Preparing for a Service Call
Before contacting me with a problem, follow these simple steps:
- First try these quick fixes (see the sidebar) to see if you can't resolve the issue yourself.
- If that doesn't work, you'll need to gather some information about your computer and your problem.
- Describe the problem including any error messages and what you were doing before the problem occurred.
Because I'm more vulnerable, I've had to restrict some services.
- Onsite / in-person services have been suspended.
- Support is available via email or phone.
- Protocols have changed for in-shop services.
Call me to discuss possibilities.
Onsite help with troubleshooting is available only in the Greater Victoria area.
Gather Relevant Information
When you request help with a problem with your computer (whether it is onsite or by phone or email) I need to know about your computer and any software related to the problem.
I'll need details of your computer and the nature of the problem in order to help me prepare and to ensure that any solutions I recommend will not harm your computer or its data.
Most folks are unfamiliar with computer terminology, so it is difficult to remember what sort of computer you have and any warnings are unlikely to make sense to you. Make notes to refer to when you call or email me.
I'll want to know the following:
- Your computer's make and model as well as other hardware details.
- Your computer's operating system, version and updates (e.g., Windows 10 Home, macOS Monterey, Linux Mint 20.3, etc.).
- What software is running, including the security software.
- What you were doing when the problem occurred and any error messages that were displayed.
- Any other information that may be relevant to the issue.
The following sections will tell you how to obtain this information.
Your Hardware Information
Hardware is the physical computer and its components (sometimes referred to as “the box” with desktop systems). This includes:
- the size and free space on the hard drive(s) in your computer;
- the amount of RAM (memory);
- your video card (it may be built-in) and its capabilities;
- your monitor (screen) and the resolution it is running; and
- any external components that are regularly attached including printers, scanners, etc.
Make & Model
If you have a laptop or a brand-name computer (e.g., Macintosh, Dell, HP, Acer, etc.), the make and model of your computer is usually found on the back of a desktop or bottom of a laptop.
I can usually determine most of the necessary information if I'm onsite, but there are slight differences. The serial number, SNID or build number may be necessary to determine exactly what hardware is in your computer.
If your computer was built by the shop where you purchased it (e.g., from Tetra Computers) then the computer was built from name-brand components including the motherboard, processor, video card, etc. (see definitions). These will determine the computer's specs and are often listed on your purchase invoice.
You may also have printed manuals and possibly driver DVDs (both rare these days), possibly stored in the small box which originally contained your motherboard.
Your Operating System
Windows users can right-click on the Computer icon on the desktop (or Computer in the Start Menu) then select Properties with the left mouse button. The screen that appears will look similar to this:
- The Windows edition tells you what version of Windows is installed as well as the service packs that are installed.
- The system information tells about the hardware (processor, RAM and whether you have a 32- or 64-bit system).
The Windows Experience Index can tell a lot about key hardware but is no longer provided after Windows 7. The Winaero WEI Tool can provide that information.
macOS users can click on the Apple icon at the top right of the menu then select About This Mac. The screen that appears will look similar to this:
Clicking on Displays, Storage and Memory will give you details about those items. Support gives you access to OS X and Mac resources.
Most Linux computers were built as Windows machines. Model numbers on the computer's case may help to determine what hardware was installed.
Linux users can click the desktop menu then (ensuring that all applications are visible) click on System Tools then select System Monitor. The screen that appears will look similar to this:
Your Software Information
I need to know what software you are running to help diagnose the problem.
- Some software can conflict with other software or may be unsuitable for your hardware.
- Running multiple security programs (including firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spyware software) is not advised. They can conflict with each other.
- Drivers may be unavailable for your current operating system or need updating.
- Obsolete software is not only dangerous (it is no longer patched for new security threats) but it may not work in current versions of your operating system.
Obtaining Software Versions
I may need to know the version of some of the programs you're running. The following image shows that Mozilla Firefox is version 18.104.22.168.
You obtain this information in different ways for specific operating systems. For example:
- Windows: left-click the Help menu then About [program name].
- Mac: click program name then About [program name].
- Linux: left-click the Help menu then About [program name].
Describe the Problem
When you contact me, be sure to describe the problem you are having in sufficient detail so that I can either duplicate it or that I can understand what may be causing the problem.
Record Error Messages
Be sure to note any error messages displayed, Copy down what the message says including any error codes exactly as they appear before dismissing the message or restarting your computer.
Hint: Take a photo of the error screen with your smartphone as a reference.
What Were You Doing?
Be sure to describe what you were doing and what software was running when the problem occurred.
This is not about blame; it is about finding a solution.
Include any other information that you think may have a bearing on the problem such as new hardware or software, recent updates, changes with your Internet service provider (i.e., switching between Shaw and Telus), etc.
Now that you have the information you need, contact Russ to discuss your problem.