Computer Troubleshooting Guides

Computer Troubleshooting Guides

I have compiled a guide that should cover most of the problems that you may have with your computer.

Please note that this is an ever-changing document. If you think of something that needs to be added, or you have found a mistake, please send an email to

Thank you.

General Troubleshooting Guide

5 Good Habits To Get Into While Using Your PC

Like any tool, a computer should be used correctly and maintained to ensure maximum performance. Here are some tips to better use your PC:

1: Empty recycle bin and clear out downloads and documents. Normally anything in your downloads is only used once, while files in recycle bin are already condemned, and if left unchecked the folder will just fill up needlessly. Save whatever you need to documents or some other safe place and remove everything else.

2: Update Windows and crucial software. While the bugfixes and improvements are much desired, the true beauty of updates are the security patches they add. Keep your software up to date to avoid security breaches.

3: Install and manage an anti-virus software. This is pretty common knowledge, but more often than not, it is overlooked. Even the most seemingly safe sites can have malware hidden in it, so keep your protection running.

4: Keep the area around your computer clean and cooled by not obstructing the airflow and cleaning up dust that collects behind and around the machine.

5: Restart the machine every so often. A complete reboot will refresh the RAM and give it a moment to breathe before powering up again.

Computer Troubleshooting Tip: Look for the Easy Solution

A couple weeks ago, I was fixing somebody’s computer. They had a problem with their computer only booting up into safe mode. They told me that they had already tried running anti-virus scans. This is when they came to me for help.

I asked them a bunch of questions about their computer, and what they did on it. So I took their computer and I ran a couple of virus scans, nothing. Defragmented the hard drive, nothing. Cleaned up temp files, nothing. Ran another virus scan using a different program, still nothing.

I was getting to the point that I couldn’t handle the frustration anymore, so I had to step away from the computer for a bit. While I was trying to cool down from my potential tirade, I thought of what to try next.

I booted up the computer, and I checked the startup settings. Sure enough, they had somehow checked the box that said “Always boot in safe mode.”. I was washed over with a wave of relief, and frustrated with myself at the same time. How did I not think of this before? I restarted the computer, and it worked like a charm.

When your computer is having troubles, make sure that the first thing you do is look for the obvious solution. It’s really easy to get caught up in the “Get this virus outta here” mentality. Most of the time, there is a really simple solution to your problem that isn’t just running a virus scan and hoping something comes up.

~Griffin Brautigam, Technical Intern

HoloLens: What It Can Do & What It’s Good For

Recently, gaming and computer businesses alike are creating newer, more advanced technology. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are two such things: the prior  is a headset in which you can play games, watch movies, or use your computer, all right before your eyes; the latter allows you to see 3-D screens in front of you, and you can manipulate them with your hands and voice. HoloLens is the most developed AR hardware, and while still in development, they are shipping out test products for people to use. It costs quite a bit ($3000) but for what it can do, the price is easily justified.

So, what can it do? HoloLens is, I believe the shortened name for “holographic lens”, and it does just that. Using specialized components and high tech sensors, the visor creates holographic images that you can not only just see directly in front of you, but can be altered using voice commands and your own two hands, similar to the screens Iron Man uses but inside of the visor instead of out in the open (for now). With built in speakers added, you can move freely around your environment and still hear, and be able to interact, with the HoloLens, even while moving around.

HoloLens is most exciting in its potential: imagine an architect designing a building in HoloLens and then being able to go to the site and place his 3-D blueprint on the site, seeing it as if it were actually there. A friend that I spoke to exhibited interest in being able to design cosplay costumes with more ease, and gamers will be overjoyed with its compatibility with the game Minecraft, although I believe it will definitely be more useful in a business/creative setting than a gaming one.

For the price of $3000, it seems quite daunting, but considering the fact it’s justifiably being marketed towards companies and designers for business and development purposes, it’s entirely fair. Hopefully however, one day you will be able to buy HoloLens as if it’s just another peripheral, and I truly believe that day is coming. The future, is now.


~Chris Watson, Technical Intern

New Year, Clean PC

Over the course of a year your computer undoubtedly suffers wear and tear from use, and there aren’t many better ways to start off the new year than to clean it up so it runs at peak performance!

