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Common Computer Problems and Fixes
Common Computer Problems And Fixes
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Computer won't start
Printer won't print
Scanner won't scan
Mouse not mousing well
Mouse not mousing at all
Keyboard not keyboarding
Computer takes a long time to start up or you have low resources
Computer won't shut down
How to get help - where to look
A good cleanout - often fixes everything
Installing - reinstalling drivers

Push, jiggle, jab (whatever) the on/off switch. Sometimes they get dirty or just plain old.
Check to see if it is plugged in - at the wall, the surge protector (if you have one) and the back of the computer.
Plug something else in the wall outlet to see if there is power there.
Check the plugs to see if they are bent - not making good contact in the sockets.
Listen to the computer. It might be on and the trouble is with the monitor.
If the computer is on but the screen is blank, check to see if the monitor is turned on - all plugs are securely plugged in. If all is on, check the settings on the monitor - contrast, brightness.

Is it turned on? If so, turn it off then back on.
Checked all AC plugs from the wall to the printer and anything in between.
Check the cord from the computer to the printer. Jiggle the connectors gently to see if they are firmly seated.
Is there paper in the printer? If so, is it feeding properly?
Is there any paper jammed in the printer?
Are the ink cartridges empty?
Turn the printer off and shut down the computer. Re-boot and turn the printer on. Try the printer again.
Click "Start" - "Settings" - "Printers". Make sure that the printer is the Default Printer.
In Printer Settings, make sure that there is not already a printing job in progress that shows an error.
Test your printer communications. If you don't know how, check the documentation that came with your printer or, in the programs menu (click "Start" - "Programs" then your printer software listing), there should be a "Help" or "Read Me" listing.
Re-install your printer software.
Go to the printer manufacture's homepage and download the printer driver (little program that makes it work) for your printer. You can probably find their site by typing "www.(name of company).com" in your browser's address field. If not, find the homepage by typing the name of your printer in your browser's search field and look for the company's homepage. Look around in the site and you will find the driver for your specific printer and your operating system (Windows 95/98/XP, etc.). Download and install the driver. Restart your computer and try the printer again.
You will probably need "Winzip" to unzip and install the driver. Get it at "". Download the evaluation copy for this (it will work) but if you think you will need Winzip in the future (if you download a lot of things) you should pay for it.

Basically, do the same things that apply to a printer that won't print (plugs, cords, test communications, driver, re-install, etc.) except for paper and ink stuff.
Make sure that whatever you are scanning is inserted properly (right side up, etc.).
Often, the scanner is working but is putting the scan where you can't find it. Check your documentation to see how to set it to put your scans where you can find them.

Remove the round thing on the bottom that holds the ball in and take the ball out. Wash the ball with soap and water. Notice the 3 rollers inside the mouse. They probably have crud (a computer term meaning crap) on them. Scrap it off so that the rollers are clean. Put the ball back in (dry it first) and replace the cover. Wow, works great now, huh?

Shut down the computer. Unplug the mouse and plug it back in. Restart the computer.
Right-click the "My Computer" icon your Desktop. In the menu that appears choose "Properties". Look in the "Device Manager" for "Mouse". If there is a yellow exclamation point beside it you will probably have to re-install the mouse driver (see for driver installation or reinstallation for all peripharals)
If you have recently installed or re-installed hardware, especially a scanner, you may have an IRQ conflict (we are not going into that here - email me for this one).

Shut down the computer. Unplug the keyboard and plug it back in. Restart the computer.
Take it apart and wash it with mild soap and water...really. Do not wash anything that looks electronic (there's hardly anything in there like that). Make sure it's good and dry before putting it back together.
Buy a new keyboard...they're cheap.

Click "Start", then "Run".
In the "Open" field type "msconfig" and click "OK".
The utility that opens will have "Tabs" at the top. Click the one that reads "Startup".
You will see a list of all the programs that run when you start Windows. They will have check marks in the boxes to their left. We do not want them all to start.
Remove all the check marks (by clicking on them) except the ones beside "SystemTray" and "ScanRegistry". Also leave a check mark in anything that has the name of, or abbreviation of, your antivirus program or anything that looks like it might apply to "Norton" products.
Click "OK" at the bottom. You will be asked if you want to re-start your computer - do it.

Click "Start" then "Run" In open, type "msconfig." When the System Configuration Utility appears, click "Advanced." Put a check mark in "Disable Fast Shutdown. That usually fixes it.
Go through the same procedure as in "COMPUTER TAKES A LONG TIME etc." This will minimize the number of programs that Windows has to close before shutting down.

If you have access to the Internet open your browser (the page that lets you search) and type some words that pertain to your problem in the "Search" field. You should find numerous websites that offer help on your specific problem. You may have to try different combinations of search terms before finding what you need.

Try using your browser to find the homepages of the manufacturers
of your computer or peripherals (just type the name of the stuff you're having trouble with) and check their "Customer Support links" for information and troubleshooting.
Not quite sure what some computer terms mean? Check out Basic Computer Terms

Sometimes, you can search forever for a complicated solution to a annoying or disabling problem that can be solved simply by taking out the trash. Seriously, it's amazing how bound up your computer can become from daily use. When you can't find the answer, try the following. Do this before you email me because it's the first thing I will tell you to do.

Uninstall every program that you don't use very often (never! ever! delete a program). Goto: "Start" then "Settings" then "Control Panel" and choose "Add/Remove Programs. Uninstall them from there. When you have finished, restart your machine.

Delete all your Temporary Internet Files. Don't do this from
Internet Explorer. Do it from Windows Explorer. Goto: "Start" then "Programs" then "Windows Explorer." In the left panel, click the little plus sign beside "C" if it is not already clicked and showing a minus sign - meaning it is alread open (probably will be). Scroll down to "Windows" and click the word not the plus sign. The Windows files will all open in the right panel. Find  the "Temporary Internet Files" and double-click it. When it opens, go to the top-left of the screen and click "Edit." In the menu that appears click "Select All." All of the files in the right panel will turn blue. Place your mouse pointer somewhere on the blue color and right-click. In the menu that appears choose "Delete." It will ask you if you're sure you want to delete them - click "Hell yes." They will go away. Close everything.

Now goto: "Start" then "Find" then "Files or Folders." When the "Find: All files" window opens, make sure that "C" or "Local Drive"
(you get the idea) appears in the "Look in" field. In the "Named" field, type "*.tmp" - that's an asterisk - a dot - and the characters t m p. Click "Find Now." When it has finished searching, go to the top-left of the screen and click "Edit." In the menu that appears choose "Select All." All the files will turn blue. Right click them and delete them.

Scroll back up this page and do what it says under "COMPUTER TAKES A LONG TIME TO START." This fixes a world of problems.
Click here and scroll down to the "free stuff." The downloads there will help you keep clean in the future.

For driver installation - reinstallation see

Last modified November 07 2003 09:23 AM

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