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How To Fix Common Computer Problems

Updated: Aug 7, 2022

Computer problems are a common cause of much frustration and panic. You might not know where to start or what the problem is. This article will help you to learn how to fix common computer problems 6 times faster than before. There are many reasons why computers may stop working correctly, but there are also a number of solutions that can be followed so that you can get your computer up and running again in no time at all!

How to Fix a Computer

You're here because you got a virus, something is broken on your computer and you can't figure out how to get it fixed. You'll be surprised to learn "how to fix computer problems" is one of the top search terms.

1. Run a thorough virus scan

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It’s obvious, but it’s effective: Fire up your virus-scanning software, launch the deepest and most thorough scan available, and leave it to do its work. Note that the most comprehensive type of scan (which looks at the most files and takes the longest time to complete) may not be the scan that your computer is set to run by default, so check the program settings to see what’s available. You’ll also want to make sure your scanner is up to date first, so it can catch the most recent wave of bad code.A lot of antivirus developers make lightweight, on-demand scanners you can install alongside your main security software. These applications like Kaspersky Security Scan for Windows or macOS, or Microsoft Safety Scanner for Windows, or Emsisoft Emergency Kit for Windows are light on system resources, and can help you clean up and speed up your computer with minimal fuss. For example, if your computer takes a performance dive and slows down inexplicably — even after you’ve uninstalled suspect programs and cleared out the clutter of recently-used apps that have memory leaks or suspect startup items — you don’t want to wait around an hour or more for your antivirus to scan your entire system. Google warns even the most seasoned users that it might make sense to have an additional antivirus program on hand for times like these.This can be one of the most overlooked solutions to a system problem. If your computer is running slowly, threatening to crash every time you turn it on, or simply acting weird, there may be an infection present. Having a competent antivirus program will allow you to check for threats without slowing down or affecting the functionality of your computer. If problems are found and patches are issued, your antivirus software knows how to remove them. If none are found, then it’s likely that something else is causing your issues.

2. Update your software

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To protect yourself, and others, from harmful computer problems such as ransomware and glitches, always keep your software—especially your operating system—up to date. On Windows you can check for updates by opening Settings, then clicking Update & security; on macOS, launch the App Store from the dock or the Applications screen in Finder, then switch to the Updates tab. Make sure you apply any updates that are pending.It’s important to check for updates to your other applications, including your web browser and your antivirus program; many of these can be set to update automatically. The update feature should be fairly prominent in any app; if not, check its built-in help options for instructions. After applying all the updates, your issues should be fixed. If they are, maintain this process to prevent future problems in addition to fixing existing ones. Make sure as many of your installed applications are updating themselves automatically in the background, and you'll run into fewer computer issues as a result.

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3. Cut down on the bloat

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If you’ve noticed your computer is running more slowly, crashing at odd times, or showing some other kind of buggy behavior, it might be that it’s simply creaking under the weight of all the software you’ve got installed. You can uninstall applications you no longer need from the Apps section of Settings in Windows, or by dragging an app shortcut into the trash on macOS. Some macOS apps can be removed from the Launchpad by clicking and holding on an icon until it shakes, then clicking the X icon. The same goes for your computer—having too many extensions and add-ons can lead to a serious slowdown or some erratic behavior, so limit your extensions to the ones you actually need and use. In Google Chrome, click the three dots in the top right, and go to More Tools, then Extensions; in Firefox choose Add-ons from the main app menu; and in Microsoft Edge, choose Extensions from the main app menu.

4. Test your Wi-Fi connection

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It's pretty easy to troubleshoot internet problems. If possible, plug your laptop or desktop computer directly into your router with an Ethernet cable. If you still don't get internet, and nothing connected to Wi-Fi is getting internet (like phones and tablets), then the problem may lie with your router hardware or your internet service provider. If that's the case, your best option is to get on the phone with the company and ask for assistance.If some devices can get online and others can't, that points to problems with those specific devices. If your computer can get online when plugged directly into the router but not when it’s browsing over Wi-Fi, check your Wi-Fi network's settings. We've written before about getting the strongest possible signal around your house, but if that doesn't get you anywhere, reboot your router and dive into its on-board settings—a quick web search based on the router's make and model should surface some information about troubleshooting tricks you can try.

5. Reinstall the operating system

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Reinstalling Windows or macOS and starting from scratch is a more extreme version of the “cut down on the bloat” solution we mentioned above. Reinstalling will erase troublesome programs, erase viruses and types of malware, reset your internet connection settings, and give you a blank slate. You’ll want to make sure that you have all your data backed up before starting the reinstallation process. If you have a Mac, hold the power button until the startup options window appears. Choose Option, then hit Continue. If you have an Intel processor, turn on your Mac and continue to hold Cmd+R to launch the Utilities program (more here). Then follow the installer’s instructions by setting your system back to square one, which is theoretically wiping away whatever was causing the issue you’re having, though there’s no guarantee it will work. You’ll also need to consider the hassle of getting all your applications and files back on the system afterwards, so it’s not a good choice for everyone in every situation. In our experience though, it has worked well for a lot of computer ills. Although we can't promise that these five tips will solve every problem you're having, they may enable you to rule out a few basic possibilities as far as root causes go. We're not trying to diminish the importance of your local PC repair shop—which should be your next port of call if your computer's still having trouble after trying these tips.

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