Step 1: Back-up
As reliable and useful as they are, computers are not infallible, and they do break down. Backing up information and data prepares you for any catastrophe so that you lose a minimal amount of work in the event that your system fails. Windows has a back-up manager included, and many more can be found online.

Step 2: Monitor Machine Health
The hard drive is the hardest working part of a computer, and while each part has an important function to the performance of the machine, the hard drive is probably the most important. Using both a physical health scanner (a SMART subsystem) and a logical health scanner, which is the chkdsk process on Windows machines, you can evaluate whether or not your hard drive needs to be retired.

Step 3: Patching/Updating Software
Despite the fact we will never have a perfect computer, we continue to make our systems and programs better, and for both security and performance reasons, it’s wise to update your files often. Now, for some people (AKA myself) you do this every day. But not everyone has that much time on their hands. But automating the process can also mean inconvenient system reboots, so it is best to set aside time to do it all at once every so often, or just update your files as you need to access them. Most update histories for programs can be found on their website, while some allow you to check for updates in the settings menu. Windows itself has an update checker that can be found in the control panel.

Step 4: Check Security
I won’t dwell on this for long but it is no less important than the others. Make sure that your passwords are up to date and strong, and update your antivirus programs so that they are protecting your machine from any malware or hacking attempts.

Step 5: Optimization
Lastly, use a program like CCleaner to clean up your temp files and defrag your drive(s) so that any unused space is clear and so that the drive is running as fast as possible.

~Chris Watson, Technical Intern

Cortana Tricks

Ever since she was introduced, Apple’s Siri has been the best known mobile device AI. From answering basic questions to being able to give accurate destinations, along with having access to every app on your device, Siri is the multipurpose tool that does your work for you at a simple command. Because of this, it’s no surprise that Microsoft wanted to do something similar. Affectionately named after Master Chief’s AI from Halo, Cortana has many of the capabilities of Siri and some, and with access to the web, there isn’t much that she can’t do. Here are some helpful and even fun tips and tricks you can use with Cortana.

-She can open Windows apps and even some applications on command

-On PC (running on Windows 10) she will respond to the phrase “Hey, Cortana” without you needing to touch your keyboard! This is imperfect, however, as she will often hear that in other statements and open the Cortana window, minimizing whatever it is that you are doing at the time.

-If she does not have an answer, she will immediately open your browser and Bing (yes, it is regrettably not Google) your statement or question for you

-If you tell her to, “Beam me up, Scotty” she will respond with a variety of Star Trek related lines.

-If you ask her about Bill Gates or Steve Jobs she will give responses like “He’s like a father to me” or (my personal favorite) when you ask her to compare the two she will say “That is like comparing Apples to Windows!”

And many more!

~Chris Watson, Technical Intern

The Nature of RAM

Regardless of how long you’ve worked with something (in this case, computers) you learn something new every day. I just finished a college course on networking, related to Cisco, and one of the things we had to do was set up a router configuration. In so doing, one of the important steps was to save the configuration file so that it wasn’t lost upon reboot, because the current settings were running on RAM. Now for the post 4 or 5 months, I’ve taken to rebooting my PC once a day. Not shutting down and turning it back on, but restarting, because I noticed that the longer I went without a reboot, the more RAM the base Windows processes would consume, which chopped my performance down noticeably. Now, I finally understand why restarting it deals with it. RAM is only stored while it is active, and if you reboot, that wipes the slate clean.

~Chris Watson, Technical Intern

Building My First Computer

My Computer

My Experience

Recently, I decided that the laptop that I had been using for 3+ years was no longer getting done what I wanted it to get done. So, I made the logical decision which was to buy another computer. This time, however, I decided to build my own desktop instead of getting a laptop. I’m well aware that laptops are deemed “better” because of their portability, but I wanted to try out a desktop. Admittedly, I am not a hardware guy, I decided that building my own desktop would be a good learning experience for me.

