Computer use necessitates basic knowledge in troubleshooting. This is when a user is forced to find out why a machine suddenly hangs and shuts down or some programs do not function properly.
Some organizations hire IT staff for regular computer maintenance but only big institutions need and can afford permanent user support.
This calls for training in basic computer maintenance and trouble shooting to allow the smooth running of office activities.
Users need to be conversant with computer applications such as correcting hardware, software and network glitches, installing basic software, setting the system to perform necessary functions automatically like software updates as well as discovering the cause of a system failure and fixing it.
This will equip users with technical know how to operate the computer while allowing the IT officer to focus on more serious issues like maintaining the network, server operations as well as other long term projects.
Furthermore, this kind of knowledge will improve accountability in the office since users are responsible for the upkeep of their own machines.
The Government spends a huge fortune in hiring IT companies to maintain computer systems in ministries and public institutions.
However these funds could be diverted to training users in performing troubleshooting tasks for their own machines since the same problems keep recurring and can easily be handled with some experience.
However a set of regulations and restrictions should be set up by the IT department to limit users in accessing the organization’s data to avoid tampering with confidential information or causing system crushes.
There should also be guidelines on installation of programs to avoid jamming the system memory which in itself causes system failures.
According to Hewlett-Packard computer manufacturing company, one of the most recognized suppliers of IT equipment, the following are some of the most common user queries and suggested solutions.
1. I think I have a virus! What should I do?
Some symptoms of virus infection include unusual errors or weird pop-up messages, slow system performance, frequent program crashes, or applications that won’t open.
If you experience any of these, run a virus scanner to determine if you do indeed have a virus. The program should either automatically remove the virus, or can instruct you on how to do so.
2. What is a cookie?
A cookie is a small bit of information that is deposited on the hard drive of your computer by websites that you visit. Cookies help the website to “remember” who you are, and to deliver content that matches your needs and interests.
3. What is the easiest way to back up data?
For small amounts of data, use a USB memory stick, which plugs right into your PC. You might also consider burning your data to CD or DVD.
For larger amounts of data, you may want to invest in a second hard drive, or investigate online storage services. If you have Windows Vista®, you can use the Windows® Backup and Restore feature.
4. What is the best way to create strong passwords?
Try creating an algorithm. For example, combine your spouse’s initials with your child’s birthday and then add the first three letters of the website you’re creating the password for. So if you’re creating a password for Amazon, it might look something like this: RMW011202Ama.
Remember, simple passwords like one word names are easy to crack and the last thing you want is someone prying on your private information!
5. Why is my computer running so slowly?
The most likely culprit is spyware. Run an anti-virus/anti-spyware program to detect and remove it. You also may just have a single program that is hogging all your memory. Check your Windows Task Manager to find out.
A good way to understand what is eating your memory is to search the Internet for more information on the “Image Names” of the processes using the most memory.
Sometimes, large files can be broken up across your hard drive, which can slow down your computer when it tries to read them. To fix this, run a tool in Windows called Disk Defragmenter.
6. How can I cut down on all this spam e-mail I am getting?
This one is easy: make sure the e-mail service you’re using offers spam filters, and ensure that they are turned on. It may not keep all the spam out of your inbox, but it should dramatically reduce it.
7. Desktop PC vs. notebook PC: which should I buy?
The primary advantage of notebooks is obvious: they’re portable and use less power than their fixed counterparts. Otherwise, there are several reasons to choose desktops: they’re cheaper to upgrade and repair, more ergonomic, less likely to be stolen, and have a better price-to-power ratio, meaning that a cheap desktop generally has the power of an expensive notebook.
8. My computer shows an error message that says I’m low on disk space. What to do?
There are three options. The easiest is to simply delete unnecessary files and programs. Use the Windows Add/Remove programs tool to get rid of anything you might have installed that you are no longer using.
Media files like videos and music take up a lot of space too, so consider burning them to CD or DVD and then deleting them from your hard drive.
If you don’t want to delete any files, you’ll need to get more disk space by either adding an extra hard drive or upgrading your existing one.
9. What is a firewall, and do I really need one?
The answer to this is short and simple: yes, you need one! A firewall protects your PC and your network from unwanted intruders.
10. Should I turn off my PC at night or leave it running?
Neither! A better solution than either option is to set your PC to “hibernate”.
To do this, go to your Control Panel, click on Power Options, and set your PC to “hibernate” after a specified time. This will power-down your monitor to about 5 watts of energy and your PC to 2.3 watts – virtually the same as if it were completely turned off, but ready to be used again at short notice.
Other common problems that keep recurring in the office involve jamming of computer accessories and hardware like printers and faxes, knowing when to replace computer periphery like mouse and keyboard as well as powering on the machine.
Fortunately all these items are packaged with user manuals that give instructions on their installation and maintance which should be read properly by the user prior to use. It all depends on how eager you are to plug in your machine and start working!
Watch out for the next article on printer installation and troubleshooting.