How to solve the most common tech support problems yourself.

Try this first

I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but before you do anything else, restart your computer. Technical support says that most of his customers solve their problems with this simple step.

 Regularly checking for operating system updates is important, because forgetting to do so could significantly impair your PC’s performance.

While you’re at it, make sure that your operating system is fully updated by running Windows Update. Neglecting updates could deprive you of important bug and performance fixes.

If you’re having problems with a peripheral, try switching it on and off. If that doesn’t work, try disconnecting and reconnecting the device. As a last resort, download the latest drivers and perform a full reinstall.

My computer is too slow

The first step to fixing a slow computer is to verify that your machine is the actual source of the problem. Videos that seem to buffer forever, and websites that take ages to load, may not be your computer’s fault. Many people mistakenly identify a slow system as the problem when “it’s actually not the computer, [but] their broadband connection.”

If the problem is your PC, check whether you have plenty of free space on the hard drive holding your operating system. Windows needs room to create files while your system is running. If your hard drive is maxed out, performance suffers. Now is the perfect time to clear some space. Open your Control Panel and run “Programs and Features” (Windows). Look through the list of installed applications and remove anything you don’t need (usually, if it says it’s by Microsoft you should leave it installed). You can also download “Revo Uninstaller” from various websites (Google it). Spend time uninstalling many of the apps you don’t use. Most of the time this will speed up slow computers.

 

Pop-up ads are appearing on my desktop

If you’re not running your Web browser and are still getting pop-up ads on your desktop, you’ve most likely installed adware—a program that displays unwanted ads. Although benevolent adware exists, most of the time adware is up to no good. Getting rid of it isn't easy. “There’s a ton of little system-utility tools out there that promise to clean up everything, with names like PC Speed-up, PC Speed Pro, PC Speedifier,” “A lot of times those programs are not going to do much. Some programs will work, others are snake oil.”

Instead, use a trustworthy adware scanner like the free version of Malwarebyte, Adwcleaner or JRT. Another great one is the AVG rescue disk, but this software must be burned to a CD or a USB thumb drive.

If all else fails, there’s always the nuclear option: a complete system reinstall. It might take a long time, but it’s the only sure-fire way to remove adware or spyware. Remember to back up all your personal files.

Google doesn’t look right

Browser hijackers are a particularly nasty breed of malware. Such programs take over your Web browser and can stealthily redirect your Google searches and other queries to fake pages meant to steal your personal information or to further infect your system.

Running a real-time antivirus utility is the best way to stay safe. If your browser has already been hijacked, uninstall the browser and use your antivirus program in conjunction with Malwarebytes to remove the intruder.  In many cases, doing this automatically using removal tool may fail. In this case, we suggest you go to a site such as “bleepingcomputer.com”, become a member, read the instructions for new users, and post a new thread asking for help.

 

I keep seeing ‘There is a problem with this website’s security certificate’

Sometimes the biggest problems have the easiest fixes. According to support technicians, the lion’s share of issues are due to an incorrect system clock.

Website security certificates sync up with your computer’s clock. Old computers in particular run the risk of having a dead CMOS battery—the watch battery in your computer that keeps its system clock ticking. Click the clock in the system tray and select Change date and time settings to correct any issues.

 

My printer won’t print

Let’s assume that your printer’s drivers are up-to-date, and that it has enough paper and ink or toner to print. Try turning the printer off and on. Unplug the printer and plug it back in. Check your printer’s print queue by looking for the printer icon in Devices and Printers, and double-clicking it. The print queue shows you the status of each job as well as the general status of your printer. Empty the queue by canceling each job.  Ensure that ‘Use Printer Offline’ isn’t checked. Sometimes, printing while your printer is turned off can cause Windows to set your printer to work offline, and that can stall jobs sent later.

Check to make sure your desired printer is set to be the default printer (the driver icon should have a check mark on it). Lastly, check the printer properties and make sure you are using the correct port. If your printer is a network printer, it will use an IP address as the port. You need to check and make sure the IP address in the printer is the same as the address in the driver. Do this by checking the printer’s menu for network settings, and find tcp settings, and look for the IP address. Compare it to the one listed in your printer driver. If they are not the same, consult your printer user’s manual and change the IP address to match the printer driver. Also make sure, in the tcp and IP settings for your printer, you turn DHCP off, auto off, and select IP address to MANUAL. If you don’t do this, the next time the printer powers off and back on, it may change the IP address again.

 

I can’t open email attachments

If you have ever encountered an attachment that you couldn’t open, it was probably because you didn’t have the software necessary to view the file.

The usual suspect is the .pdf file, for which you can download a free PDF reader such as Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat. If your problem involves a different file format, a quick search on the attachment’s file extension (the three letters after the period in the filename) should tell you what type of program you need. Common ones are .doc for Microsoft Word, and .xls for Microsoft Excel which are both a part of Microsoft Office. If the attachment lacks a file extension (which might happen if it was renamed), adding it back should set things right.