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How To Fix Over Half Of Your Computer Problems Yourself – Reboot

Does This Sound Familiar?

You’ve been working diligently.  You’re in the zone.  Suddenly, your computer grinds to a halt and you are left with a non-responsive operating system.  Your mouse and keyboard are useless, and from your speakers erupts a funny, skipping sound where once music emerged.  The last thing you want to do is reboot.

Frantically you call IT support in search of the quickest, easiest and most effective fix available.  And then they say it…

“Have you rebooted your computer?”

You’re not sure why, but you are annoyed.  After all, what the heck do you pay IT for anyway?  Rebooting is not fixing, it’s not diagnosing and it is not a new idea!  You’re right, it’s none of these things.  But, it just so happens, more often than not, it works.

You see, IT troubleshooting begins with the reboot.  Why?  Because over half of the technical issues require nothing more than a reboot to fix.  Why is that?  Because most technical and performance issues are caused a lack of system resources (RAM, CPU), conflicts where one program or process interrupts another program or process, or problems were a vital piece of hardware stops working.  All of which are easily fixable with a simple reboot.

This does not only apply to Windows PCs.  Other devices that may encounter critical errors and need reboots are Mac desktops and laptops, Android and iOS phones, wireless routers, switches, firewalls and servers.  Even applications sometimes need a reboot to work properly, as we saw in the past with the Firefox browser for both Windows and Mac.  Firefox tended to use up more and more available RAM over time until there was no RAM left.  One easy way to cure it was to restart it.

IT Suggests a Reboot, User Gets Mad

If reboots are so effective, why does suggesting a reboot make people so unhappy?  Here are some possible explanations:

  1. It’s too easy! – People want their issue to be treated with the level of severity it deserves.  Suggesting a reboot seems to have the unintended effect of diminishing the seriousness of the issue.  Regardless of whether it is the easiest and most effective way of getting a user back up and running, it tends to rub people the wrong way.
  2. We tend to say it endlessly! – And sometimes we say it in a way that suggests that you know you should have done it before making the phone call, but you didn’t.  It is easily the phrase that I have spoken the most over my career.
  3. Sometimes you’ve already tried it but it didn’t work! – Well, yes.  If a little over half of all support calls can be solved with a reboot, then a little under half require something more.  Perhaps you rebooted before making a support call and it didn’t work.  Now you have to answer this question AGAIN!?!?
  4. It seems like laziness! – But it isn’t.  The first thing any IT pro is going to do when facing problems on their own computer is reboot.
  5. You know how to use a computer and have a good idea how it is supposed to work! – Think about it.  When you call Optimum or Verizon for a problem with your internet connection, do you think twice when they ask you to reboot your modem or router?  No, you don’t and the reason is you don’t really understand the modem or router as well as you do your computer, which is like an extension of your brain and body.

Why Does It Work?

The simplest answer to this question is that the operating system of your device gets to a point where it cannot recover on its own.  It needs a fresh start.  Think of it this way: Image you are playing the piano.  In the first scenario, you are playing a difficult piece of music when all of a sudden you hit a wrong note.  It lasts for no more than a half second.  Although there has been an interruption in the flow of musical notes, you are able to easily recover from this error and finish the piece.  To most people, this error was imperceptible and did not detract from the integrity of the piece.  Small errors and interruptions like this happen all the time on your computer and your computer takes them in stride.

Now image you are playing the piano, and as you progress through the piece the phone rings, you forget the next section of music, and have to stop playing.  For some reason, this music you have played so many times before seems foreign to you.  After a good five minutes, you remember the chord structure and melody and feel silly for forgetting it.  At this point, do you continue where you left off five minutes ago, or do you start over?  After such a large interruption it makes more sense to restart.  There is no way to regain the continuity of the performance without starting from the beginning.  Same with computers.

Depending on a large variety of factors, your device might run into such a big problem that the only recourse is to restart.  After a restart, the code can begin again, hopefully without running into the same problem again.

Do We Really Need To Know?

Finally, rebooting is usually the easiest and fastest option for restoring hardware and software functionality.  Most of the time it doesn’t matter what caused the issue because it is expensive and time-consuming to find out.  If, however, after a reboot the problem happens again, then it is time to dig deep and use more advanced troubleshooting techniques.

When time and money are on the line, it doesn’t matter what’s causing an issue it if only happens once.  You need to get back to work, and a reboot is the shortest and most effective path.  So, next time your computer freezes up and stops working, give a reboot and see what happens.  You will be able to fix more than half of your computer issues all by yourself.