Troubleshooting Computers and Networks: Essential Tip

I've had a most interesting Thanksgiving holiday – and I hope you have too. Of all my experiences I thought I'd share an insider's trip for troubleshooting your computer / network.

Whether you are a computer geek or a computer user who knows nothing more than how to turn on your machine, you're going to have your share of problems with your PC. Technology isn't perfect, after all. And troubleshooting is not an exact science. invariably troubleshooting will test your patience. Before you throw your computer out the window in desperation, check out my most recent experience….

Lessons Learned:

Not all problems can be resolved by talking with one help-desk technician.

When all else fails and you've checked out all the obvious causes of a malfunction consider the possibility that the answer is right there staring you in the face…. daring you to find it.

Never assume that you have to replace your computer or reinstall your operating system – until you've checked out all other possibilities. Of course, it's easier to just replace what you can't fix but it sure can be an unnecessarily pricey solution if you don't exhaust all other options.

For best results, you need to be pro-active in the troubleshooting process.

And, always, always…appreciate those technicians who care enough to give their very best service.

The specifics of my experience aren't nearly as important as the lessons learned. They can be applied to 99$ of the glitches you'll run into in the normal course of working with computer technology.

The Back Story

I've been using AT&T for my DSL service and have it setup to work with wireless so that I can get VOIP phone service. Just to clarify for those who are not computer savvy. DSL is the line/service I have to the internet. It allows for both a phone connection and internet connection on the same phone line…If one half works then the other half should too, unless it's specifically blocked.

My computer started going crazy about a week ago: It lost its ip address and wouldn't automatically update correctly, It had  abysmal speeds on up-load and download. First attempt was to take my computer back to the store/computer technician who sold this machine to me. He wanted to reinstall Windows! Oh, my! Definitely not! I consider that the absolute last ditch step akin to cutting off your arm to get rid of a hangnail..

I took my computer home and on the advice of a fellow computer geek (We met while working on helpdesk at Gateway some time back), I ran a System Restore! Wallah!! The ip address issue was resolved… but the upload/download problem was still there – and getting worse.

I called AT&T and explained that I was talking on my VOIP phone and that my DSL modem, wireless router and computer all said that they was working correctly…but still I couldn't get proper upload and download speeds on the DSL service. The technician insisted that my VOIP/Linksys was the culprit and told me that I should get rid of the Linksys modem I was using or call Vonage to get the problem resolved.

The Vonage technician spent considerable time trying to resolve the problems but had no luck. He told me that I'd need a new device to work with the VOIP phone (they no longer use Linksys) He promised to send it directly. OK, I decided, I could wait for that. 

When the device arrived the night before Thanksgiving, I set it up. It was really quite easy to do . It just required swapping out one cable and re-connecting a second one. With every expectation of success, and being back in business, I went ahead and tested everything out.

The phone worked perfectly….but wait!  I still had those horrible readings on the upload/download speeds for the internet. Nothing had changed! Grrrr!!

Well, I'm not about to just "live with it" so I called Vonage. The new tech did everything he could think of to isolate the problem . In desperation he told me I'd probably need to go back to AT&T for their help. I explained that they had already told  me this issue results from the Vonage equipment and that would be a losing proposition to call them again.


Well, that Vonage Tech surprised me! He went far and beyond the norm in helping to resolve these kinds of problems. He set up a conference call with the AT&T Technician and me right then and there. The three of us, reviewed everything again, with no luck….Both the DSL modem, the Vonage device and my computer all indicated that they were functioning perfectly to maximum capacity.


The AT&T Tech said it looked like this might be a problem with my computer. And then we started thinking outside the box….Nic card? Now I don't know a NIC card from a wombat but this didn't sound good to me. Surely we could look for something less foreboding?  After all, the computer diagnostics said this card was working perfectly. The phone was working perfectly so we were sure that the Vonage device and the DSL modem were doing what they were supposed to do.

Then, on a whim, I asked what else might possibly cause this behavior. Could it be the cable from the device to my computer? Woah! none of us had thought of that. There would have been no reason check this possibility earlier in the troubleshooting sequence and, frankly, . But there it is….

I disconnected that cable (the one from the Vonage Device to my computer and replaced it with another I had on hand. Bingo!

The three of us were absolutely amazed that it could have been something as simple as this…But there it was.

Again, it's not nearly as important to understand all the details of my experience, or that you are comfortable with technology. The point here is, troubleshooting is not an exact science. When you have a problem, think about all the various pieces you're dealing with…all the cables, computer and devices set up to it,  Any one piece – no matter how small – can seriously affect your experiences. Methodically go through the process of elimination starting with the simplest options first. Leave the quick fixes including reloading Windows, buying new equipment for last – resort to those only after you've exhausted all other options. 

Now that I think of it, I wonder how many perfectly good computers are being used for door stops or have ended up in our landfills because someone failed to thoroughly troubleshoot. . 

Author: 7577JMM

Retired - Published Author, Editor, Webmistress, Artist, Musician