The best tools and techniques for DIY tech support

The best tools and techniques for DIY tech support

Picture of a hand holding a wrench

Sooner or later, something will go wrong with your technology – and that’s when you have a choice to make. As with all the jobs you need to do around the house, either call the professionals and pay for help, or try to do the needed repair yourself for free. There are pros and cons to both options, but the barrier to providing technical support on your own is less than you think.

If you are just getting started with troubleshooting on your own, we hope this is a helpful guide. Alternatively, if there are people who constantly invite you to restart their devices, this is probably an article that you can pass on to them. We know what it means to be the ‘technical guy’, and often, you don’t need a high level of technical expertise to find a solution.

Of course, it’s hard to come up with a one-size-fits-all guide—and there will be problems you run into that you can’t fix yourself, no matter how much you know about them. Sometimes, it’s time for a comeback or professional tools. However, this guide will help you decide when you can handle it, or when you’ll need to summon the big guns.

detective work

Screenshot of Chrome Extensions

Is your browser at fault or one of its extensions?
screenshot: Google Chrome

Before you start fixing anything, it’s important to know what you really need to fix. If there is no internet on your phone, is wifi or your device to blame? You can tell by seeing if other devices in the house can still connect to the Internet – if they can, turn your attention to your phone. Otherwise, your internet connection will need to be searched.

Lots of technical issues will require some careful diagnosis: you need to consider both the hardware and software involved. If your web browser is working, your internet connection, your operating system, the browser or even a browser extension may be to blame. Uninstalling browser extensions or trying to replicate the problem using a different browser are ways you can find out where the problem is. Basically, you want to test one variable at a time.

Another tip is to try to track your steps and consider other things about your technical setup that changed when the difficulties started (a new peripheral, for example, or a software update). In general, don’t just jump to conclusions when you’re trying to figure out what’s wrong, you may find yourself spending several hours trying to fix a piece of hardware that isn’t actually broken.

Also, be sure to keep downloadable updates into consideration while troubleshooting, especially for drivers. The playing field is constantly changing, and the problem may be that your hardware hasn’t caught up yet.

basics

Screenshot of the Windows reset screen

A full reset can solve a wide range of problems.
screenshot: windows

This won’t apply to every technical issue you have, but a good and honest restart is the first troubleshooting trick you should try. Turning something on and off again is certainly a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason: Turning your devices off and then on again can wipe corrupt data and broken processes from their memory, giving you a clean slate and a fresh start.

For a more comprehensive fix, try resetting your devices and starting over from scratch – i.e. resetting your phone, laptop, or whatever brings the device back to its factory settings. It may seem like a drastic step, but these processes are a lot easier than they used to be, and with so many apps and so much data in the cloud now, you can back up and get up and running faster.

If you’re going the reset route, make sure you backup all important apps and files somewhere else first: you’ll need to reinstall everything from scratch again. You’ll spend an hour or two fussing over, but it might be worth it for a fresh, trouble-free start. Microsoft’s instructions for resetting Windows are over hereFor example, while you can find an Apple guide to reset macOS over here.

official support

Screenshot of the Adobe website

The official support options on the web are worth a look.
screenshot: Google Chrome

We have just mentioned two sources from official websites operated by device manufacturers and these are some of the best options to refer to when troubleshooting. The companies that made the hardware and software you’re struggling with likely know better when it comes to finding a solution, so head over to the official website (or social nutrition) to the respective manufacturer or developer and start searching for their FAQ.

whether that Photoshop crash or problems with a Samsung Galaxy phone cameraThere are officially written and audited troubleshooting guides on the web. It’s in these companies’ best interests to keep the information on their sites up-to-date and accurate, because they’re likely to get into trouble if they aren’t — and you’ll want satisfied customers, after all.

Official websites of hardware makers and software developers can be useful in other ways as well: You’ll often find software patches or device drivers and firmwares that can be useful for troubleshooting purposes, for example. It’s not always easy to find, but it’s worth doing some digging.

web forums

Reddit forum screenshot

It is possible that someone else has the same problem as you.
screenshot: Google Chrome

After exhausting all the official channels that you can find online, you can turn your attention to forums, message boards, and blog posts on the web in general. There are more well-qualified and insightful technical troubleshooters out there on the Internet than you might realize – and it’s likely that at least one of them has encountered the same problem as you.

Exactly where you want to go depends on the problem you’re having. You may find answers to your questions on subreddit for your device, for example, or dedicated forum for the program you are using. This is where it can be helpful to know exactly what went wrong. Make sure to write down any error codes that may appear during troubleshooting and take plenty of photos.

Don’t forget social media, too: It can be helpful to poll your Facebook friends or your Twitter followers to see if anyone can help solve the problem you’re having. Most of us like to appear useful and smart in front of an audience, so if you have a wide enough range of contacts, you should at least get some people’s weight on it.

At the same time, be wary of solutions that ask you to perform suspicious or overly complex repairs. You will likely not invite malware into your system unless you have already downloaded something or signed up for a service, but you may also end up complicating your problems.

YouTube videos

Screenshot of pairing Airpods to iPhone

From controllers to earbuds, there’s a YouTube video for it.
screenshot: StateofTech / YouTube

Despite being less straw-friendly than any text site, YouTube has become somewhat of a home for how-tos and troubleshooting guides lately. Try doing a search for a specific problem or related fix, and you’ll see a variety of matches – not all of them will be helpful, but it won’t take you long to find the most relevant videos for what you’re trying to do.

whether that Gmail app crash or a PS5 screen is blank or AirPods volume is lowYou will likely find some useful clips. YouTube is also a great resource if you need to do some more advanced work on your technology: RAM upgrade In a laptop, to access Router admin pagereplacing AirTag batteryand the like.

If you get a lot of results for your query, then when it comes to judging which clips you should be interested in, views and subscribers are usually (though not always) good indicators. Check the comments below a video too, and if you need a quick assessment of whether the video addresses your problem, speed it up (in a desktop web browser, this is done by clicking the gear icon and then playback speed).

Search on Google

Google search screenshot

screenshot: Google Chrome

Doing a web search with some problem related keywords is probably the first port of call for many of us when something goes wrong with a technique – not a bad way to go, but one to do in a smart way. A lot of Google’s results these days, whether they are related to troubleshooting or not, are designed to attract clicks rather than provide any really useful information.

The more precise your search wording, the better: something like “fix Android” won’t give you high-quality results for example, and you’ll be better off with specific error codes, specific software versions, and specific device names and types. If you don’t get good results with a particular phrase, change it up.

You might view a page on one of the official forums or sites we mentioned earlier, and you’ll quickly get to know which sites actually offer helpful troubleshooting tips and which ones are there primarily to show you ads. places like live wireAnd the HowToGeekAnd the iFixitAnd the MakeUseOf Usually reliable, eg.


#tools #techniques #DIY #tech #support

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