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10 Things To Do Before Calling the IT Guy

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Well-meaning, hard-working employees cost their companies tens of thousands of dollars each year in downtime, loss of productivity and IT hours because they don't stop to think their way through simple issues. Yes, hardware and software problems do happen, and yes, it is the job of IT professionals to fix those issues and get the company back into productive mode. But taking these few steps before grabbing the phone to call IT can save time, money, hassle and lost revenue. Ready to be a great team player? Here's how.

1. Stop and Think

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What were you doing when the problem showed up? Were you rushing through a task? Is this something you do many times each day or something unfamiliar to you? Sometimes we speed through tasks we do regularly and don't realize we missed a keystroke or skipped a step. When we're working on an unfamiliar task, we might simply misremember the process. Before calling IT, take a breath and see if you can figure out what went wrong.

2. Read the Error Message Carefully

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Did you get an error message or pop up box when the problem happened? Many users just click the X to close this box without paying any attention to what the box says. Often, the program is alerting you to what you're doing wrong and even makes suggestions on how to resolve the issue. Also, if you do end up having to call IT, they're going to need to know what error message you're getting to find and fix the problem. Pay attention to what the software is telling you.

3. Check the "Help" Section of the Program

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Most software includes a help section. Look for the word "help" or a question mark (?) somewhere on the screen. The help section is often alphabetized according to subject. For example, if you're having a printing issue, look under "P" for "Printer." Many help sections also have a nifty search wizard that offers you a search box to type in your issue or question. It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the help section of new software when you first get it so when issues come up later you know where it is and how it works.

4. Try Again

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A large number of issues are one-time glitches. Imagine how silly you'd feel if you called IT and could never reproduce the problem. When a program does something funny, check your steps and try again. You'll be surprised how often the problem just disappears. However, still make note of the error message you got or the problem that happened. Also note what you were doing and what programs you had open when it hiccupped. If the problem repeats itself, you'll need to be able to tell IT what is causing the issue.

5. Update and Run Your Antivirus Software

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Occasionally, viruses slip through even the most secure systems. Open your computer's antivirus software and update it so you have the most current version running. Then perform a system scan, which usually takes a few minutes. This may find and fix your problem, but even if it doesn't, it's always good to have the latest version available and scan frequently. If it doesn't solve the problem, you've saved your IT guy time when he gets there.

6. Check Connections

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A loose wire sometimes lets things work a little but not perfectly. If the computer, printer, keyboard, mouse or modem is glitchy, it may be a cable that has worked its way partly out. Firmly press all connections to make sure everything is getting power and connecting properly. IT professionals say loose wires account for lots of their service calls. Lose connections with printer cables are the most commonly seen problem by IT pros. IT guys also see lots of problems with loose mouse and keyboard cables.

7. Reboot the Computer

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According to Judson McClendon of Sun Valley Systems, rebooting the system fixes about 90 percent of all computer problems experienced by users. McClendon has over 45 years of experience with systems of all sizes and scopes. There are two types of computer boots: cold boots and warm boots (also called reboots). If you select, "Restart" from the Start Menu, that is a warm boot. For the most comprehensive system reset, choose, "Shut Down" and let the system power off completely. Wait a couple of minutes and restart the system. This fixes almost all problems users encounter.

8. Unplug and Reset

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Modems, printers and other peripheral devices sometimes get glitches, too. If you're having trouble connecting to the Internet, printing or getting a system component to work properly, power the device down and unplug it. Leave it unplugged for about 10 minutes, then plug it back in and power it up. This allows the device to reset itself, and solves the majority of glitches, especially concerning external modems.

9. Try to Recreate the Problem

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Once you're sure everything is reset and connected properly, try doing the same thing you were doing when you had the problem. Chances are it will be fine this time. If you've gone through steps 1-8 above and you're still experiencing the issue, it's definitely time to call the IT department. However, be patient with them if they want you to go through the process again. They deal with a lot of people who say they've unplugged, rebooted, scanned, etc. but haven't actually done it because they just want IT to come fix it. Follow IT's steps to the letter. Don't push any keys or click on anything if they don't tell you to, and be sure to take all the steps they suggest.

10. Verify Your Passwords

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IT professionals say that 30-40 percent of calls to the help desk are from people who've forgotten their passwords. Think of this another way, your company could save 30-40 percent of their IT staff's time and efforts if we kept track of our own passwords! How many wonderful things could IT do with this much extra time? Perhaps they could develop software to make your job easier. Maybe they could finally get around to upgrading those outdated modems. Who knows what these bright and talented professionals could do with 30-40 percent more time? I'll bet there are a few IT professionals who'd love to find out.

By following these ten steps before calling IT, you'll be making the most out of your company's resources. Your employer will thank you, and the IT department will, too.


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John Leger has been married for 25+ years and has six children.  He is a self-taught web developer who spends a lot of time learning new technologies and sharpening his skills.  His ability to learn new things quickly has enabled him to skillfully play the guitar, keyboard, flute and bass.  In his off time, he loves to hunt and ski.  He’s also the lead instructor at a Taekwondo Academy in his home town where he teaches classic Chung Do Kwon.
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