Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting is a problem solving technique that involves testing various system components to diagnose an issue. Troubleshooting may be performed on a piece of hardware or software, including the operating system. Often, troubleshooting requires the assistance of a manufacturer support agent, documentation, or how-to guides. This process can be performed remotely with the assistance of remote desktop software, but it usually takes place in person with the troubleshooter interacting directly with the malfunctioning system.

Troubleshooting steps

Troubleshooting steps can vary dramatically depending on the problem at hand, but there are a few general steps that are common across troubleshooting strategies:

  1. Gather detailed information about the problem. This includes any error messages, patterns in behavior, or unusual activity that may or may not be related to the problem directly.
  2. Access the hardware/software documentation. This may have been included in the original device packaging, or it may be accessible online. Sometimes third party sites offer unofficial troubleshooting guides for issues that may not be covered in the documentation.
  3. Start by addressing the easiest/most common causes of the issue. It’s best to start with the most common troubleshooting solutions, like restarting a device or application, and work up to the more complex steps to rule out any underlying issues.
  4. In some cases, you may need to wipe the computer or replace hardware components. This is usually a last resort in a worst case scenario, but sometimes it may be the only real solution.

Examples of troubleshooting solutions

Common examples of troubleshooting solutions include:

  • Disconnecting and reconnecting cords/cables
  • Updating the software or operating system
  • Restarting the wireless network if the issue may be related to a poor internet connection
  • Pressing Ctrl+Alt+Delete on a Windows computer to terminate an unresponsive application or reboot the operating system

Pressing Option+Command+Esc or selecting Force Quit from the Apple menu to force quit an unresponsive app on a macOS device

This article was updated July 2021 by Kaiti Norton.

Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.

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