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CHAPTER 3 Skills for Troubleshooting Computer Problems CTS 217: Computer Training & Support.

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Presentation on theme: "CHAPTER 3 Skills for Troubleshooting Computer Problems CTS 217: Computer Training & Support."— Presentation transcript:

1 CHAPTER 3 Skills for Troubleshooting Computer Problems CTS 217: Computer Training & Support

2 Chapter Objectives In this chapter, students will learn about: The troubleshooting process and thinking skills required Communication skills for troubleshooting How to use information resources to help solve computer problems Diagnostic and repair tools Strategies for troubleshooting How to develop your own approach to problem solving 2

3 Introduction Solving problems most frequent task user support agents perform Varied user concerns Information requests ? about tasks (data validation in Excel) Product complaints Problem preventing hardware or software use Might have quick solution (seen it before) or might have to look it up This chapter: tools, methods, strategies for difficult problems 3

4 What is Troubleshooting? Troubleshooting is the process of defining, diagnosing, and solving computer problems Uses thinking and communications skills, information resources, strategies, and methods (NOT always fixed steps) Is troubleshooting: A step-by-step process? An iterative process? Loops, false starts, dead ends A scientific process? Rules of logic A creative process? 4

5 Sequential versus Iterative Problem-Solving Processes p

6 T/S as an Iterative Process A repetitious process A creative process that requires flexibility, thinking skills, and patience Involves several paths or approaches to problems Steps are repeated in a loop until a fruitful path is found Avoids hit-or-miss, trial-and-error approach to troubleshooting 6

7 T/S as an Iterative Process Fixed sequence: might find solution, might not Hit-or-miss / Random: might fix it, might not, could make it worse! Physical tools: diagnostic programs, multimeter Databases: knowledge bases Thinking skills: Have you seen it before? 7

8 Thinking Skills Used In T/S Problem solving Critical thinking Decision making 8

9 Problem Solving Problem solving is a process that moves from the current state X to a goal state Y Considers alternate paths to get from X to Y Objective is to get from X to Y quickly, accurately, effectively, or efficiently Look for: – Analogies: how is this problem similar to others? eMachines restoration & Linux install – Contradictions: two facts cannot be true at the same time (NIC works in one PC, bad slot?) 9

10 A Problem-Solving Model p. 105 Grinding noise? Dried ink around cartridge dock Need maintenance kit? Slick rollers keep paper from feeding properly 10

11 Critical Thinking Critical thinking is the cognitive skills used to: Analyze a problem (personal experience) Search for underlying logic or explanation Find alternate ways to think about or explain an event or situation Examples of critical thinking skills: Mental models Hypothesis testing Creativity Metacognition 11

12 Critical Thinking Skills 12 Mental model: a conceptual picture to help understand how a system works Based on education and experience Computer wont boot: at POST level or o/s file missing? Hypothesis testing: a guess or prediction about the cause of a problem and a test to prove or disprove the hypothesis Based on mental model or experience Printer garbage characters – driver or cable?

13 Critical Thinking Skills 13 Creativity: the ability to find a novel or innovative solution to a problem Think outside the box; apply what you know Seen a similar problem? Metacognition: the ability to step back from a problem and think about your own thought processes Challenge your assumptions Did you assume hardware, and it might be software?

14 Metacognition Common metacognitive questions: What assumptions did I make? Where did I go wrong in my approach? Why did one problem-solving approach work when another did not? How could I have thought differently about this problem? EXAMPLES Restore CD would hang – assumptions: bad CD, bad CD drive ACTUAL problem: defective memory Application crashes (illegal operation) – software, right? ACTUAL problem: defective brand new memory chip 14

15 Decision Making Decision making is an ability to: Select an alternative from among completing alternatives Weigh the pros and cons of each alternative against predefined criteria Reach a decision Which test will most likely fix it? Tests can be lengthy…choose wisely 15

16 Tools Troubleshooters Use Communication skills (Chapter 2) Information resources Diagnostic and repair tools Problem-solving strategies Personal characteristics 16

17 Communication Skills Most troubleshooting situations require at least some communication with an end user or vendor about a problem Types of communication skills Basic listening skills Active listening Probes Critical questions Explanation Verification 17

18 How Troubleshooters Use Communication Skills To get a basic description of a problem To learn the users perspectives on the problem To probe for additional information wont do anything – no power, beep codes, no desktop? To effectively communicate a solution back to the user 18

19 Basic Listening Skills Listen to the words a user chooses to describe the problem Dont jump to conclusions; can be less efficient Allow a user enough time to explain a problem Try to obtain as accurate a description of the problem as possible Tip: Listen for causal If…Then … statements 19

20 Active Listening Active listening occurs when the listener is as engaged in the communication process as the speaker Compared to a passive receiver of information Example: If I try to adjust my monitor, then the screen goes blank. Possible reasons why? 20

