Computer errors for beginners… tips and tricks for getting help
In the realm of computers it is definitely not uncommon to get the occasional, or sometimes annoyingly regular error. However, one thing that many people do not know is some simple steps that can be taken to make a support team’s life easier in diagnosing the issue.
First and foremost it is important for both you, and who will be supporting you to realise that it is possible that your level of knowledge surrounding the error will be lower than that of the support team. While this is not always the case, (I will happily admit I have had clients teach me a trick or two before) it is the general rule of thumb.
A good support person will gauge the level of knowledge of the person who is seeking assistance and balance their explanations to a level that can be understood. However if you find someone is talking to you on too low, or too high a technical level, never be afraid to let them know and try to get them to talk to you on your level of knowledge. By doing so you can work more effectively together and also learn things which may help you in future.
The checklist is something that those of us in support use day to day. Even as a systems administrator, I collect this sort of information to pass on to vendors for support and so on. However whatever your level of knowledge of computers, or level of support you are liaising with, this list can be of great use.
So next time you have an error on your computer note down the following information, it will make support’s life easier, result in a much faster resolution for you and assist support in documenting the issue for future reference.
- Take a screenshot: this may sound simple but so often people don’t do it. If someone says “I got an error” and we can’t tell exactly what the error is, it makes it impossible to trace down what the problem may have been. Taking a screenshot saves the need for you to try to interpret or note down the exact error and greatly assists support teams.
- Note down the exact time and date of the error or issue (including any subsequent occurrences): knowing the exact time and date that the error occurred allows support teams to investigate other factors that may have been occurring at the time. They can also look at logs of related systems surrounding the time your issue occurred to gather additional information.
- Note down exactly what you were doing leading up to the error occurring: in some cases errors can be triggered by an exact sequence of events that occur leading up to it. Knowing what you were doing that lead to the error can help to reproduce the error.
- If you are using a web browser, note down the browser you are using and the browser version (usually under Help –> About), also try a different browser such as Google Chrome or Firefox, see if the same error appears, note down if it works in a different browser.
- If it is a website that is having problems, try a different web site as well, note down the original web site URL that was having problems, as well as any other sites you tried.
- Try to note down any related information to what you were doing: for example if it was an email that you sent that was never received, provide the exact subject line of the email. If it is a file on a shared drive, provide the exact name and file location to the file. The more information you can provide, the less likely that support will need to come back asking for the additional information, leading you to a faster resolution.
- Let support know if you are on a PC or a Mac and what version of the operating system you are using (such as Windows XP, Windows 7, Mac OSX Lion 10.7.4 etc), if you are unsure of the version at least letting them know if you are on a Mac or PC is a great start.
Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth
Most of all, don’t be afraid of telling support exactly what happened, we all start out somewhere and often support will come across an issue that simply needs user training, by us being able to pass knowledge on to you it is likely that you can do the same for someone else to make all our lives easier.
However if it is something that you have done wrong, often it will save support a lot of time and effort knowing exactly what has occurred, I am always of the mindset that if you do something wrong, then tell me so that I can fix it faster I will be a lot less unimpressed than if I have to find it out the hard way.
By noting down these details, whoever will be helping you out with your issue will be able to far more easily diagnose what occurred help you out. If you are having an issue with a problem you purchased on the internet, don’t be afraid to contact their support too. By providing the information above you have a great start to finding out exactly what problem may have occurred and should be able to work towards a resolution.
So whether you are a beginner in the tech world or a seasoned veteran like myself what are your thoughts. Have I missed anything out here?