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How to solve the 10 most common tech support problems yourself

Ben Kim | Sept. 5, 2013
PC trouble? Try fixing the problem yourself with some advice from tech-support experts.

Once you've made all your changes, click OK and restart the computer. It should boot up quicker and feel noticeably faster.

Downloads are taking forever
Speedtest.net is your best friend when you're having connectivity problems. Run a speed test to see what your download and upload speeds are—ideally they should be at least 50 percent of your Internet service provider's advertised speeds, with a ping under 100 milliseconds.

If the speeds seem solid, make sure that you aren't inadvertently downloading or uploading anything. Many torrent downloading programs run in the background and minimize into the system tray instead of the taskbar.

Check your network hardware. Updates for network cards aren't all that common, but if your card's manufacturer offers a newer driver, download it. Resetting your router and modem can help with connection problems, too. Most routers and modems have reset buttons, but pulling the power cable for a second or two can do the same thing. Don't cut the power for much longer, or the hardware may reset itself to factory defaults.

Still having problems? Call your ISP, which can tell you whether the problem is on your end. As a last-ditch measure, the ISP could reset the master connection to your home.

My machine keeps restarting
Hardware problems are hard to diagnose and solve. First, confirm that you aren't just getting the latest wave of Windows updates, which can automatically restart your computer during installation. Then work on updating all of your critical system drivers. Your graphics card, motherboard, and network card drivers are crucial.

"Sometimes it can be viruses, sometimes it can be adware, sometimes it can be overheating, and sometimes it can be something as simple as making sure your video card is updated," Geek Squad's Meister says.

Is your computer making weird noises? If you're lucky all you'll need to do is give the machine a thorough cleaning. Modern computers have safeguards that shut down the system if a component is overheating, which can be the cause of frequent restarts when you're running resource-intensive programs or video games.

Pop-up ads are appearing on my desktop
If you're not running your Web browser and are still getting pop-up ads on your desktop, you've most likely installed adware—a program that displays unwanted ads. Although benevolent adware exists, most of the time adware is up to no good. Getting rid of it isn't easy. "There's a ton of little system-utility tools out there that promise to clean up everything, with names like PC Speed-up, PC Speed Pro, PC Speedifier," Geek Squad's Meister says. "A lot of times those programs are not going to do much. Some programs will work, others are snake oil."

 

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