21 Paraphrasing Paraphrasing is an active listening skill in which you restate in your own words what you heard a user say Used to resolve misunderstandings and get a clear problem description; verify understanding Example: End user description: I dont know what happened, but the program doesnt work. Support specialist paraphrase: Let me make sure I understand. The program used to work, but now it doesnt? Rest is on p

22 Probes Probes are follow-up questions designed to elicit additional information about a problem A sequence of probes often clarifies a problem situation Example: When your computer crashes, is it always running the same program or different ones? Page 111: Role Playing Scenario 22

23 Critical Questions Critical Questions are designed to elicit important additional information from a user Challenge assumptions a support specialist might make Often reveal information a user wouldnt have thought to relate Things to try when youre stuck; get beyond the dead end Make checklist Browser issue: Flash Player wont play; installed successfully reset defaults on Security & Adv. tabs 23

24 Five Critical Questions 1. Has this system or component or feature ever worked? CorelDraw printing 2. Have you ever had this problem before? Cheap DVDs 3. Can this problem be replicated? Sign in problem in one lab only Is it repeatable? 4. What were you doing just before you first noticed the problem? Power outage 5. Have you made recent hardware or software changes to your system? Recent installation 24

25 Explanation Explanation is a communication skill in which a support specialist describes a solution to a problem so a user understands: Why the problem occurred The steps required to resolve it Explain it on THEIR level; might not have to call back next time 25

26 Verification Verification is a communication skill in which a support specialist makes sure that a user agrees that a problem has been resolved satisfactorily Resolve difference if user thinks problem not solved Rebooted router – access network now?? 26

27 Information Resources for T/S Personal experience Wont know it all More bkgrd info and exp. = better mental models Recall = good; must also search well (rapid changes) Scripts and checklists Knowledge bases Coworkers and other professional contacts Support vendors and contractors Escalation and team problem solving 27

28 Personal Experience Based on a support agents education, career background, and previous experiences Search personal knowledge for information about a problem or for similar problems Seen it before? What did you do? Tip: Develop a problem notebook Make notes after a problem is solved, and organize them by symptoms, equipment type, date, etc. [Put in Word or Access – searchable] Notes about mods to databases 28

29 Scripts and Check Lists A script lists questions to ask and follow-up probes Organized as: A flowchart A decision tree Arranged in a logical sequence Covers all possible known paths to solve a problem Example: See Figure 3-5 on page 115 (printer LED lights) 29

30 Knowledge Bases A knowledge base is an organized collection of information that is a resource in problem solving Articles Procedures Tips Pointers to information Solutions to existing problems Notebook [database] mentioned on previous slide 30

31 Examples of Knowledge Bases Vendor manuals – service manuals 8710p8710p Trade books (use to supplement poor vendor manuals) Trade periodicals: computer magazines Online help: might be online vendor manual, t/s wizards Web sites (MS, Dell, HP) Search engines 31

32 Search Engine Guidelines 1. Use keywords that are nouns 2. Use present tense verbs 3. Include vendor name, model number, version number 4. Include operating system and version 5. Put quotes around phrases (errors) 6. Put + sign before essential keywords 7. Use Boolean operators AND OR NOT 32

33 Coworkers and Other Prof. Contacts Coworkers: another set of eyes; see something you dont Discussion forums: search might lead you here Listservs: An automated service that distributes e- mail messages posted to the ListServ to subscribers Search archives; high volume of Newsgroups: An Internet discussion in which participants with common interests in a topic post messages; electronic bulletin board RSS feeds: A service that aggregates information from Web resources (blogs, forums, news) and delivers it to subscribers in a convenient format 33

34 Support Vendors and Contractors May have seen a baffling problem before and be able to offer suggestions to resolve it access to tech support or sign in to KB Outsourcing: an agreement with a support services contractor for problem-solving assistance for a fee Handle incident that require special expertise Backup to in-house support staff when volume of incidents is heavy 34

35 Escalation and Team Prob. Solv. Escalation is a referral of a difficult or complex problem to a higher support level for resolution Team approach to problem solving Mutual problem solving assistance Team owns the problem, not an individual 35

36 Diagnostic and Repair Tools Software utilities that help troubleshoot computer problems Categories General-purpose and remote diagnosis Hardware problem diagnosis Software problem diagnosis Network problem diagnosis 36

37 General-Purpose and Remote Diagnosis tools Remote access utilities help support users in distant locations Support agents can: View a remote users screen Enter commands on users system Examples: Expertcitys GoToAssist Rapid Assist Symantecs pcAnywhere Security concerns: use VPN, user authentication and encryption 37

