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The Non-Computer Person’s Guide to Troubleshooting

It can be tough to be a non-computer person in this day and age. After all, everything is a computer. Even fridges and thermostats. And computers can generate some frustrating problems. Steve Wozniack, Apple co-founder, had the right idea when he said, “Never trust a computer you can’t throw out a window.”

For troubleshooting and problem solving that doesn’t involve hurling your device through a window, you probably call the computer person in your life. Your kids, spouse, co-worker, grandkid, or whomever. But before you do, try these tricks. 


Why is this the most frequent IT device? Because it works most frequently. Whether you’re talking about a computer, smartphone, router, other device, app, or program, restart before you try any other troubleshooting. 

Isolate the Problem

When there are a lot of moving parts, there are a lot of potential places for your problem to be. So, you want to figure out what exactly is causing your problem. 

For example: your computer can’t connect to your wired Internet. So after restarting, you can try a different browser, try your WiFi, switch your Ethernet cable, restart your router, reset your modem, and bypass your router by plugging directly into your modem. It’s okay when something you try doesn’t solve your problem. You didn’t fail to find a solution, you succeeded in ruling something out. Once you figure out exactly what thing is causing the problem, you’re a step closer to a solution. 

Double Check Your Connections

If you’re having a hardware problem, make sure everything is plugged in and all your connections are working. In the above example, you could try putting your Ethernet cord in a different port at the back of your router. Or if you’re troubleshooting a device plugged in via USB, try a different USB port. 

Try Stuff Instead of Ruling It Out

The computer person in your life doesn’t know everything about computers. They do know that it’s good to try things out with an open mind though. 

The stereotype about kids understanding technology better than their parents is true, but it isn’t because kids are inherently better at using computers or more used to technology. Studies have shown it’s because kids are good at exploratory learning. When they come up with a solution that doesn’t work, they try something new and unusual instead of doggedly trying something that doesn’t work over and over. And most importantly, they aren’t afraid to look foolish, so they don’t get embarrassed when something they try doesn’t work. 

Fire Up Google

If you’re done searching through menus, it’s time to see what Google has to say. Even professional IT departments spend a lot of time googling various problems. 

In the search bar, type a few words related to what you want to do, along with the name of the app or program. You may also need to include the name of your operating system or computer model. 

If part of your problem is that the program you’re trying to run is giving you an error code, paste the error code, along with the program name, into Google. 

Keep in mind, it maybe be helpful to limit your search to recent results only, especially if your problem is related to a recent software update. To do this, click “Any Time” and change it to “Past Week”, or whatever your preferred timeframe. For more tips on how to google, check here

Instead of searching the whole web, you might choose to stick to YouTube. There are lots of step-by-step video tutorials related to IT problems, and chances are someone has made a tutorial addressing the exact issue you’re facing. 

The Bottom Line

Trying these five tricks will help you rely on the computer person in your life a little less. To get even better at managing computer issues, check out what we have to say about hardware maintenance and software maintenance