Windows Computer Troubleshooting

Computer acting up? Pick the problem from this list:

  • Computer won't start

Don't panic.  Relax.  Take a deep breath.

Many computer problems appear more serious than they really are.

It may look like the computer has crashed and all your data is lost forever. But there are a host of problems that keep you from reaching your data or the network that can be fixed, sometimes in a matter of minutes.

If it is your computer at the school, all the documents on the “G” drive are saved on the server and not on the individual computers in the classroom and labs so they’re most likely still there.  Even if they’ve been saved on the “C” drive, they may still be there waiting for you.

That's not to say catastrophic data loss doesn’t happen – it can, but not very often.

  • Make sure there really is a problem. Check the basics.
    1. Examine the cables, connectors, and power cords to make sure they're plugged in securely.  Often times a loose cable or connector (power, network, keyboard, mouse, speaker, monitor cable, etc.) is the cause of the problem.
    2. If you're using a power strip or a surge protector, make sure it is on and that it works. Remember that a surge protector may not be working because it is designed to self-destruct. When an electric jolt is too much, your surge protector takes the hit saving your more expensive hardware from the voltage.
    3. Try plugging something else directly into the electrical outlet to make sure there isn't a power problem.
    4. Check to see if your monitor is on.  Sounds silly, but it happens.

  • Can’t get on to the network or the Internet

  1. Check to see if anyone else around you is having a similar problemIf so, there may be a service outage affecting a wider area.
  2. Check to make sure the network cable is connected to both the computer and the wall or, at home, your router or modem.
  3. Check where the network cable connection is made to the back of the computer, you should see a little green light right where the cable connects.  If the light isn’t on or flashing, then you are not getting a signal to the computer.  If rebooting doesn’t fix it, contact your site's TroubleTrakker coordinator.

  • Can't see computer screen on LCD projector

  1. Win+P
    The usual quick fix is to use WINDOWS-P and then select "Duplicate" from the on-screen menu.  See these instructions
OPTIONALLY,  you an EXTEND to extend your monitor's Windows desktop onto the projector; you can then drag windows off the right edge of the monitor screen and they will scroll onto the projector screen, you move your mouse pointer off the right edge of the monitor screen to move it onto the projector screen, and move left off the projector screen to return to your monitor screen. This is handy if you want to show students one window while working on your desktop in another window, such as showing a video on the projector while you work on your computer.
  1. If WINDOWS-P is already set to DUPLICATE and you don't see your monitor image, next check the projector settings with your projector's infrared remote control. Look for COMPUTER or RGB buttons on the remote control to tell the projector to use the VGA input (the wall port with many holes for cable pins which is hooked to one branch of the VGA Y-cable coming out of the back of the computer) and the mini-audio input (the small black round wall port which is hooked to the green audio port on the back of the computer) .  The "Video" input on the projector is what is used for DVD players and old VCRs which are hooked up to the larger round yellow, red, and white wall ports.
  2. Finally, check that the appropriate cables from the computer, both VGA video and audio, are plugged into the proper ports on the wall.  See these instructions.

    • Error messages

    Write them down.

    What tipped you off to the problem? Sometimes it's an error code or message displayed on screen. Be sure to write it down — it may describe the problem and how serious it is. Be sure to document the exact wording of any error messages.  This can make the job of the technician much faster. 

    Other times you get no warning — everything just freezes. Message or no message, be sure note what was going on when the problem occurred. Were you starting your computer? Were you on the Windows Desktop? Were you in a particular application? Surfing the Web?

    Think about what changed recently on your computer. 
    Try to pinpoint when the trouble first started. Did the problem coincide with any recent changes?
      1. Did you change any settings?  If you did you might want to change them back the way they were.
      2. Any peripherals been added or removed recently (such as a printer or external Memory Card reader?)
      3. Has anyone else been using your computer recently?
      4. Have downloaded anything off the Web?  File sharing and free MP3s are an easy way to get a virus on your machine. 

    • Frozen screen: the computer is on but...

    Everything on the screen is frozen and the keyboard and mouse are not responding. 

    Try tapping on the Num Lock key. It is located on the right-hand side of the keyboard above the number 7. While tapping the Num Lock key, notice whether or not the Num Lock light goes on and off. If it doesn’t, the computer is completely locked up.  You’ll have to 
    REBOOT the computer.  If the light does go off and on, wait a minute before giving up hope.  It may come back to life on its own.

    Pressing Alt + F4
    If a software program stops working or freezes up, try pressing the ALT+F4 keys to close the window that you’re currently working in.  This can shut down a frozen window and bring the computer back to life.  If the keyboard is frozen as well, you’ll have to reboot.

    •  The “Blue Filter Screen” has appeared or a website isn't working correctly

    • The computer is on, but there is no sound

    Is there a speaker icon next to the clock on the taskbar? (It’s in the lower right side of the screen.)  If you can find it, double click the speaker icon to bring up the audio controls for the computer.  See if any of the volume controls have been muted or turned all the way down.  Uncheck any Mute boxes that are selected.

    • The computer is on, but the keyboard does not work

    Swap the keyboard or try plugging the keyboard into another computer. If it doesn't work on the other computer, there is likely something wrong with the keyboard. If it does work on the other computer, there is likely something wrong on the computer or the connection to the computer.

    When you press the Ctrl-Alt-Delete buttons together, you will bring up a control panel where you can select “Task Manager” and see if any of the programs are shown as “not responding”.   You may be able to shut down the offending program from there.  If you can’t get to this screen, you’ll have to reboot.

    • Rebooting

    Don’t just pull the plug!

    A simple reboot may clear up the problem. Go to the Start Menu and select Shutdown. Didn't work? It's time to try a forced reboot — with, unfortunately, no way to save your work — by pressing the keys 
    CTRL-ALT-DEL simultaneously twice in a row.

    If that didn't work, you have no choice: you have to turn the computer off manually with the power switch. Hold the power button down (
    for  about 5 -10 seconds) and the computer will shut down.  Wait at least 10 seconds for the hard drive to stop spinning and then restart the machine.

    If the computer starts up, start the applications you were using when the crash occurred. Some programs, like Microsoft Word, make timed backups of your work and may bring up recovered files. If the program notifies you that there is a “recovered document” save the file under a different name and compare them to 
    your previously saved files.

        This page adapted from the fine work of the CCSD Technology Team