Here are the top 10 most common home user computer problems (and mistakes!) I find – and how you can fix or avoid them:
1. No Backup Of Important Files
The number one issue I see affecting home users. But sadly it’s also an issue that many people ignore as they just don’t see the need – until it’s too late…
Important documents, priceless pictures, huge music collections and vital emails may all be stored on the computer hard drive – which is both a mechanical and electronic device. When it dies completely (and it is a matter of when, not if) everything stored on it is gone, for good.
How long do hard drives last? In my experience the average is only about 3 – 5 years (less for laptops) but that is an average – a hard drive may fail after just a few days or weeks – so don’t assume you are somehow ‘protected’ if your computer is quite new…
To avoid becoming an unlucky victim, see the best way to backup files on a hard drive – remember to do it regularly as a very out of date backup may not be much better than none at all.
2. Slow Computer
This is the number one complaint by home users but can often be quite easy to fix.
Apart from hardware issues, the most common reasons I see for a slow computer are too little memory (RAM) and too many programs installed, especially those which 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 a Facebook virus) – it is becoming more and more difficult to safely remove them all.
So 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 Windows Out Of Date
Home computers often have versions of Windows that are well out of date – people may be afraid of updating them in case they ‘break’ something.
However, monthly Windows updates may add new functionality, offer performance improvements and also provide many security updates to help protect your computer and your data.
Follow my 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 requires 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…) is a job 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 an old computer.
Or, you could use the laptop as a PC by connecting it to a spare monitor/TV using the VGA or HDMI socket and ignore the broken screen – add a USB keyboard and mouse too so you can move the laptop out of the way.
- Broken power jack (the ‘barrel’ socket in the laptop where you plug the power lead into) – very easily broken if the power lead is bent or knocked whilst plugged into this socket.
Another job for the repair shop but can be quite 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 job 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 and switch to using it. But it doesn’t have to be hard – 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 many 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 App Manager makes it all easy by checking for new versions automatically – it covers all the free web programs mentioned above 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 – I have seen dead power supplies which left scorch marks on the motherboard and a cloud of smoke, eek!
Unless you have a spare power supply handy to pop in and test, it may be worth leaving diagnosis to a repair shop – sometimes a faulty power supply can still power up the computer’s lights and CD drive but still not be able to start up the PC itself.
9. WiFi Router Set Up
Setting up a (wireless) router is not hard but it 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 a cheap inkjet printer (e.g. rollers that don’t pull the paper through cleanly) may cost more for a repair shop to look at than just buying a new printer…
But the most common software problem I see with printers is where documents are not printing because one is stuck in the print queue which is very easy to fix.