7 Must-Know Computer Trouble Shooting Tricks

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Many of the tools used by professional technicians to fix various computer problems are already loaded into Windows 8. These are tools you can use to troubleshoot a wide range of computer problems, from sluggish performance to app crashes and boot failures. To use these tricks of the trade, all you need is administrative access to your computer.

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Boot in Safe Mode

If your computer is having difficulties booting into Windows, malware, faulty drivers or even a bad program may be to blame. Safe mode runs only the vital components to let you get into Windows so you can begin troubleshooting the problem. To reboot in safe mode, press the "Win" and "R" keys to open "Run," type “msconfig” and press "Enter." Click the "Boot" tab and select "Safe Boot." To boot in Safe Mode, hold down the "Shift" key and press "F8" repeatedly while the computer is starting up. Select "See Advanced Repair Options," then "Troubleshoot," "Advanced Options" and finally "Windows Startup Settings."

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Consult the Action Center

Whatever problems you may be experiencing with your computer, there's a good chance that Windows Action Center can identify the culprit for you. Action Center is a useful utility that is hidden in the Windows task bar. Just look at the flag in the desktop task bar. If it's red, click on it and select "Open Action Center" from the pop-up menu. Click the button next to any flagged item to see what the problem is. If it hasn't identified a problem, click the "Check for Solutions" link in the Maintenance section of the Action Center to have Windows scan for problems and—in many cases—offer a solution.

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Use Performance Information and Tools

A useful diagnostic tool that gives you a quick look at the overall health of your computer is Performance Information and Tools. This utility comes already installed in Windows 8, and is well-hidden in the Control Panel. To launch this utility, type "performance" in the Search field, click "Settings" and then select "Performance Information and Tools." If you are using a laptop, you need to plug it in before it will analyze its performance. Scores range from 1 to 9.9 but generally range in the middle, unless you have a supercharged computer.

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Find Problem Apps in Task Manager

If your computer suddenly starts responding sluggishly or if you are getting error messages that don't make sense, Windows Task Manager can often point to the application or process that is causing the problem. Type "task" in the Search field, select "Apps" and then click "Task Manager." This utility lists all of the apps and background processes that are currently running, showing you how much of your system resources each is taking. If you see an app or process is taking up a huge portion of your resources, you can either quit the program or select it in Task Manager and click the "End Task" button.

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Scan For Logs in Event Viewer

Type "Event Viewer" in the Windows Search charm, click "Settings" and then click "View Event Logs." In the left menu, select the type of event you suspect is causing the problem and then scan through the list of events, which are arranged by time and date. Warnings may be responsible for delays and glitches with the computer while a serious crash is normally classified as an error. After you find the event you believe is the culprit you can save it so you don't have to search through the logs again later.

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Ping a Bad Network Connection

If you can't connect to the Internet or another device on your home network, use the ping command to see if there is a connection problem or if the network is just very slow. To use this command, press the Windows key and type "cmd" in the Search charm to open the Command Prompt. Type "ping" followed by an IP address or server domain name like "ping anywebsite.com." Ping works like a sonar ping, sending a small blip of data to the server or device and waiting for an echo to come back. If the ping times out, there is no connection. If the ping does get a response, usually in a few milliseconds, there is a connection and your Web browser or other application is likely causing the problem.

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Go Back in Time with Recovery

If you have recently made a lot of changes to your computer, like installing or uninstalling programs and changing system settings or configuration files, trying to find the root of a problem is a lot like trying to unthread a tangled fishing line. Instead of backtracking through your changes, use Windows Recovery to push your computer back in time. Type "Recovery" in the Search charm, select "Settings" and then click "Recovery." Click "Open System Restore" and you can put the computer back to a point when it was still working properly. You can then make the changes again, one step at a time, while keeping an eye out for the change that caused the system problems.

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