38 Hardware Problem Diagnosis Utils Preinstalled on computers; boot menu key Detect defective hardware components Identify performance problems Recover some lost data Document and optimize configuration information Examples: Symantecs Norton SystemWorks [Ghost] PC Diagnostics PC-Doctor 38

39 Software Problem Diagnosis Utilities Identify configuration information Identify and repair s/w installation and configuration problems Repair Windows registry Examples: PC Tools Registry Mechanic iolo technologies System Mechanic Belarc Advisor Dean Software Designs PC Surgeon 39

40 Network Problem Diagnosis Utilities Identify network connectivity and configuration problems Monitor network operation and performance Identify some security breaches (unauth. access) Help recover from network problems Examples: EMCs SMARTS Solar Winds Packet Traps Network and Traffic Analyzer Manage Engines OP Manager 40

41 Network Problem Diagnosis Utilities Remote mgmt: manage distribution of software to myriad of PCs Performance mgmt: track uptime, identify problems Keep tools at fingertips (flash drive) 41

42 8 Common P/S Strategies Look for a simple, obvious fix Attempt to replicate a problem Examine the configuration Initiate a root cause analysis View a system as a group of subsystems Use a module replacement strategy Apply a hypothesis-testing approach Restore a basic configuration 42

43 Look for a Simple, Obvious Fix Most computer problems are simple Develop a checklist of possible alternatives Check for disconnected cables Reboot the system Table 3-1: Monitor Power Plug Plug and replug just to be sure; outlet working? Shut down or reboot May solve: low memory, device conflicts, app freezes, inoperative peripherals 43

44 Attempt to Replicate the Problem Replication is a process of trying to repeat a problem in the same or a different situation or environment Try moving a problem to a different computer or another user Examine results: 1. The problem also appears in a different environment 2. The problem is localized; dependent on a specific environment COMPARE THE DIFFERENCES! 44

45 Examine the Configuration Many problems occur because a combination of hardware and software do not work well together Check on hardware and software Installation requirements (chk doc) Possible incompatibilities Not supported by o/s Current driver Resource conflict 45

46 Initiate a Root Cause Analysis Root cause analysis is a strategy that looks beyond the visible symptoms of a recurring problem to search for an underlying cause An iterative process Asks a series of Why? Steps 1. Identify (in writing) what the problem is 2. Describe (in writing) why the problem occurs 3. Return to step 1 until the root cause of a problem is identified (5+ interations) 46

47 View a System as a Group of Subsystems A block diagram of the subsystems and their relationship to each other is sometimes helpful Start at: Either end of a chain of events In the middle of the chain Trace the problem forward or backward Memo with wrong font p why? 47

48 Use a Module Replacement Strategy Module replacement replaces a hardware or software component with one that is known to work Swap out suspect hardware components Dont replace too many at once Reinstall software packages Repair option 48

49 Apply a Hypothesis-Testing Approach Formulate a hypothesis – a guess or prediction – about the cause of the problem Based on experience Uses critical thinking (list possible problems) Tip: Try brainstorming with others to develop alternate hypotheses Design an experiment (a test) to see if an hypothesis is true or false User cannot log in p (h/w, s/w, n/w) 49

50 Restore a Basic Configuration Eliminate variables or factors that can make a problem complex or complicated Remove hardware components to simplify a configuration Disconnect a system from a network to observe its standalone operation Ext. DVD burner works when something else is removed – Why? Are they incompatible? S/W wont run when on network Why? Practice and experience needed 50

51 Personal Characteristics of Successful Troubleshooters Exercise patience and persistence Frustrated walk away for awhile Enjoy the problem-solving process View problems as opportunities/challenges Enjoy working with people Dont have to like everyone as friend (professional) Enjoy continuous learning opportunities Periodicals, training, learning from each other 51

52 Develop Your Own Approach to Problem Solving Identify the strengths a support specialist brings to each problem Identify areas for improvement in problem solving Recognize which tools and skills have been successful to solve past problems (trial and error – easy to get frustrated) Rely on information resources that have proved useful in past situations Improved by the metacognition process (self- examination) 52

53 Chapter Summary Successful troubleshooting relies on an understanding of the troubleshooting process and uses thinking skills Troubleshooting process is: Iterative Creative Thinking skills for troubleshooting include: Problem solving Critical thinking Decision making 53

54 Chapter Summary (continued) Troubleshooting uses several skills and tools Communication skills Information resources Diagnostic and repair tools Problem-solving strategies Personal characteristics of troubleshooters 54

55 Chapter Summary (continued) Problem-solving strategies 1. Look for a simple, obvious fix 2. Attempt to replicate the problem 3. Examine the configuration 4. Initiate a root cause analysis 5. View a system as a group of subsystems 6. Use module replacement 7. Apply a hypothesis-testing approach 8. Restore a basic configuration 55


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