Russ Harvey Consulting - Computer and Internet Services

Preparing for a Service Call

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Gather Info | Describe the Problem
“Quick Fix” Suggestions

Collect information about your computer before calling.

Before Calling

Before contacting me about your problem, try these quick fixes to see if you can resolve the issue.

If that doesn't work, you'll need to:

  1. gather some information about your computer and your problem; and
  2. describe the problem including any error messages.

Help Options

I provide help desk and troubleshooting services via:

  1. phone support;
  2. email support; or
  3. on-site & in-shop services.

Service Availability

Gather Relevant Information

When you request help with a problem with your computer I need to know about your computer hardware, operating system and software.

Most folks are unfamiliar with computer terminology, so displayed warnings are unlikely to make sense to you.

I'll need detailed information about your computer and the nature of the problem so that my recommended solutions will not harm your computer or your data.

Make Notes

Start by making notes about the problem so you can accurately describe the issue when you call or email me.

These are some of the details I may need to provide a solution:

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:

Make & Model

If you have a laptop or a brand-name computer (e.g., Apple, Dell, HP, Acer, etc.), the make and model of your computer is usually found on the back of a desktop or on the 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 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 driver DVDs (both rare these days), possibly stored in the small box which originally contained your motherboard.

Your Operating System

Note: images in this section are dated, but are useful examples.

The operating system is the main software running on a computer. The most common are listed below:

Microsoft Windows

Windows users can

The screen that appears will look similar to this:

Windows screen showing basic hardware information about your computer

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.

Apple macOS

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:

About This Mac screen showing basic hardware information about your computer

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 sold 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:

Linux screen showing basic hardware information about your computer


Chromebook run Chrome OS, a Linux-based operating system designed by Google.

Locate the Chrome OS version:

  1. click on the clock found in the lower right-hand corner of the screen;
  2. select the Settings icon; then
  3. select About Chrome OS.

I don't have any Chromebook devices and little experience running it but could diagnose problems if I have access to the device.

Installed Software

I need to know what software you are running to help diagnose the problem.

Obtaining Software Versions

The version of some of the programs you're running helps because different versions have different capabilities.

Locating this information varies by operating system:

For example, the screen below shows Mozilla Firefox version 114.0 (64-bit):

The “About Mozilla Firefox” screen in Windows

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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

Make a note of the details of any error message such as the text in the example below:

A sample error message
sample error message

Copy down what the message says including any error codes exactly as they appear before dismissing the message or restarting your computer.

Taking a photo of the error screen with your smartphone can be helpful.

What Were You Doing?

Be sure to describe what software was running and what you were doing when the problem occurred. This is not about blame; it is about finding a solution.

Other Information

Include any other information that you think may have a bearing on the problem.

Examples include new hardware, recently installed software, driver updates or changes to your Internet service provider (i.e., switching between Shaw and Telus).

Contact Russ

Now that you have the information you need, contact Russ to discuss your problem.

Try These Quick Fixes

You may be able to resolve your issue quickly on your own.

Restart Your Computer

You'd be surprised at how often restarting your computer resolves issues with:

Check the Power & Cables

If the computer won't start, ensure that all cables are secure and that the power is on (check indicator lights).

This assumes that you haven't blown a circuit breaker. You may need to replace defective power cables or power bars.


A laptop won't start if the battery is nearly dead unless it is plugged in.


Ensure that the plug is securely attached to the computer and the wall socket.

If that doesn't resolve the issue, check the power supply in the computer where the power cord connects to the computer.

Check for External Devices

If external devices are attached to the computer like USB drives or thumb drives they can interfere with the startup process.

Remove any external USB devices then try starting the computer again.

Verify Your Internet Access

A number of issues can cause your Internet access to fail. You'll need to track down the problem before calling me.

Check the Network

Networking can be complicated on newer computers. The Internet is accessed via the same software and hardware as your home network. Check your router to see if that is where the problem is.


Windows users follow these steps to attempt recovery:

You may need to reboot your computer to finish the repair.


Mac users follow these steps to attempt recovery:


Linux users follow these steps to attempt recovery:

More about resolving Internet connection issues.

Check the Router

Basic D-Link Router

See Networking Components for the definitions of terminology used here.

Make sure that the modem and router (sometimes integrated into one box) are working correctly.

You may need to restart the computer before its network connection is reset.

Test Using Other Devices

If resetting the router and computer didn't restore Internet access, see if another device can access the Internet via the router.

  1. Another computer using a LAN (wired) connection can verify connection.
  2. If that works, verify the Wi-Fi connection and settings (you'll need the Wi-Fi password).
  3. Wi-Fi is your only option if you're using a tablet or smart phone.

If you only have one device, ask a friend to bring over their laptop.

Is it Your ISP?

If other computers are having the same problem and you've reset the router, your ISP's service may be down in your area.

In Victoria, check the appropriate service:

If the problem persists, gather the necessary information needed to give me a reasonable chance at diagnosing the problem correctly.


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Updated: May 17, 2024