This lesson discusses the techniques involved with resolving service calls. The most important part of troubleshooting is asking pertinent questions and listening to and making notes of the answers. After you have asked the proper questions and made notes of the answers, you will need to
After this lesson, you will be able to
Describe the questions that you should ask to help determine the problem.
Explain what the answers to those questions can tell you.
Explain general troubleshooting procedures.
Describe places you can
Explain how to attempt solutions without making the problem
Estimated lesson time: 50 minutes
A reporter or police officer asks these questions to obtain the required information to perform his or her job, and you will ask the same questions in your role as a DST. The information that you acquire helps you determine why the problem occurred. Then, with that knowledge, you can often resolve the problem on your own. The following sections list some common questions and possible answers.
The following questions will help you identify the person affected by a problem.
Who was using the computer when the problem first occurred?
Who else has been using the computer, and have they
Who has worked on this problem previously (if it has
Who has the same problem on another computer (that you know of)?
The answers to these questions tell you who has firsthand knowledge of the problem and whether other users who access the same computer (under a different account) also encounter the problem. If multiple users have access, but only one user encounters the problem, you have already narrowed the issue. You will also learn from these questions who has worked on the problem before (you might find out that the
The following questions will help you determine when a problem occurred and establish a timeline of activities that might relate to the problem.
When did this problem occur the first time, and has it occurred since?
When was the last time you downloaded or installed an application?
When was the last time you installed new hardware?
When did you last clean your hard drive with Disk Cleanup or Disk Defragmenter, delete temporary files or cookies, or perform similar deletions of data?
When was the last time you
The answers to these questions tell you how long the user has had this problem, whether the problem occurred after the user installed a new piece of hardware or a new application, and whether the user routinely maintains the computer. If the problem occurred after installing or uninstalling hardware or software, you have a good lead. Asking pointed questions about maintenance can also be helpful for finding out whether the user has recently cleaned out program or system folders, or has deleted any necessary files.
The following questions will help you find information about what the user thinks may be the cause of the problem and any solutions the user has already attempted.
What are your thoughts on what caused the problem?
What have you tried doing to troubleshoot the problem yourself?
What do you think can be done to solve the problem?
The answers to these questions tell you what the user believes happened and give you an opportunity to involve him or her in the solution. Asking the user what he or she thinks can be done to solve the problem could also reveal a very simple solution. If the user recently reconfigured settings for a program or uninstalled a necessary file or program, you know where to begin. If the user has already tried to troubleshoot the problem, you need to know what changes he or she has made. Finally, if the user thinks that reconfiguring the e-mail account will solve the problem, he or she might have been doing something to that account earlier, but does not want to admit it.
The following questions can often summon up a solution quickly.
Why do you think the problem occurred?
How do you think the problem occurred?
If the user says, “The problem occurred because I spilled coffee on the keyboard,” or “The problem occurred because I opened an attachment in an e-mail,” you know exactly where to start. Keep in mind, however, that these answers will not always be useful; they might sometimes even be misleading. (A user might have opened an attachment, but might tell you he or she did not, for instance.) Remember, you are the expert.
As you work through these questions with an end user, document the answers
When you begin working at a telephone call center, a company, a home business, or an ISP as a tier 1 DST, you should expect to ask your end users specific questions that are already written for you in the form of a script. However, as you move up the ladder and work through the natural progression of gaining expertise and experience, you will move from following a script to building your own
If you or the end user can reproduce the problem, you will have quite a bit of additional information to work with. Problems that cannot be reproduced, such as applications that shut down for no apparent reason, are much more difficult to diagnose than those that can be reproduced, such as being unable to send or receive e-mail. If the end user can reproduce the problem, make a note of which applications were
Do not try to reproduce any problem that has previously caused loss of data or is a known network problem, such as a virus or worm. Doing so can cause additional problems and further damage.
If you work for an ISP or a telephone call center, your plan of action might involve only reading a set of directions from a script and escalating the call up a tier, but it is still a course of action. If you have already determined a solution and
If you own your own business or are
To locate answers and to determine a solution after speaking with the end user, follow these general steps. (Each step is detailed in the following sections.)
Locate a solution by searching the computer’s Help And Support Center. If you find a solution, attempt to solve the problem and document the solution. If the solution does not work, document that as well, and undo any changes made to the computer.
Locate a solution by searching the company’s support files. If you find a solution, attempt to solve the problem and document the solution. If the solution does not work, document that as well, and undo any changes made to the computer.
Search technical sites. If you find a solution, attempt to solve the problem and document the solution. If the solution does not work, document that as well, and undo any changes made to the computer.
Search newsgroups. If you find a solution, attempt to solve the problem and document the solution. If the solution does not work, document that as well, and undo any changes made to the computer.
If you do not find a solution, document the information and attempted solutions, and undo any changes made to the computer during the troubleshooting process.
Escalate the call.
When the problem is solved, document the solution.
