Troubleshooting 101: Restart it


Jim Rossman

This column may seem silly, but the advice I’m about to give you is beautiful in its simplicity, and it solves so many problems.

I have been a computer scientist for over 25 years. I’ve seen all types of issues, both hardware and software. And no matter where the problem is, the first step in my troubleshooting is to “just restart it”.

I’m going to recount a few times where it worked over the last two weeks.

On my way to work this morning, I received a call from a director of the clinic where I work. She had returned from vacation to find that her PC was displaying a blue screen informing her that the PC had encountered a problem. She asked what to do.

I told him to hold down the power button on the PC until the screen turns off, then wait 30 seconds and press the power button again. Five minutes later, she reported everything was fine.

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His PC had somehow gone into an error state, and we’ll have to watch and see if it happens again. If this happens repeatedly, then we have bigger problems to find.

Last week my wife called me in the living room to show me that Netflix was not working for her on our TV. We have a TiVo box which we use to watch and record our local channels and also to watch our streaming services.

The Netflix app on the TiVo box was unresponsive, but after a minute of looking into the problem, I ran a network test from the TiVo settings and saw that the TiVo box was not talking to my network domestic. I restarted the TiVo, and when it came back everything worked again.

Finally, another example from my home. We were experiencing daily disconnects with our Wi-Fi at home. Restarting the broadband modem fixed everything, but the whole situation was annoying.

I decided to plug the broadband modem into a smart outlet, which I can control from an app on my phone. The app for the smart plug allows scheduling, so I set it to turn off at 5 a.m. every day and then turn back on at 5:01 a.m. This restarts the modem every morning and we Haven’t had a Wi-Fi problem since.

We also took the “just restart it” advice to heart at our office. We like to release software patches overnight, and many patches require a reboot to fully install. To make it easier to install fully, we implemented a policy on our PCs to restart at 5am every day, and it really helped our software update implementation.

I realize there are bigger issues that aren’t fixed with a simple reboot, but rebooting fixes enough issues that I wanted to share with you here.

Jim Rossman writes for The Dallas Morning News. He can be reached at [email protected]

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