I organized all the parts that I was getting on a site called overall this site was very easy to use, even for someone who does not consider themselves a “hardware person”. The parts did not actually all make it to my house until about a week after I ordered them. Unlike some computer sites, like PCPartPicker links you to sites that sell the parts at the lowest price. That being said, you can imagine how many different sites you’ll end up by the parts from.

About a week later, all of the parts were finally at my house, now I just needed to assemble the computer. With a few difficulties and a few hours, I had the computer together. I have been using it for about a week now, and I haven’t had any problems with it. I’m really happy with the computer that I have built, and I plan to upgrade it sometime in the next year so that it can last even longer. The specs of my computer, they aren’t amazing, but it gets the job done. Like I stated before I plan on upgrading many of the parts at some point in the future.

This is the link to the specs of my computer, it should direct you to

~Griffin Brautigam, Technical Intern

Creating Your Own Macros



Creating Your Own Macros

I like being productive. To me, it’s honestly one of the most satisfying feelings that I can describe. Although, I don’t know if you feel the same way about productivity as I do. Keyboard shortcuts (also known as macros) are one of the many ways that I can make myself more productive. It may sound a little crazy, but if a macro can save me as little as 2 seconds every time that I use it, I would gladly spend the 5 minutes that it takes to create it. A couple of weeks ago, I made a .pdf file that contained all of the macros that are available by default on Windows computers. You can see that post here.

Today, I will be showing you my favorite program for creating your very own customizable macros. A word of caution however, if you do not enjoy the thought of having to program something yourself, then this may not end up being very enjoyable.

The program that I use for my macros is called Auto Hotkey (AHK). AHK is a 100% free program that can create macros and it can even detect what you are typing. For example, I could create a macro that sends an email with a preset message with one keystroke. Another example, if I were to type the letters “btw” I could make a small program that expands those three letters to “by the way” without even having to press a button. Pretty cool isn’t it?

A screenshot of the window that opens when you use Auto Hotkey

A screenshot of the window that opens when you use Auto Hotkey

How do you obtain this software? Just click here to download the program. Install it after you have downloaded it. Unfortunately, I can’t describe all the functions of this program, or how to use it during this blog post; that may be for another time.

I strongly encourage anyone that reads this post to at least give this program a chance. It may seem daunting at first, but there are many online tutorials that can teach you how to use AHK.

~Griffin Brautigam, Technical Intern

Can I Get My Deleted Files Back?

The moment of agony, you’ve just accidentally emptied the trash bin on your computer. You had important files in there, and now you can’t get them back. You really needed those files for something that you are doing at work or school. Your files are just, gone. Or are they? Believe it or not, there is a way to get your deleted files back. How do you do it? I’ll show you.

In order to regain your accidentally deleted files, you first need to download and install a program called “Recuva”. This program will allow you to recover (Get it?) your deleted files. Recuva is a program made by Piriform, the same company that has made CCleaner, Speccy and Defraggler, three programs that I would recommend 100%. Due to the way that computer’s store and erase information, Recuva is best downloaded on a different computer, and run from a USB drive or SD card.

How a Computer Deletes Files

Before I show you how to use the software, I need to explain how your computer “deletes” files. See, a computer doesn’t really delete files. I have found that a great way to explain how it works is to compare a computer deleting a file to a paper shredder. When paper is put through a paper shredder, it is cut up into tiny strands. These strands can be scattered around, or just thrown into a garbage can. Theoretically however, the pieces of paper can be put back together to get the original document back. This is much the same way that a computer deletes files. So, that means that a deleted file still can be reconstructed back into the original by using special computer software.

How to Use Recuva

To obtain this software, go here. Once you have downloaded the files, follow the instructions in the installation wizard. Once the program is installed, run the program. Once the program is open, follow the instructions, select where you want to search, what type of files you want to search for, and whether or not you want the program to perform a deep scan. (Note: This process may take a few minutes depending on how many files are on your computer.) When it is done, you will see that some files are unrecoverable, while some are still in excellent condition. Hopefully the files that you want back are able to be recovered.

That’s it, you’re done! Many people do not know that it is possible to recover some of the files that you think you have “permanently” deleted. I hope that this post has helped some of you, take care,

Griffin Brautigam Technical Intern