’ll need some expert help to get out of this mess.

My Computer Keeps Locking Up in Windows

If you’re computer keeps freezing (you can’t move the mouse pointer, enter commands, or even exit your programs), press Ctrl+Alt+Del. A dialog box should appear, showing you the names of the active programs, and allowing you to exit the program that’s not responding. If you press Ctrl+Alt+Del, and you don’t receive that dialog box, you’ll have to reboot by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del again or pressing the Reset button.

If your Windows freezes up again after you reboot, there may be an errant file fragment that’s causing the problem. You can usually fix the problem by running ScanDisk.

If ScanDisk doesn’t fix the problem, Windows might be having a problem with the mouse driver (the instructions that tell Windows how to use your mouse). Instead of using the special driver that came with your mouse, try using one of the standard drivers that comes with Windows:

Ø In Windows 95, open the Control Panel, and then double-click the Mouse icon. Click the General tab, and then click the Change button. Select one of the standard mouse types, and click OK.

Ø In Windows 3.1, open the Main group window, and double-click the Windows Setup icon. Open the Options menu, and select Change System Settings. Open the Mouse drop-down list, and select one of the standard (Microsoft) mouse drivers.

If you’re still having problems, there may be a bug in the program you’re trying to run Call the program’s tech support number, and explain the problem. The company may have fixed the problem already. They can probably send you an updated program.

My Screen Is Flickering

If your screen is flickering or turning odd colors, the plug that connects the monii the system unit has probably come loose. Turn everything off, and then check the connection. If the plug has screws that secure it to the system unit, tighten the xr

Magnetic fields (from speakers, phones, and other sources) can also cause your screen to freak out. You may see a band of color along one edge of the screen. Move any electrical appliances away from your monitor. In a day or so, the problem should fix itself.


I Can’t Get the Program to Run

You get a new program, install it, and enter the command to run the program. The following message appears on-screen: Bad command or file name. What’s wrong?

Are you in the drive and directory where the program’s files are stored? Some programs install themselves and set up your system so you can run the program from any drive or directory. With other programs, you must change to the drive and directory that contains the program’s files in order to run the program. This won’t happen in Windows.

Did you type the correct command? The command must be typed exactly as specified in the documentation. If you mistype the command, the program won’t run. Try retyping the command.

Did you install the program correctly? Installing some programs consists of merely copying the program’s files to a directory on your hard disk. With other programs, you must run an installation program. If the program requires you to run an installation program, and you did not, the program probably won’t run.

Is it a Windows program? You cannot run a Windows program from the DOS prompt. Run Windows first, and then try running the program.



I Have a Mouse, But I Can’t Find the Pointer On-Screen

Once you get your mouse working, you will probably never have to mess with it again. The hard part is getting the mouse to work in the first place. If you connected a mouse to your computer and you don’t see the mouse pointer on-screen, there are a few possibili­ties you should investigate:

Am I in a program that uses a mouse? Some old programs don’t support a mouse, so you won’t see the mouse pointer in these programs. For example, you won’t see a mouse pointer at the DOS prompt. Run a program that you know uses a mouse to see if it works there.

Is the mouse pointer hidden? Mouse pointers like to hide in the corners or edges of your screen. Roll the mouse on your desktop to see if you can bring the pointer into view.

When you connected the mouse, did you install a mouse driver? Connecting a mouse to your computer is not enough. You must install a program (called a mouse driver) that tells the computer how to use the mouse. Follow the instructions that came with the mouse to figure out how to install the program.

When you installed the mouse program, did you specify a COM port? When you install a mouse program, the program may ask you if the mouse is connected to COM1, COM2, or COM3, the serial ports on your computer. Give the wrong an­swer, and your computer won’t be able to find your mouse. Run the installation or setup program again and select a different COM port. Reboot after each change, and write down every change you make.

Record Your Changes

It’s a good idea to always write down changes you make to your system. It takes a little extra time, but it enables you to retrace your steps later.

My Mouse Pointer Is Jumpy

If your mouse pointer jumps around the screen rather than moving smoothly, your mouse may have fur balls. First, exit any programs, and turn off your computer. Flip the mouse over on its back, remove the ball cover, and remove the ball. Wipe the ball with a paper towel dipped in window cleaner or rubbing alcohol. Inside the mouse are some rollers. Gently pick any dust balls out of the sides of the rollers (a toothpick works well). If you see a ring around the center of a roller, pick it off, too (try rubbing the rings off with a pencil eraser). Make sure the mouse ball is dry before you reassemble the mouse.

