Aug 282011
 

Here are the top 10 most common problems (and mistakes!) we find on home user computers – and how you can fix or avoid them:

1. No Backup Of Important Files – Our number one bugbear but sadly the least common issue raised by many home users who don’t see the need – until it’s too late. Important documents, priceless pictures, huge music collections and vital emails may be stored on the computer hard drive which is a mechanical and electrical device. When it dies completely (and it is when, not if) everything stored on it is gone for good.

How long do hard drives last? In our experience the average is only about 3 – 5 years (less for laptops) but that is an average – a hard drive can fail after just a few days or weeks – don’t assume you are somehow protected because your computer is quite new. To avoid becoming an unlucky victim, see the best way to backup a hard drive – remember to do it regularly as an out of date backup is not much better than none at all.

2. Slow Computer – The number one complaint by home users but often very easy to fix! The most common reasons for a slow computer are too little memory (RAM) and too many programs installed to start up automatically with Windows. See how to speed up a slow computer.

3. Virus Infection – No antivirus software is 100% effective at preventing virus infection so the more viruses your computer encounters, the more likely it is that at least one virus will ‘get through’ and infect it. Modern viruses are becoming incredibly clever and can spread very quickly through social media (like the recent Facebook virus) – it is more and more difficult to safely remove them all.

By far the best solution is to avoid encountering viruses in the first place! See how to avoid virus infections.

4. Windows Out Of Date – Home computers often have versions of Windows that are well out of date – people are afraid of updating them in case they ‘break’ something. However, monthly Windows updates can add new functionality and performance improvements and also provide many security updates to help protect your computer and your data.

Follow our guide to keep Windows up to date automatically. Automatic updates may not work fully until your computer has the latest Service Pack (SP) – a large collection of these updates bundled into a single ‘pack’. Windows require your intervention to install a Service Pack so you will need to check and update Windows service packs if necessary.

5. Laptop Accidental Damage – Three golden rules for laptops – avoid alcohol, pets and children 😉 Laptops that live hard lives are easily damaged:

  • Broken screen (someone stood on it) – one for the repair shop but can be very expensive (up to $150+) to fix. If the laptop is more than 3 years old it may make more economic sense to buy a new laptop and sell the old one for spares/repair – see what to do before disposing of a computer.
  • Broken power jack (the ‘barrel’ socket in the laptop where you plug the power lead into) – easily broken if the power lead end is bent or knocked whilst plugged into the socket. One for the repair shop but can be expensive ($100) to fix. Best advice is to be very careful – don’t push/pull too hard on the adapter, avoid bumping the lead on your knee/furniture, don’t drop the laptop and don’t pull on the cable.
  • Faulty keyboard or touchpad (someone knocked a drink over it) – maybe another one for the repair shop, can also be expensive ($100) to fix. Alternatively you could just plug in a USB keyboard and/or mouse and use that instead if portability isn’t an issue.

6. Email Set Up – Every time you change broadband to a new supplier you usually receive a new email account. Some people are even put off changing their broadband supplier because they think it will be too difficult to set up the new email – it doesn’t have to be. See how to set up a new email account.

7. Non-Windows Programs Out Of Date – It is vital that other programs are updated for increased security, stability and performance. Prime examples (and responsible for most web vulnerabilities) are Adobe’s Flash Player, Reader, Shockwave Player and Oracle’s Java. Keeping track of all the new versions can be a nightmare but Filehippo’s Update Checker makes it all easy by checking for new versions automatically – it covers all these free web programs and hundreds more.

8. Dead PC – No power to a PC is often due to the internal power supply failing – replacement in a standard sized tower is quite easy and cheap. Unfortunately a power supply can sometimes fail in a spectacular way and take out the motherboard too (we have seen dead power supplies which left scorch marks on the motherboard and a plume of smoke – eek!)

Unless you have a spare power supply to pop in and test, it may be worth leaving diagnosis to the repair shop – sometimes a faulty power supply can still power up the computer’s lights and CD drives but not be able to start up the PC itself.

9. Router Set Up – Setting up a (wireless) router is not hard but can take a bit of configuring – see how to set up a wireless router to make sure you apply good security and don’t let nosy neighbors use your internet.

10. Printer Problems – Physical problems with an inkjet printer (e.g. rollers don’t pull the paper through cleanly) may cost more for a repair shop to look at than just buying a new printer… The most common software problem we see with printers is where documents are not printing because they are stuck in the print queue which is easy to fix.