Worst-case Computer Scenarios
You have a paper due, and you’re one of those students who put the “pro” in procrastination. But you figure you have plenty of time to bang that baby out before deadline … that is, until your computer starts acting up.
Before you hit the panic button, read on to push your worries aside and troubleshoot common computer issues with these quick and easy do-it-yourself fixes.
Worst-case Computer Scenario No. 1: Your computer’s performance has seriously slowed
Almost every laptop starts out with lightning-fast performance speed -- but after a year or two, programs take longer to open, content doesn’t load as quickly, and downloading can really put your patience to the test.
Too many startups?
You can most likely chalk it up to too many startup programs on your computer, says Joe Silverman, CEO of New York Computer Help. While this problem rarely occurs on a Mac, you can fix it on a PC by clicking on Start and typing “msconfig” into the command line. Then, click the Startup tab and uncheck any unnecessary startup programs. Once you restart your computer, you should experience more speed, says Silverman.
Viruses or spyware
If the above trick is unsuccessful, there may be viruses or spyware looming in your computer. Silverman suggests downloading the free programs Malwarebytes and SUPERAntiSpyware to rid your computer of any unwanted viruses.
Worst-case Computer Scenario No. 2: Your computer makes strange noises and vibrations when you turn it on
Hearing grinding and gurgling inside your precious machine is terrifying, but before you panic and take it in for a costly repair, consider these suggestions:
Get the dust out!
Silverman says a dusty internal fan is the most common culprit. For a quick fix, he recommends blowing the dust and grit out of the fan with a can of compressed air. “All you need to do is direct the spray toward the vent and fan area to channel the dust out of the fan,” he says. Simple.
On some computers, the strange noises are permanent and happen because of bad design and construction. In this case, the only solution is to limit the noisiness by placing a cheap floor mat underneath the laptop. “The floor mat has a rubberized material that will absorb the vibrations and make your computer experience more peaceful,” says Silverman.
Worst-case Computer Scenario No. 3: You forgot to save a document
Forgetting to save a document you’ve been working hard on is a nightmare -- especially if it’s a paper that’s due in the very near future. But don’t fret, says Silverman, because you can almost always find the document saved somewhere.
Launch a search
While in a Word document, Microsoft will auto-save every so often, so typically, there will be some version of the document on your computer. To retrieve it, Silverman says to go to the search tab on the Start menu and type in the name of your document. If you use a Mac, go under File and then scroll down to the Find tab. If you’re blanking on the name, try typing in “*.doc” for Word 2003, or “*docx” for Word 2007 or 2010.
Worst-case Computer Scenario No. 4: Your computer spontaneously freezes
If your computer typically freezes when you open up Internet Explorer, the most likely culprit is a virus. “Viruses love to infect Internet Explorer so that any attempts to launch the program will freeze your computer,” says Silverman.
Kiss viruses goodbye
Just run the abovementioned free programs Malwarebytes or SUPERAntiSpyware to rid your computer of virus attacks.
Check you RAM
If a virus isn’t the issue, failing random access memory, or RAM, could be to blame. Silverman suggests using the free software, Memtest, to check if your RAM is freezing. “If a bad RAM module is detected, remove it by turning your laptop upside down and remove the two to three screws that are in the smallest rectangular compartment where the RAM is stored,” says Silverman. “Remove one of the RAM modules and reboot your computer.” If your computer is still freezing, remove the other RAM module instead, and your computer should be as good as new. Since most computers come with two RAM modules, Silverman says if one is failing, you can still work off the other one, or simply replace the failing one when you get a chance.
Worst-case Computer Scenario No. 5: Your computer overheats and turns off
Yikes! Your PC has shut down and the screen has gone completely black. Or your laptop won’t start. You’re punching keys and ... nothin’.
Wake it up!
This usually means your computer is just in sleep or hibernation, or stuck in power mode, says Silverman. To get your laptop booted up again, remove the battery, plug in its power charger and hold down the power button for 15 seconds before turning it back on. After you get it started again, you can put the battery back in place.
Cool it down
If overheating is the problem, Silverman suggests using a can of compressed air to blow out the dust inside the laptop through the vent. To prevent future overheating, purchase a cooling plate to put under your laptop. This plate has extra fans and ventilation to cool down your hardware. “This beats blowing a few hundred dollars to replace the motherboard,” says Silverman.
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