I Can’t Get My Modem to Work

You’re not the only one. Every minute of every day, someone in the world has trouble with a modem connection. Usually, the problem occurs in Windows. Some evil wizard enters the computer and messes things up. Whatever the problem, the following ques­tions may help you resolve it:

Ø Is the modem plugged in and turned on? If you have an external modem, it must be plugged into a power source, to the system unit, and to a phone line, and it must be turned on.

Ø Is the phone working? You can check a phone jack by plugging a regular phone into the jack. Lift the phone off the hook and listen for a dial tone. If you don’t hear a dial tone, the jack is dead, and your modem won’t be able to dial out.

Ø Am I dialing the wrong number? Silly question, but it’s a common cause. If you hear an angry voice coming out of the modem, you probably woke somebody up. Hopefully, he don’t have Caller ID. Also, if you normally have to dial a number before dialing out (say 9), type the number, a comma, and then the phone number.

Ø Do I have pulse or tone service? Pick up your phone and dial a few numbers. If you hear clicks, you have pulse (or rotary) service, even if you have a phone with buttons. If you hear beeps, you have tone service. If your telecommunications program is set for tone service, and you have rotary service, it won’t be able to dial out. Try resetting your telecommunications program for rotary service; it’s usually as easy as checking an option box.

Ø Does my program know where the modem is? Most computers have two COM ports. Usually, a mouse is connected to COM1, and COM2 is left open for another device, often a modem. Your communications program or online service program allows you to specify the COM port being used by your modem. Try changing the COM port setting.

Ø Are my communications settings correct? If your communications program can find your modem, dial a number, and establish a connection, but can do nothing else, your communications settings are probably incorrect. If your baud setting is 9,600 bps or higher, try changing it to 2,400. If the modem works with one program but not with another, write down the communications settings from the program that works, and then use those same settings for the program that doesn’t work.

Ø Do you see On-screen garbage? First, check the baud rate setting in your communi­cations program. Make sure the setting matches the fastest setting that both your modem and the service provider can handle. Next, check the terminal emulation to make sure it conforms to the emulation required by the computer you’re calling.

Ø Are lines of text displayed twice? Both your computer and the remote computer are echoing back what you type. Try turning Local Echo off, so your computer will stop echoing echoing.

Ø Is What you type invisible? Try turning Local Echo on.

If you have Windows 95, it can help you track down stubborn modem problems. Click the Start button, and click Help. Click the Index tab, and type modems. Under modems, double-click troubleshooting. This displays the modem troubleshooter, an on-screen tech support tool that asks you a series of questions to help you get your modem up and running.

The Computer Won’t Read My Floppy Disk

Don’t feel bad; it happens to everyone. You stick a floppy disk in the disk drive, close the drive door, change to the drive, and you get an error message saying basically that the disk is no good. Your computer can’t read it or write to it or even see that it’s there. What happened? That depends.

Ø Is the disk inserted properly? Even the most experienced computer user occasion­ally inserts a disk upside-down or sideways into the disk drive. Check to make sure the disk is in the right slot the right way.

Ø Is the disk drive door closed? If the drive has a door, it must be closed. Otherwise you’ll get an error message saying that your computer can’t read or write to the disk

Ø Is the disk write-protected? If the disk is write-protected, you won’t be able to save a file to the disk. For a 3.5-inch disk, slide the write-protect tab so you can’t see through the little hole. On a 5.25-inch disk, remove the write-protect sticker.

Ø Is the disk full? If you try to save a file to a disk, and you get anInsufficient spacemessage, the disk has insufficient free space to hold any more data. Use a different disk.

Ø Is the disk formatted? If you buy new, unformatted disks, you must format the disks before you can use them.

Ø Did you format the disk to the proper density?If you format a high-density disk as a low-density disk, or vice versa, you will probably run into problems when you try to use the disk.

Ø Is the disk bad? Although it’s rare, disks do go bad. Some disks even come bad from the manufacturer. If you get a Sector not found or Data error message, the disk may be bad. Then again, the drive might need a tune up. Try some other disks. If you’re having problems with all disks, the problem is in the drive. If you are having trouble with only one disk, it’s the disk.

