Arts & Entertainment

Technobuddy: Sometimes, On/Off Button Is Your Best Friend

There are some secret weapons that can destroy even the ugliest computer messes. The best thing about them are that you don’t need a degree in electrical engineering, or a screwdriver, to show your computer who is in charge.

The first weapon in our arsenal is simplicity itself. It is based on the fact that most computer glitches are mere hiccups – one-time problems that are unlikely to repeat.

On and off: When your computer freezes, or when your cursor starts moving about the screen like a cat after a mouse, just turn off the computer. Let it sit for a few seconds and turn it on again. Honest. The problem will vanish at least half the time.

On and off part deux: If your Internet connection fails – whether you are using a cable modem, DSL modem or a dial-up – turn off the modem and then restart it. Most times, your connection will be restored. That’s because the on/off cycle forces your modem to resynchronize with the modem at your ISP. If you use a router, you may also need to put it through the same on/off cycle.

System Restore: Modern versions of Windows offer you an opportunity that life doesn’t ordinarily allow. When things get messed up, you can return your computer system to a time before all the trouble started. With a few clicks of a mouse, Windows restores the system to a time when all was rosy. If you want more information, or directions on using system restore, open Windows Help and type in these words: system restore. You’ll get step-by-step directions for using this terrific tool.

No-hassle backups: A technology called RAID eliminates the need to back up data, yet offers insurance that you will never again lose data, even if your hard disk dies an ugly and irreversible death. RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks. Basically a second hard disk becomes a perfect mirror of your primary disk. When you save data, it is saved to both disks. Most new PCs can be purchased with RAID already installed and working. Or a computer repair shop can get RAID going for you. Those who are handy with computers can do the job yourselves.

Avoiding trouble: Voltage surges and power outages are capable of killing a computer instantly. But, most often, the damage is slow and cumulative. When the power goes out and your computer blinks off and then on again, the jolt ages electronic components. And, the operating system can get hopelessly messed up when the machine goes off without the usual shutdown routine.

By now you’ve heard of an uninterruptible power supply, a UPS – just a big battery that takes over when the power goes out. For $100 or so, you can have a UPS that filters out surges as well as kicks in to make sure that your computer stays on when the power is off. If you don’t have one and care about your computer, go buy one.

Windows Recovery Console: This fix often returns a hopelessly frozen computer to life. It’s the perfect remedy for what techies call the BSOD – the blue screen of death. When you are faced with an empty blue screen and none of the usual fixes returns your computer to life, there’s still hope.

Windows comes with a remarkable feature called the Recovery Console. To get there, you must start your computer using the original Windows installation CD. Since explaining the process involves more detail than I can print today, you can learn more by typing those two words – recovery console – into search box of Windows Help.

We’ve covered topics really quickly because of space constraints. I’ve got a secret weapon of my own that offers more detail on many of these items.

You can find this column online at my TechnoBuddy blog located at www.ajc.com/blogs/content/shared-blogs/ajc/technobuddy/. The online version of this column will offer Web links that take you to places that offer detailed explanations on complicated issues. That way you get all the help you need, and I can stay within the length restrictions of a column. What a deal.

Beginning with this column I’ll begin adding additional Web links in the version found on my blog.

However, don’t expect to find a link that offers instructions on my first tip – turning the computer off and on to fix a temporary glitch.

If you need help locating the on/off button for your computer, then forget everything I’ve said over the years about how easy computers are to use.