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What steps should you take before calling tech support?

What steps should you take before calling tech support?

  • If you're having software problems, do you usually attempt to troubleshoot before you call tech support? Are there any steps you take that you've found particularly helpful in resolving or at least diagnosing the problem? Are there any online resources you've found useful for this as well?

    If you're arriving at this thread through the Community forums, be sure to check out TechSoup's article Eleven Tips for Troubleshooting Software, which outlines basic steps you can take before calling tech support. Have anything to add to the article, or questions about any of the tips? Share your feedback here.
    senior editor, TechSoup
  • As the "computer guy" at work, I get all the questions, so I am looking at this from the other direction. I apologize in advance if this is not the direction that you intended this thread to go, but with the dearth of responses so far I figured any direction would be welcome!

    From my point of view, there is a fine line between providing responses such as "Don't touch it yourself or you will just make it harder for me to fix it" and "RTFM... Read the freakin' manual". Both responses have their place.

    I take different approaches with different users once I am able to determine their skill set... or lack thereof. Since our organization overwhelmingly uses standard applications and fairly recent hardware, I can just about bet that the problem lies somewhere between the chair and the keyboard.

    It is pretty well established around my organization that 99.7% of computer problems are actually people problems, so psychology goes further than my technical skill in "fixing" the issues. I often find myself leafing through my 25 years of experience searching for ways to explain to the end user that the wireless mouse needs a new battery. Again, good people skills go further in explaining to the end user that they look for this kind of thing before calling me.

    That is not to suggest that all of the problems are I D 10 T errors, but signs usually point to operator error rather than hardware or software related issues.

    Now, depending on which type of problem (hardware, software or operator), the support approach needs to differ. I don't want my unskilled users attempting to fix hardware issues. When they do that, it makes my job harder, and leaves me out of the loop with regard to repair logs on hardware that may very well be under warranty. I dont want end users "breaking the seal" on the hardware and voiding any warranty.

    Software problems are a different story. I need to discourage people from asking me how to do such things as sort columns in Excel. As such, I refer people to my library of "Learn your job so I don't have to for Dummies" books. This is different than fixing the problem for them. If I fix the problem, it encourages them to come back to me for every little question. By providing a resource for the answer, I am still helping, while keeping my time commitment reasonable. It is also beneficial to the organization when the employee learns a thing or three about Excel.

    I could go on and on, but I just got a call from an end user with a poorly performing mouse. When I suggested that the mouse ball might be dirty and need cleaning, they got a little apprehensive. I guess I better go...

    Tim Claremont
    Systems Administrator
    Rochester, NY

  • Restarting the computer covers a multitude of sins.

    I've told people to try restarting the computer once -- that may correct a lot of common quirks. If, after a restart, the problem is still there, then give me a call.
  • I concur with rebooting the PC. That is an amazingly successful cure.

    Also, try it a second time before calling to see if it occurs again. (If it only occurs once and you can't make it fail again, how am I supposed to figure it out?)That solves a multitude of problems caused by the "interface between the chair and the computer".


    Free case management software for food pantries/emergency services 501(c)(3) organizations. See:

  • Tip number 12 - use and install only software that you really need - don't install an editor with support of XML documents editing if all that you need can Windows notepad too.
  • If all else fails, replace the computer with an Etch A Sketch. When it comes time to reboot, just hold it over your head and shake it.

    Tim Claremont
    Systems Administrator
    Rochester, NY