Fixing Bad Disks

If a disk is bad, you may be able to salvage it using the ScanDisk, as explained in “Fixing Common Disk Problems with ScanDisk,” in Optimizing Computer Performance. If a drive is bad, you’ll have to take it to a computer mechanic to get it fixed. Usually the problem is that the drive is not spinning at the right speed or that the arm that reads and writes data to the disk is not aligned properly on the disk.


My Keyboard Is Wacky

If whatever you type replaces existing text, you switched from Insert to Overstrike mode by mistake. In most programs, you switch modes by pressing the Ins (Insert) key. Press the key again, and you should be back in Insert mode.

Some fancy keyboards allow you to remap the keys. For example, you can make the Fl key on the left side of the keyboard act like the Enter key, or you can make it perform a series of keystrokes. Some advanced users like to remap keys to customize the keyboard and make it a time-saver.

However, if you accidentally press the remap key and then continue typing, you may remap your entire keyboard without knowing it. You’ll know it when you press the K key and get a Z or you press the Spacebar and delete a paragraph. You can usually unmap the keyboard. If you have an AnyKey keyboard, you can return a key to normal by pressing the Remap key and then pressing the key you want to return to normal twice. If you don’t have an AnyKey keyboard, consult the documentation that came with your com­puter.

My Keys Stick

If you have an old keyboard, or if you spilled something on the keyboard, the keys may start to stick. Take the keyboard to a computer service and have it cleaned. Or buy a new keyboard; they’re cheap. If your keyboard is completely dead, or if your computer dis­plays the message Keyboard not found when you boot your computer, do a quick inspection to make sure the keyboard is plugged in and the cord is in good shape.

If you spill a drink on your keyboard, don’t panic. Exit any programs you’re running, turn off the computer, and disconnect the keyboard. (Wipe up the spill, of course.) If you’re lucky and spilled only water on the keyboard, let the keyboard dry out thoroughly, and then reconnect it. If you spilled something sticky, like a Pepsi, dunk the keyboard in warm water (you can use your bathtub).

My Printer Won’t Print

Printers are a pain. They’re a pain to set up and a pain to use. And even if you get the printer to finally work with one program, there is no guarantee that it will work with the next one. So, if you’re running into printer problems, you will probably have to do more fiddling than Nero. Look for the following:

Ø Is your printer plugged in and turned on?

Ø Does your printer have paper? Is the paper tray inserted properly?

Ø Is the printer’s On Line light lit (not blinking)? If the On Line light is off or blinking, press the On Line button to turn the light on.

Ø Is the print fading? If so, your printer may need a new toner or ink cartridge. (If you have an InkJet printer, check the print head and the area next to the print head for tape, and remove the tape. Ink cartridges usually come with two pieces of tape on them; you must remove both pieces.)

Ø Is your program set up to use the correct printer? In most programs, when you enter the Print command, a dialog box appears, displaying the name of the printer Make sure the printer name is for the printer you’re trying to use.

Ø Is the correct printer port selected? If you just set up your printer, and it is not printing at all, maybe you selected the wrong printer port.

Ø Did you get only part of a page? Laser printers are weird; they print an entire per; at one time, storing the entire page in memory. If the page has a big complex graphic image or lots of fonts, the printer may be able to store only a portion of the page. The best fix is to get more memory for your printer. The quickest fix is to use fewer fonts on the page and try using a less complex graphic image.

Ø Are you having problems in only one application? If you can print from other applications, the problem is with the printer setup in the problem application

Ø Is it a printer problem? To determine if the printer has a problem, type dir>Iptlat the DOS prompt and press Enter.This prints the current directory list. If it prints okay, the problem is in the Windows printer setup or the application’s setup. If the directory does not print or prints incorrectly, the problem is probably with the printer.

When a document fails to print, new users commonly keep entering the Print command, hoping that if they enter it enough times, the program will start printing the document. What this does is send several copies of the same document to a print queue (a waiting line). When you finally fix the problem, you end up with a hundred copies of the same document. To prevent this from happening, do one of the following:

Ø Enter the Print command only once. If the document doesn’t print, find the problem and fix it immediately.

Ø In Windows 95, you can check the print queue by double-clicking the Printer icon on the right side of the taskbar. You can then select and cancel duplicate print jobs.

Ø In Windows 3.1, Print Manager handles the print queue. To display the Print Manager, press Ctrl+Esc, and double-click Print Manager. You can use Print Manager to pause and resume printing or to cancel print jobs.

