Computer Repair LED sign

How to Think like a Troubleshooter

Computer Repair LED sign

After you learn a few tips for how to think like a troubleshooter, I hope you’ll be able to solve a computer problem yourself, or, at least, accurately describe the problem to the person you’re going to for help (they’ll appreciate that and can address your problem more easily).

Troubleshooting is just problem-solving in a systematic way to fix a failed process or device. With electronics and complex software, a problem may have more than one possible cause. Using a process of elimination, we’ll come up with a potential cause. After applying the fix, you will, of course, check that the software or device is now working.

Yesterday, I had a heavy dotted line in a Word document that I didn’t want anymore. I couldn’t delete it. I couldn’t paste the text only into a new document. The ugly dotted line came along for the ride.  Let ‘s see if you can help me solve this problem.

How to Think like a Troubleshooter

My first tip is for you to actually think what is really possible. I’ve heard statements like, “the file disappeared.” Unless you actually deleted, moved, or renamed it, it’s still on your computer where you left it.  Computers don’t just randomly and capriciously remove your data.

Secondly, specifically define the problem. A general statement that your email doesn’t work is not enough. Get your detective cap on and ask yourself if you can narrow down which ones “don’t work.” Are they from specific people? Do the missing emails come from the same email provider? When does your email work? Does email work on one device, but not on another? (If so, the device or a setting on the device would be the culprit )

Next, try reproducing the problem. Notice the steps you’re taking. If you’re watching carefully, you may even notice a step you skipped when the problem occurred and your fix will be obvious. Recently, in helping a friend sync TntMPD and MailChimp, we were puzzled by our results. We researched in TntMPD’s FAQs. Everything synced properly when we checked the right checkboxes.

Notice when the problem showed up. If you were able to do the function before, think back to what changed. Did you change a password on one device, but forgot to change it for the app on your mobile device? I was missing four months of data from a reimbursement tracking spreadsheet. After looking for old versions on different devices, I knew I had not saved the most recent copy before replacing my hard drive.  Yup, we all make mistakes, even geeky me.

Try searching for a solution.  You should check out the product’s help page. A Google search may lead you to help on forums, in a blog, or elsewhere for advice from people who’ve had the same issue.

You’re Now a Certified Troubleshooter

Congratulations! Let me know if this “crash course” (ew… bad pun) was helpful!

Oh, and the ugly dotted line? I googled and found others who encountered this same problem. I skimmed the answers and liked one I found on the second page and was able to get rid of the line quickly and easily.

Do you have additional tips for troubleshooting?


  • The photo of the LED sign is available on
  • I didn’t include the possibility of a virus in this discussion because if you have one, they’re unpredictable and have to be removed.
  • The following  YouTube video was produced with help desk staff in mind in order to help them with Google apps questions. I used the content as inspiration for this post and included the video here if you’d like to watch it.


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