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Computer Troubleshooting and Preventive Maintenance Techniques.

Updated on July 24, 2014

Diagnostic Procedures

Troubleshooting is a systematic approach to finding the cause of a computer related problem. By following basic troubleshooting rules you can isolate problem areas with ease.

Establish Priorities: Before you begin, decide what your priorities are. In some cases you may find it more important to recover data than to get your system running optimally.

Work Systematically: Work through each component logically. Never assume you know what the cause of a problem is.

Isolate the Problem: What was the state of the system when the error arose? You should then attempt to replicate the error. You can find out if the problem is software or hardware related by noting any recent changes to the system such as component upgrades, device driver or firmware updates, or software patches. Try to narrow down the problem to one particular area. For issues with hardware, start with the obvious first, such as power and loose connections. Then run diagnostics, and test the system after each change you make. Also test any components you replace.

Research Ideas: If you are having difficulty solving a problem, you may need to do some research. Try asking a friend for advice, refer to reference books or service documentation, or searching the Internet.


There are three categories of tools usually used for troubleshooting.

Hardware Tools: It's useful to keep all hardware tools in a box designated for troubleshooting a computer. Most cards and accessories in a computer are fixed to the backplate using phillips screws, so you will need to have at least one medium-size phillips-head screwdriver. There should be two sizes of flat-head screwdrivers, a medium size and a small jeweler's size. A set of Torx screwdrivers is also useful along with needle-nose pliers, flashlight, insulated tweezers and antistatic equipment, such as an antistatic mat.

Software Tools: Antivirus software on disks enables you to scan for viruses when you are troubleshooting a PC for problems. Antivirus software can detect and eliminate existing viruses, as well as protect your computer system from future virus attacks. An emergency boot disk will enable you to perform a clean boot of a PC, even in the case of a hard disk drive (HDD) failure. General software utilities can assist with the diagnosis of software problems. They can recover data, provide system security, and monitor your computers performance. Windows provides tools such as Disk Defragmenter, the error-checking tool, and Disk Cleanup.

Measurement Tools: There is a variety of electronic equipment used to diagnose hardware problems. The most basic item that you will need is a multimeter. A multimeter is a single instrument that measures electrical current amperes (amps), voltage in volts (V), and resistance in ohms.

Dust buildup inside a PC.
Dust buildup inside a PC.

Cleaning Aids

Regular upkeep and cleaning of equipment can prevent or reduce problems and increase the lifespan of a computer. You can implement a basic cleaning routine to remove dirt and dust. Some cleaning aids include the following:

Cloth: You want to use a lint-free cloth because they are antistatic, don't leave a residue, and will not scratch surfaces. A cloth is good for cleaning scanner beds and monitor screens.

Brushes: You can use a soft-bristled artist brush to clean electrical contacts and hard to reach places inside the computers casing. They also work well to clean keyboards and other less delicate components.

Compressed Air: Canned or compressed air is available at computer stores, office supply stores, camera stores, and even in some grocery stores. This is useful for loosening dirt and dust from computer components. A fan inside a computer that is clogged from dirt and dust can cause a computer to overheat and cause system failure. A computers temperature can rise quickly due to a fan that has failed, or a vent that is blocked with dust.

You should only open the systems case after turning off the computer and unplugging it.

Other Factors To Consider

Moisture: Moisture can cause computer components to corrode and rust. If your computer is located in an area were there is high humidity you can place packets of silica gel in the computer casing. Water and other liquids can cause damage to sensitive circuitry of a computer. Keep beverages and other liquids away from your workstation. In the case of an accidental spill, dry and clean components appropriately to avoid any damage.

Electrostatic Discharge (ESD): The human body builds up static electricity, which can damage components such as circuits and integrated chips. To prevent damage from ESD, use an antistatic mat or wrist strap, maintain a humidity level of 50%, and touch unpainted metal frequently to ground yourself. The static built up on dry wintry days is especially pronounced.

Electricity: Computers are extremely susceptible to electrical damage. To safeguard your computer against electrical damages you can use surge protectors, which absorb power surges, and online uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), which provide an alternate power source in case of a power outage.

Decorative magnets, magnetic clips and holders can damage magnetic-sensitive devices and should be kept away from computers. Computer devices such as hard disk drives are sensitive to magnetism. Magnetism can cause permanent loss of data from storage devices.

Visual inspection is also an important factor in preventive maintenance. You should check whether external connections, cables, and plugs are well fitted. By simply inspecting your computer on a regular basis, problems can be prevented.


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      sashascarlet 2 years ago

      Great concepts on this hub.A good preventative maintenance program incorporates a comprehensive backup plan, measures to secure the system against malicious exploits, periodic hardware and software maintenance.IB Remarketing helps to reduce the likelihood of hardware failures, extend the useful life of the system, minimize system crashes caused by outdated drivers and other software problems, secure the system against viruses and other malware, and prevent data loss.