Common DOS Messages in Plain English

As you work in DOS, you may come across some error messages and warnings and wonder what they mean. The following sections translate the DOS messages you’re most likely to encounter.



All files in directory will be deleted

Are you sure (Y/N)?

You probably entered the delete *.* command at the DOS prompt. This tells DOS to delete all the files on the current drive or directory. If you meant to do this, press Y. If not, press N.

Bad command or file name

You see this message most often when you have a typo in the command you entered. Check to make sure the command is typed correctly. If the command is typed correctly, maybe DOS cannot find the command’s program file. For example, you may have to be in the DOS directory to use the DOS FORMAT command. In such a case, you must change to the directory that contains the program file before you can run the file.

File cannot be copied onto itself

You see this message if you try to copy a file into the same directory that already contains the file. To create a copy of a file in the same directory, you have to give the copy a different name.

File not found

You see this message when you try to copy, delete, rename, or perform some other operation on a file that does not exist or on a file that is in a different location from where you think it is. If you get this message, make sure you typed the file name cor­rectly. If the file name is okay, change to the drive and directory where you think the file is stored and use the DIR command to view a list of files. See if the file is where you think it is.

Insufficient disk space

DOS displays this error message when you try to copy more files to a disk than the disk can hold. If you get this error message, you may need to copy the files to more than one disk.

Non-system disk or disk error

Replace and press any key when ready

You may get this error message when you boot your computer. If your system files are on a hard drive, this message usually means you left a disk in drive A. Remove the disk and press any key to continue.

If you normally boot from a floppy disk, you may have forgotten to insert the DOS startup disk in drive A. Insert the DOS startup disk, close the drive door, and press any key.

Not ready reading drive A

Abort, Retry, Fail?

You will usually get this message for one of these reasons:

Ø You forgot to put a disk in drive A. Insert a disk, close the drive door, and press R for Retry.

Ø You forgot to close the drive door. Close the drive door and press R for Retry.

Ø The disk in drive A is not formatted. If a brand new, never-been-formatted disk is in drive A, DOS will not be able to read the disk. Insert a formatted disk into drive A, close the drive door, and press R.

Ø If you changed to drive A by mistake, press F for Fail or A for Abort. This tells DOS to stop looking to drive A. A message appears telling you that drive A is no longer valid. Type c: and press Enter to return to drive C.

Ø If you have a double-density drive and put a high-density disk in the drive.

When in Doubt, Get the Heck Oat

If no fix works, try rebooting your computer by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del. If that doesn’t work, turn everything off and leave it off for three minutes. (This lets the computer clear its head.) Turn on your monitor, then turn on your printer, and then turn on the system unit. If this doesn’t fix it, call for help.

Before You Call Tech Support

Many hardware and software companies offer technical support for their products. Usually, you have to call long-distance, and you may be charged for advice. To save yourself some money, and save the tech support person some headaches, take the follow­ing steps before placing your call:

Ø Try everything in this Tutorial.

Ø Write down a detailed description of the problem, explaining what went wrong and what you were doing at the time.

Ø Write down the name, version number, and license (or registration) number of the program you are having trouble with.

Ø Write down any information about your computer, including the computer brand, chip type and speed, and monitor type. You can get this information by entering msd at the DOS prompt.

Ø Turn your printer on, change to the C: directory, type print config.sys, and press Enter. Type print autoexec.bat and press Enter. Keep the pages handy when you call tech support.

Ø Make sure your computer is turned on. A good tech support person can talk you through most problems, if you’re sitting at the keyboard.

Ø Now you can call.

The Least You Need To Know

If you don’t remember all the specifics given in this tutorial, don’t worry. Chances are, your specific problem isn’t covered. The important things to remember are how to trace back a problem to its cause. Here are some reminders:

Ø Don’t panic.

Ø Look all over the screen for any clues.

Ø Ask yourself when the problem started. Did you install a new program?

Ø Isolate the problem. Does it happen in all programs or just this one? Does it happen all the time?

Ø If you suspect a hardware problem, turn everything off and check the connections. Wiggle the plugs; a loose connection can be as bad or worse than no connection.

As a last resort, turn your computer off, wait three minutes, and then turn even-­thing back on.

To place an order for the Complete Project Material, pay N5,000 to
GTBank (Guaranty Trust Bank)
Account Name – Chudi-Oji Chukwuka
Account No – 0044157183
Then text the name of the Project topic, email address and your names to 08060565721.  

Speak Your Mind