One of the ongoing mysteries that all Windows users
experience at one time or another is what might be called the “now you
see it, now you don’t” problem. This is a glitch that plagues you for a
while and then mysteriously vanishes without any intervention on your
part. (This also tends to occur when you ask a nearby user or someone
from the IT department to look at the problem. Like the automotive
problem that goes away when you take the car to a mechanic, computer
problems will often resolve themselves as soon as a knowledgeable user
sits down at the keyboard.) When this happens, most people just shake
their heads and resume working, grateful to no longer have to deal with
computer ills aren’t resolved so easily. For these more intractable
problems, your first order of business is to track down the source of
the glitch. This is, at best, a black art, but it can be done if you
take a systematic approach. Over the years, I’ve found that the best
approach is to ask a series of questions designed to gather the required
information or to narrow down what might be the culprit. The next few
sections take you through these questions.
Did You Get an Error Message?
computer error messages are obscure and do little to help you resolve a
problem directly. However, error codes and error text can help you down
the road, either by giving you something to search for in an online
database or by providing information to a tech support person. Therefore, you should always write down the full text of any error message that appears.
If the error message is
lengthy and you can still use other programs on your computer, don’t
bother writing down the full message. Instead, while the message is
displayed, press Print Screen to place an image of the current screen on
the clipboard. Then open Paint or some other graphics program, paste
the screen into a new image, and save the image. If you think you’ll be
sending the image via email to a tech support employee or someone else
that can help with the problem, consider saving the image as a
monochrome or 16-color bitmap or, if possible, a JPEG file, to keep the
image size small.
If the error message
appears before Windows 7 starts, but you don’t have time to write it
down, press the Pause Break key to pause the startup. After you record
the error, press Ctrl+Pause Break to resume the startup.
Does an Error or Warning Appear in the Event Viewer Logs?
Launch the Event Viewer, open the Windows Logs branch, and then examine the Application and System logs. In particular, look in the
Level column for Error or Warning events. If you see any, double-click
each one to read the event description. Figure 1 shows an example.
Figure 1. In the Event Viewer, look for Error and Warning events in the Application and System logs.