The troubleshooting process covered in the
Figure 1-3: Troubleshooting a problem is best done systematically.
There are several places to look for help in troubleshooting a computer problem, and if you have good research skills, you will most likely be able to locate a solution without escalating the call. Because escalations require more work, more downtime, and more expense for both you and the end user, you should do all you can to resolve calls without having to call in someone else to help. As for finding a solution,
The ability to research and find answers is not an innate skill; a good researcher learns where to look for answers.
The Help And Support Center should be the first place you look for information about common operating system problems. Window’s Help And Support Center offers information
Figure 1-4: The Windows XP Professional default Help And Support Center page offers an
Always determine the manufacturer and model of a computer first. Some manufacturers change default Windows settings, include modified help files, and install custom diagnostics software. Often, you can take advantage of these inclusions. At a minimum, you should be aware of their presence when
Targeted help such as this enables users to locate answers to their own problems easily, and it allows you to access information quickly as well. Figure 1-5 shows an example of a customized Help And Support Center interface, created by Sony Corporation for the home user. Notice that there are additional help topics, including “VAIO User Guide,” “VAIO Multimedia,” and “VAIO Support Agent Help.” These topics are specific to the machine, and they can be quite helpful for troubleshooting computer problems.
Figure 1-5: Help And Support Center pages can be customized.
Depending on your work environment, this type of customized documentation might be available. At the very least, almost every company offers some access to a database that contains answers to commonly asked questions. If you cannot find the answer to your troubleshooting query using the Windows Help And Support Center, try the manufacturer’s website.
Many times, a problem occurs because a piece of hardware has failed, a
is corrupt, new software is incompatible with Windows XP or other installed software, or a computer’s
basic input/output system (BIOS)
needs updating. You can research these problems and others through a manufacturer’s website. Websites are an
Home users are more likely to install new drivers, applications, and third-party utilities than office users—
The Microsoft Knowledge Base (available at
) offers answers to known issues and can be of significant help when you are trying to solve seemingly unresolvable issues. Figure 1-6 shows the Microsoft Help And Support website, in which Knowledge Base and other resources can be accessed. Notice that you can also access announcements, link to
Figure 1-6: The Microsoft Knowledge Base offers solutions to known issues.
The Knowledge Base contains support articles that are identified by an ID number, and you can search for information using that number or using keywords. These articles address known issues with the operating system, third-party software, and hardware; and they provide workarounds and solutions. The Knowledge Base also offers how-to articles, such as KB 291252, “HOW TO: Publish Pictures to the Internet in Windows XP,” and KB 813938, “How to Set Up a Small Network with Windows Home Edition” (the first part of a series of articles on the subject).
Search the Knowledge Base after you have tried the previous options and when you need to know the following:
Why a specific piece of hardware such as a camera, scanner, printer, or other device does not work as expected and the problem can be reproduced easily
Why a specific third-party application does not install, does not start, does not work as expected, or produces error messages
How to resolve operating system errors, including boot errors, problems during installation, access violation errors, and standby problems; and how to resolve other known issues
How to create boot disks, view system requirements, configure file associations, or perform other common tasks
How to resolve errors that occur when accessing operating system components, such as when configuring system properties or using System Restore
What a stop error message means and how to resolve it
How to resolve errors that occur after installing updates
Search the Knowledge Base for the specific error message if a text message exists. This is an especially helpful resource when the error is caused by third-party software or hardware. Information about third-party tools is not available in the Windows XP help files.
Microsoft TechNet (
) offers comprehensive help on applications; operating systems; and components such as Active Directory, Microsoft Internet Explorer, and Windows XP Professional—including planning, deployment, maintenance, and support. You can also access information about security, get downloads, read how-to articles, read
Figure 1-7: A TechNet page provides a wealth of information that is written for IT professionals.
Much of the information available from TechNet, including the Knowledge Base, is also available through the Microsoft Help And Support website, but TechNet is more geared toward information technology (IT) professionals. You will find that the articles from TechNet are often more technical and sometimes more
Search the TechNet support pages after you have tried the Microsoft Help And Support website and when you need to do any of the following:
Locate product documentation
View the latest security
Get information about service
Get help with
Subscribe to TechNet
Locate highly technical information about technologies
TechNet offers two types of annual subscriptions for a single user or a single server: TechNet Standard and TechNet Plus. Prices for subscriptions range from around $350 to $1,000 (U.S.). A one-year subscription delivers up-to-date technical information every month, including the complete Knowledge Base and the latest resource kits, service packs, drivers and patches, deployment guides, white papers, evaluation guides, and much more. This information is on a set of CDs or DVDs that can be accessed
Newsgroups are a
You can access newsgroups in a number of ways, including the following:
To access newsgroups via a newsreader (the best method because you can access all of the newsgroups, and it is
To access a full list of available newsgroups via the Web (a good choice if you do not have newsreader software), visit
To access newsgroups via the Microsoft Help And Support website, the Windows XP Expert Zone, or the TechNet website, visit those sites and click the Newsgroups link. Some people favor this method because the newsgroups are more clearly identified and are a bit more accessible. However, the newsgroups presented on these sites are just a subset of what is available.
