Computer Troubleshooting: Definition & Terminology

Instructor: Michelle DeSalvo

Michelle has been an academic librarian for over twenty years. She has a Master’s Degree in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Computer gremlins are a part of our daily lives. Have you ever wondered how you can better solve these issues? In this lesson, you will learn some tips and tricks for troubleshooting computer problems.


Do you ever have computer issues? If you've ever tried anything to fix them, you've done troubleshooting. Troubleshooting is the process of identifying and solving technical problems. It starts with general issues and then gets more specific.

Most troubleshooting begins with hardware. Hardware is any physical device that you use to operate your computer. The guts of the computer are the CPU and RAM (Random Access Memory), but outside parts like your monitor count too.

Software is computer coding that is placed on your computer's hard drive such as Google Docs. Software applications are virtual and trickier to troubleshoot.

Ever had times when you couldn't access your favorite website? Connectivity allows devices to talk to one another and share information.

Tips and Tricks


Begin your troubleshooting by resetting the power button.
Power Button

Let's go over some tips and tricks for fixing a hardware problem.

  • Reboot - power cycling your computer is one of the best and easiest ways to troubleshoot. It tends to just reset everything and hopefully get rid of whatever glitch is causing issues.
  • Unplug peripheral devices - remove any tool that is connected to a computer like an extra drive, or a scanner.
  • Check your cables and power cords to make sure they are connected properly.
  • Memory - do you have enough memory? Various files and applications can quickly overtake your memory.
  • Check printer - make sure you send a document to the correct printer and look for printer jams. Check that the printer has paper and ink.


Got a software problem? Let's see if we can fix it.

Make sure the software is installed correctly. Like in hardware, restarting the program might just fix the glitch. Trying switching browsers such as using Google Chrome instead of Firefox.

Make sure your software is updated. Have you ever heard of a computer bug? It's a coding error and keeping current with software patches can help you avoid them.

Experiencing slow downs? Try to make a habit of clearing your cache and cookies, and stay current with your software updates.

Remember that sometimes you might encounter a problem you can't fix. To prevent permanent loss, make sure you back up your data. Try saving it online (cloud storage), in flash drives, or even as attachments in an email to yourself.

What if you try all these ideas and still encounter issues? Many companies like Microsoft have a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) and tips. Save your instructions and manuals - these are a great reference for your troubleshooting questions. Try a search engine to see if other people have probably encountered the same problem.

Before contacting Information Technology, keep a list of error messages, screenshots or printouts. A picture is worth a thousand words.


How do you pinpoint a connectivity issue?

Remeber to reset your router.
Wireless Router

Wired connections are generally more reliable. If you are using wireless, is it behaving? Try moving closer to the router or resetting both the modem and router. Also, keep your Firmware current. Firmware is embedded software that lives on hardware devices. Firmware is like the operating system for your router and it keeps it running smoothly.

Ping is a tool that indicates if a connection is working. Ping a site such as Google to see if the connection is good or if the host computer is unavailable. Ping is available at the Command Prompt on the Startup Menu.

Computers talk in numbers. That's where the Domain Name System comes in, which translates site names into Internet Protocol (IP) numbers. An IP address allows computers to communicate. If a certain website is down, you can try searching by the site's IP address instead.

A firewall is an information filter and it helps make sure that the information is secure. All the data that is entering and leaving is monitored. Since sometimes firewalls cause connectivity issues, they may need tweaking.

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