New computer users face many computer problems that experienced users know how to handle. These problems can be easily overcome and, once you figure them out, they’ll never bother you again.
It is a great feeling once you have solved one of those difficult computer problems. It almost makes you feel like an IT professional.
Computer Problems #1: Plugging In The Computer Parts
The first computer problem every new user faces is not buying a new computer, but plugging it in when they get it home. Although computer makers have made things easier in recent years by color coding many wires and plugs, putting everything in the right place still remains a challenge.
A special problem exists for users who receive their computers in several different packages. Do you need to wait for all of your computer parts to arrive before trying to turn on your computer? (The answer is probably not.)
To setup your computer, perform the following steps:
- Find the power cord. If you bought a computer made for your country, you’ll be able to identify it by its power plug. On the computer side of the plug should be three slits; plug this into the back of the computer where three prongs stick out.
- Most keyboards and mice today use USB plugs. Look on the back of your computer for a trident-like symbol with three curvy spokes. Gently try to insert the wire from your keyboard and mouse into this; if it doesn’t go in, flip it over and try inserting it the other side up.
- Monitors these days use all sorts of connections—VGA, DVI, Mini-DVI, DisplayPort, and others. Find the corresponding plug and gently insert the monitor cord. Be careful—I once ruined a VGA video card by plugging in a monitor cord upside down. You also need to plug in the monitor’s power cord—they usually look just like the power cord for your computer.
To test whether your computer boots, you only need the computer and its power cord. To see if it works correctly, you need only the computer, the monitor, and both power cords. You can use the computer very basically with just the keyboard (or, to a less degree, just the mouse). So if your computer comes in different packages, you don’t have to wait for everything to arrive.
Computer Problems #2: Shut Down The Computer Correctly
This is important: you do not want to shut down the computer by pressing the power button. Shutting down the computer with the power button can wipe out unsaved files and may damage your computer’s file system. Many of the most common computer problems are caused by incorrectly shutting down your computer.
I know that this advice runs counter to how you power off every other electronic device you’ve ever used, but it’s how computers were designed. To shutdown correctly, open the Windows Start menu, click the Turn Off button, and choose Shutdown from the menu that appears.
Computer Problems #3: Whether Or Not To Report A Problem
Windows sends information about what the program was doing along with its crash report. That means that if your accounting program crashed, your personal financial data could be transmitted to the techs at Microsoft. Other programs hold other private data.
I have no reason to suspect the techs at Microsoft are bad people who will misuse your data, but you still may want to avoid sending them your personal information.
Computer Problems #4: Text Too Small
I don’t know about you, but as I get older, I find I prefer larger text more and more. (I love increasing the font size on my e-book reader to the max.) A lot of computers today come set to their max screen resolution, which can be awfully small if you have even a normal-sized computer monitor.
You can quickly increase the size of everything on your computer—not just the text—by decreasing the display resolution. Open the Windows Control Panel and start the Appearance and Personalization wizard. Choose the Display Settings tab and adjust the slider in the Resolution section toward the left. Click apply. Your monitor will flash, the setting will change, and a box will appear asking if you want to keep the new settings. Keep trying until you find a setting you like.
Computer Problems #5: Lost Files
If you can’t find a file, picture, or movie you saved before, use the Windows Find tool. In Windows 7, there’s a Find bar on the Windows Start Menu. In Windows XP, there’s an option on the Start Menu to Find Files & Folders.
Whichever option you use, the easiest way to find a file is to type in part of the file name and press the Search button. You don’t need to type in the whole filename.
When the results appear, they will tell you where your file is so you can find it later. You can also view or edit it by double-clicking on it in the search results. Of course it is even easier to find files if you keep files organized the right way.
Computer Problems #6: Connecting The Internet
Chances are you didn’t buy a computer just to type and print documents—you probably bought it mainly to use the Internet.
Connecting a single computer to the Internet is usually easy. If you’re using a telephone modem, plug your telephone cord into your computer and install the software you got from your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
If you’re using DSL or fiber optic, someone from the telephone company will need to set it up for you.
Cable users can usually set up the modem on their own: install the splitter onto a cable outlet and plug your TV cord into one connector and your cable modem into the other connector. Then plug in your cable modem and install the software you got from your cable company.
Computer Problems #7: No Sound
For some reason, many computers come with the volume muted, so it seems like the sound isn’t working at first. This is one of the easiest computer problems to fix: look at the task bar in the bottom right corner of the screen and find the icon that looks like a conical speaker. Left click it once and drag the volume up. If the Mute checkbox is checked, click it once to uncheck it.
After you increase your volume, try playing a song or video again.
In Windows you will see a sound icon in the notification area on your taskbar. This will be located next to the time and date and when you press on this the volume and the mute button appear. If the sound is muted, all you have to do is read press the button and it will bring the sound back.
Computer Problems #8: Cancelling A Print Job
This happens to all of us eventually: we accidentally print a document with 100 pages or more (or we accidentally print 100 copies of the same document).
To print the whole thing would waste an extraordinary amount of paper and ink, so what can you do to cancel the print job? Unfortunately the first option most people try is turning off the printer—but that doesn’t usually work. Windows wants to help you, so it continues printing when you turn the printer back on.
There are two ways to cancel most print jobs: one way is on the printer, the other way is on Windows.
Stopping the print job on the printer is the slower way, but it will probably save you the most paper and ink. Look for an orange button (or a button with an orange light) and press it once. This is usually the cancel button. Your printer should stop printing almost immediately (although it will take a moment to spit out the current page). But your printer still needs to receive all of the remaining data from Windows, so you won’t be able to print anything else for several minutes.
On Windows, you can stop the print job in the Printer Job Manager. Look at the tray in the bottom right corner of your screen for an icon that looks like a printer. Double click that icon; it will bring up a list of your current print jobs. Right-click on each job you want to cancel and click Stop Job. It will take a moment for the printing to stop on the printer, but you can print something new almost immediately.
Computer Problems #9: Mouse Moves Too Quickly (Or Slowly)
I find that older people tend to feel that the mouse moves too quickly, while younger people think it moves too slowly. I suppose that says something about the human condition, but when it comes to computers, mouse speed settings can be adjusted.
Open the Windows Control Panel from the Start menu and open the Keyboard and Mice wizard. On the Pointer Options tab there’s an slider that changes how fast the mouse pointer moves. Adjust it, click Apply, and give the mouse a try. Repeat until you find a setting comfortable for you.
Computer Problems #10: Where To Turn For Help
Not knowing how to fix important computer problems is similar to being stranded on the side of an abandoned road without a cell phone. These four tips should help you fix most computer problems not covered in this article:
- Search www.Google.com for your problem. Try to describe the problem in 4 to 10 words using plain English.
- Call tech support if it’s included with your computer. You may have to wait on hold for a while, but most tech support companies aren’t as bad as people make them out to be.
- Ask your friends—even if they aren’t geeks. The most common computer problems are just that—common problems. Other people will have encountered them, and they’ll be able to help you find the solution.
- Ask us here in the Tips4PC fourm. Geeks like us tend forget about the computer problems that stymied us when we were new users.