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My PC is playing up. What should I do before I do ANYTHING else?

If you’ve come across Channel 4’s sitcom ‘The IT Crowd’ you’ll be familiar with the catch phrase Have you tried turning it off and on again? For those in the know, the reason this phrase became so funny was that it is so unbelievably true. There are no end of instances where this may solve a problem. Or at least… it used to! With the latest version of Windows the phrase now must be “Have you tried restarting it?” So, if you are experiencing some sort of glitch on your PC, before going any further, give it a try. I’ve lost count of how many times I have been asked to fix a PC problem and all that was required was a restart.

But, and I cannot stress this enough, you MUST select Restart and not Shutdown.

 

I am still using Windows 7, what should I do?

If you are still using Windows 7 then you are probably aware that it came to the end of its life on 14th Jan 2020.

This doesn’t mean that it will stop working, just that it is no longer supported by Microsoft. This means that they will no longer be providing security updates for it which fix any vulnerabilities that have been discovered in the software. So, if a hacker were to find a vulnerability after that date and write a malicious program to try and exploit it then Microsoft will not fix the problem so, if you were to receive that program, say in a spam email, then your system could be compromised. Depending on the ‘payload’ of the malicious program you could potentially have all your files encrypted or have all your sensitive data stolen.

The solution is to replace Windows 7 with the latest version which is Windows 10. Subject to the capabilities of your existing hardware, you can download and install Windows 10 from the Microsoft website. It is most likely you are currently using either Windows 7 Home or Pro versions in which case, the upgrade is free.

Why is my PC slow?

The performance of a PC is determined by both the software and hardware.

 

Software

When your Operating System (ie Windows) is first installed on to a PC its performance will essentially be the best possible (albeit there are some tweaks that can be done to make it better but that aside for the purpose of this faq).

However, your OS is like a living entity. Over time it becomes ‘tired’ and gets clogged up with changes it makes to itself (updates etc) and changes you make to it like adding and removing software and even just simple day to day usage. All of these will reduce the speed of your PC.

Some of these changes can be reversed by doing some ‘housekeeping’ of your OS but you will never get the performance back to how is was on day 1. The only sure-fire way to get it back to its original performance is a more drastic approach by wiping it clean and reinstall it. Your PC will now work as it did on day 1, however, any changes you have made and/or any software or data you had added since then will be gone.

Hardware

Unlike software, the hardware that makes up your PC doesn’t change or degrade over time (it may fail but that’s another issue). The overall performance of your PC will depend on the performance/capability of the individual hardware components.

However, some of these components can be upgraded and as a result will increase the overall performance. The 2 main components that can feasibly/practically be upgraded are the memory and the hard drive.

Upgrading the hard disk drive (HDD) to a faster solid state drive (SSD) involves removing the existing HDD, transferring its contents to a new SSD and then reinstalling this in the place of the old HDD.

Subject to your current hardware configuration, upgrading the memory is either a case of simply adding more memory to the motherboard or removing the existing and replacing with higher capacity memory.

 

Remember that the overall performance is a function of both the software and hardware so if for example the software is performing badly, upgrading the hardware will help but it will only allow the poorly running software to run poorly, faster!

Is my data safe?

A PC by itself should never be considered as an invulnerable data store.

In fact, one of the most common parts of a PC to fail is the hard drive which is where all your data is stored. If a hard drive fails, then more than likely all the data on it will be lost. (It may be possible for a specialist to recover the data, but this will cost £100s). To safeguard against this happening, you must take a backup of your data.

A general rule of thumb is to have your data stored in 3 different places and at least one of those to be in a different location.

Why isn’t my start menu working?

The start menu not responding to a click of the start icon has been a bug in Windows 10 since day 1. The problem occurs less frequently with the latest version but still happens occasionally.

The solution is simply to right click the start icon. You will get another menu. From here select to restart the PC (see the first FAQ in this list).

After the restart has completed the start menu will work properly again.

Why is my wireless printer not working?

Wireless printers have a habit of sometimes not connecting to your PC. The first thing to try is to restart everything that may be causing the problem so try the following (in this order)…

 

  1. Turn off both your printer and wifi router/hub
  2. Turn the wifi router/hub back on
  3. Wait a couple of minutes
  4. Turn the printer back on
  5. Wait a couple of minutes
  6. Restart your PC (see the first FAQ in this list)
Why has my wireless keyboard or mouse stopped working?

It gets easily forgotten that wireless keyboards & mice need batteries in them to function. So, before going any further, check the batteries.

My PC is complaining that my hard drive is full. What can I do?

A hard drive can easily be replaced for a larger one. It will involve removing the existing one, copying the complete contents of the drive on to a new one and then installing the new one into the PC.

My PC has started making strange noises. What is happening?

There are a number of cooling fans inside a PC. Depending on your environment (dust etc) or simply their quality, these fans may wear out over time. When they do they invariably start to make noises. All the fans inside a PC are replaceable so it is time to get them replaced else your PC may over heat.

If however you hear a metalic clicking sound then you need to act immediately. This may be your hard drive about to fail. Make sure you have all your data backed up and have it investigated.