One of the most common vices that plagues even the most seasoned IT professional is their inability to go back to the basics when troubleshooting a problem on a computer. Especially when someone is standing over their shoulder. So, I’m going to start this post with a very profound and seemingly complex principle: Occam’s Razor (A.K.A. – The Law of Parsimony).

Occam’s Razor in principle states that when presented with competing hypotheses, one should select the one with the fewest assumptions. Or, in other words for our purposes in the post, when there a ton of possible causes for a computer problem, simpler solutions are more likely to be correct than complex ones.

Now let’s put that to use an look at some of the most commonly encountered issues that can turn even the most docile human being into a murderous raving lunatic. What are some of these? Let’s see:

  • Can’t go online
  • Can’t print
  • Nothing happens when I click
  • Things are getting stale in the bedroom
  • Can’t…

“Whoa! Wait a minute Taco… the bedroom?! What the what is wrong with you?!” Oh, my dearest reader, to this I must respond: “Yes, the bedroom.” and since you were so rude to interrupt my list, let’s just start there. This actually is a good place to start because the first three things on my list can usually be solved by simply restarting your computer. But chances are you interrupted me here because I struck a chord with you.

You and your partner are bored with each other. Every time you start getting frisky, you fall into the same routine. Like a robot programmed to procreate, you perform the same tasks (probably in the same order), time and time again. You both want more, but are too embarrassed to ask because you don’t want your partner to think you are a freak! So instead, you retreat to deep and dark annals of the internet to get your jollies. Because there, you find the person of your dreams that will do everything and anything in any position… sound familiar? Why is this a computer problem? Because the annals of the internet, where all that beautiful lustfulness lives, is riddled with VIRUSES!

Yes, this is true. Probably the most common of all issues I face regularly is some poor dudes computer that is riddled with viruses from porn sites. Now, I’ve got nothing against porn… but I do have a singular distaste for viruses. What are some of the symptoms you’ve been infected? Here’s another list (and don’t interrupt me this time!):

  • Random pop-up windows with ads or weird warnings
  • Every time you try to go to a specific website, you get taken to a different one that looks a bit funny
  • Internet is suddenly slower
  • Computer starts crashing and/or freezing constantly
  • Random error messages start popping up
  • You suddenly are low on disk space
  • Your friends start receiving emails from you that you don’t remember sending
  • Your computer starts-up super slow and starts responding slow

These are just a few. If I were to list them all, I’d be here for several more hours. So by now, you’re thinking: “Oh shit! I have a virus! How the heck am I going to get rid of it?!” Well, sometimes it’s as easy as grabbing a flash drive, going to another PC and downloading some free virus removal tools (or ones that can be run for free once or twice without buying a subscription). Here are a few reputable ones that IT professionals use all the time:

The only downside is that if you accidentally install the trial versions of the products they often turn into nagware that constantly nags you to buy a full subscription. Truth is though, that you probably need it.

Unfortunately, sometimes your system is too far gone. At this point your best option is to attempt backing up your data to an external drive, wiping the system, and reinstalling Wind(bl)ows. Here I am going to refer back to Occam’s Razor. There are so many things that can go wrong with viruses and virus removal. You never feel 100% sure you’ve removed everything because your system just doesn’t behave the way it used to. truth is, your PC may never feel the same again. Viruses totally mess with your system. They change settings to keep you from removing them, direct you to their phishing sites, and much much more. In this case, the simplest solution totally makes sense: Backup your data and start over.

Now let’s look at the rest of the list. Can’t go online, can’t print, nothing happens when I click something. As I mentioned before most of these things are a symptom that your computer just has a mild case of Alzheimer’s. This meaning that it just forgot how something works or where something is. A simple reboot (turning your computer off, then back on) will fix it. One of the funniest things I’ve witnessed was an IT guy who had been troubleshooting a networked printer. For hours, he cursed and swore. He could ping it. He could log in to the web interface. he could do everything EXCEPT print to it. Finally, in a fit of desperation, he rebooted the machine. Almost as if by divine intervention (Taco may or may not have suggested the reboot), when the computer restarted, the printer began to work. What our illustrious IT hero (sorry Dave… threw you under the bus here) failed to remember is that windows has a Print Spooler service that sometimes craps-out for no clear reason. Guess what? Rebooting restarts all the services fresh and allows it to function normally. Now I know that you can go directly to the service and restart that one thing by itself, and technically this is a form of turning something off and on again… but now we’re splitting hairs. Given all the possible solutions, rebooting is the simplest because performing this action restarts ALL the random services that may be running on a computer that might be having an issue.

Bottom line… most devices, computers, tablets, and other networked equipment suffer the same affliction. They get confused from time to time and lose their functionality. Just remember, the simplest place to start is to turn that baby off and back on again. Sometimes you even need to unplug it for a while (like a router or modem), walk away, and come back to plug it in later. I’m not going to go into other troubleshooting here because I foresee other posts for various individual issues. Each of them as long as this one and maybe less ‘raw dawg’ style with pretty pictures.

The takeaways: Simply reboot before trying anything else and make sure you have a good antivirus before callousing your palms with sketchy internet porn websites.

Contact the IT Guide Blog if you would like to find out more about this process, and really get to know the state your IT.

See my original, unabridged post on: