5 Simple Fixes for Most Computer Problems

Try these ideas before you pay for computer service (and you may not have to!)

You may have already decided that the computer problem you're dealing with is too hard to fix yourself, or at least not something you're interested in spending your time doing.

We'd argue that you should almost always try to fix your own computer problem, but it's understandable if you're just completely against it. No hard feelings.

However, before you call tech support, or run off to the computer repair shop, we get one more shot to convince you to at least try something before you pay someone else for help.

Having worked in the computer service industry for years, I'm very familiar with the simple things that most people overlook, things that could completely eliminate the need to have a computer worked on at all.

You could quite literally save hundreds of dollars, and an equally valuable amount of frustration, by following some of the really easy things below.

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Restart Your Computer

finger pressing power button on computer
Suwan Waenlor/Shutterstock

It's a long-running joke that the only thing tech support folks know how to do is tell people to restart their computers.

I've had the displeasure of working with a few "professionals" that might have inspired that joke, but please don't overlook this extraordinarily simple step.

More times than you'd believe, I'd visit a customer's home or business, listen to a long story about an issue, and then simply restart the computer to fix the problem.

Contrary to accounts otherwise, I don't have a magic touch. Computers sometimes encounter very temporary issues that a restart, which clears its memory and reruns processes, solves (here's why).

Make sure you restart your computer at least one time before scheduling computer repair with anyone. The problem, assuming it's of a certain nature, might simply go away.

If the computer problem you're having means that restarting properly isn't possible, powering off and then back on accomplishes the same thing. This same technique is recommended for basically any other tech device, like phones, TVs, and printers.

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Clear Your Browser's Cache

A delete button close up picture of a keyboard
Filograph / Getty Images

Yet another joke, albeit a more recent one, is that clearing your browser's cache, that collection of recently visited pages that's saved to your computer's hard drive, is the fix for all possible internet problems.

That's certainly an exaggeration—clearing cache won't fix every broken website or internet related problem—but it is often helpful.

Clearing the cache is very easy to do. Every browser has a straightforward method for doing so, even if it's hidden a few layers deep in a menu.

If you have any sort of internet related issue, especially if it's impacting only certain pages, be sure to clear the cache before taking your computer in for service.

While most browsers refer to cache as cache, some call this collection of saved pages Temporary Internet Files.

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Scan for Viruses & Other Malware

Photo of a virus indication key on a computer keyboard
© Steven Puetzer / The Image Bank / Getty Images

No doubt, scanning for a virus infection was the first thing that came to mind if a virus or other malicious program (collectively called malware) made itself obvious.

Unfortunately, most problems caused by malware don't always clearly point to an infection. It's great if your antivirus program warns you of a problem, but it won't always.

Often times, virus-caused problems appear as general computer sluggishness, random error messages, frozen windows, and things like that.

Before you take your computer in for any reason, be sure to run a full malware scan using whatever antivirus software you're running.

This tutorial is really helpful if you're not sure what you're doing, don't have antivirus software (we have links for several free options), can't access Windows, or can't run a scan for some reason.

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Reinstall the Program That's Causing Trouble

Photo of a stack of DVDs
© your personal camera obscura / Moment / Getty Images

A lot of computer problems are software-specific, meaning that they only happen when starting, using, or stopping a particular program that's installed.

These sorts of problems can make it seem like your whole computer is falling apart, especially if you use the offending program a lot, but the solution is often very simple: reinstall the program.

Reinstalling a program means to uninstall it, and then install it again from scratch. Every program has an automated process for removing itself from, as well as installing itself onto, your computer.

If you think the problem you're experiencing is software-specific, gather the original installation disc or download the program again, and then reinstall it.

Check out the tutorial if you've never reinstalled a software program, or you run into trouble.

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Delete Your Browser's Cookies

filo / Getty Images

No, there aren't real cookies in your computer (wouldn't that be nice?) but there are tiny files called cookies which are sometimes the cause of problems browsing the web.

Like the cached files mentioned above, the browser stores these files to make surfing the web easier.

If you're having problems logging into one or more websites, or you see a lot of error messages when browsing that other people don't seem to see, be sure to clear your browser's cookies before you pay for computer repair.

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