You will find newsgroups for a variety of applications, operating systems, components, and levels of end user. Table 1-4 lists some of the available newsgroup categories, although each category can have multiple newsgroups (such as different newsgroups on Windows XP for subjects such as hardware, customizing, and networking).
For Help With…
Join These Knowledge Base Newsgroups
Connectivity and networking
Working through a solution after you have found it requires a little more know-how than simply clicking the mouse a few times and then walking away or hanging up the phone. You will have to perform some prerepair and post-repair tasks such as ordering the solutions (if there are more than one), backing up the user’s data, and attempting the solutions and documenting the results. If a solution does not work, you will have to undo it, try another, and possibly escalate the problem as required by your company.
Most of the time, you will find a single solution to your problem after researching it, and working through that solution will resolve the problem. Solutions you will uncover in a tier 1 position
Locate and make a note of previous settings so that you can revert to those if your solution fails or causes additional problems.
Order the solutions by listing solutions obtained from reputable sources first. (List Help And Support Center, Knowledge Base, TechNet, the manufacturer’s website, and so on first; and then list solutions found through newsgroups or third-party sites.)
Back up the end user’s data to a network resource, CD-R, or external hard disk.
Create a System Restore point.
Perform any additional tasks required by your company.
Completely document all attempted solutions and their results.
The higher you move up the tier ladder, the more of these tasks you will need to perform or be able to perform. If you provide phone support and work from a script, you might not be able to perform any of these tasks, but if you own your own business and visit the user on-site (or if you go to a user’s desk to solve the problem), you will likely have more leeway (and responsibility) and can do more.
Protect the end user’s data at all costs. If that means postponing an attempt at a risky or an undocumented solution until another DST can back up the data or until you can bring in a CD-R drive to back up a home user’s data, you must wait.
While working to repair the problem, if you attempt a solution that does not work, you must undo any changed settings, configurations, uninstalled programs, or other specific alterations to a computer before you attempt another solution. This is especially critical if you need to escalate the call; the
Documenting the problem, attempted solutions, and solutions that work are a major part of a DST’s job. Although companies, call centers, ISPs, repair
Depending on the job you hold and your position in the tier structure, you might be required only to fill in a few fields of a documentation worksheet. However, if you own your own company and keep your own records, you will want to keep much more detailed information. Here are a few items that you should almost always document, regardless of the type of job or position that you hold:
The date and time the service call was initiated
The computer ID, operating system version, connection type, and installed applications, as appropriate
The problem in definite terms, with as much detail as time allows
The attempted solutions and the results
The solution or escalation information
Whether the issue has been resolved and how long the resolution took
Keeping customer and service call documentation (with even minimal information) is crucial to being a good DST, running a successful business, acquiring experience, or advancing in your field. Keeping a separate log of problems and solutions that you have dealt with can also become quite a reference tool; you can refer to your own personal documentation when the problem arises again with another client. In the next section, you will learn how to create a personal knowledge base.
There are several options for collecting and maintaining the data you will compile while performing your job as a DST. Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access make good databases and organizational tools, and third-party software might also be appropriate, depending on how much data you want to keep. Keeping your own personal knowledge base of problems you have encountered and their solutions can make it easier for you to access the answers to those problems the next time they arise.
When creating a personal knowledge base of problems and their solutions, document the following:
The problem in detail, using keywords so that a search for the problem or one similar to it will produce results
The cause of the problem, using keywords so that a search for the problem or one similar to it will produce results
The resource that
Problems that resulted from the solution (if any)
How many times the problem has been encountered and solved
The following questions are intended to
Questions asked of clients often trigger quick solutions to basic problems. Match the question on the right to the solution it triggered on the left.
Decide where to look first for solutions to the problems that are listed here. Match each question on the left to the appropriate choice on the right.
Create three simple questions you could ask an end user who is having a problem accessing data on the network server, which would in turn provide answers to common connectivity problems. Explain what each solution might uncover. For instance, a yes answer to the question, “Has the computer been moved or bumped recently?” could
To resolve a service call, you must gather information, determine a solution, find and attempt solutions or escalate the call, test any solutions that you implement, and
To solve a problem, first get answers to the questions who, when, what, why, and how. The answers often point to a solution quickly.
To find a solution, search these resources in the following order: Help And Support Center, Help And Support website, company documentation, manufacturers’ websites, technical sites, and newsgroups. Apply possible solutions in the same order.
Before attempting any solution, back up the user’s data, create a System Restore point, and document previous settings and configurations if doing so is within your job role.
Always document the service call fully, including the user’s name, the computer ID, the problem, the attempted solution, the result, and how long it took to resolve the call.