Fix common PC problems Having trouble with
your computer? You've come to the right place. Even if you don't know a
computer language (or want to), you can solve several common PC
problems on your own.
F1 is magic: Get help on your PC
you can’t figure out how to complete a particular task in your software
program—and you’re using a PC—the most important shortcut to know is
the F1 key. Just push it while the program—Word, Excel, or whichever
program you’re using—is open and active, wait a moment, and the Help
window specific to your active program will appear. The F1 key works
with almost all Microsoft products, so it’s a helpful starting point
for a wide variety of problems.
In this article, we offer many
ways to do what you need to do in Windows 7 and Windows Vista. Often,
there may not be a Help topic for Windows XP, but the process is often
the same as in Windows 7 or Windows Vista. The only difference is
usually where to find the link in Control Panel. Most often, it’s just
a matter of slightly different wording in the heading or the text
describing the task. Don’t worry. If you search in Control Panel,
you’ll usually find the link you need.
you’re encountering a different kind of obstacle – your new device
won’t appear on your desktop, an application you added won’t run, or
your computer is refusing to start up – here are a couple of
- Before adding any major hardware or software to your system, make sure you've recently backed up your Windows 7-based PC or your Windows Vista-based
PC as a safeguard. By using the automatic backup functions, you can
schedule regular upkeep for maximum convenience.
- Write down the contact information for Microsoft Customer Service and Support,
should you need to consult an expert. Take a second to print the below
instructions as well, and keep them handy as you walk through the
- Many issues can be resolved by
simply checking to be sure that all of your plugs are connected
properly. After you are sure of that, try restarting (“rebooting”) your
system. Turn your computer off, and then back on a few seconds later.
If the problem continues, follow the steps below.
Locating the problem Ask yourself if the problem is related to hardware, software, or the operating system
(such as Windows 7, Windows XP, or Windows Vista). The following are
some common indicators that can help you decide which is the right
If you're uncertain, don't worry. Just start at the top by determining if your software is working, using the Software errors
section that follows. If the issue persists, proceed to the Hardware trouble
section and then to the System failure
You can also find really helpful information at Microsoft Help and Support
. If you'd like to search by individual program, try the Product Solution Center
. Or check the columns and blogs found on the Windows Community
Web site, where you can find helpful input from experts and fellow computer users.
The lists on the right side of this page may also help you narrow down the type of trouble you are experiencing.
Software errorsIf programs refuse to install, won't appear on your desktop, can't seem to run without freezing
, don't load at a decent speed or function properly, or Internet access is unavailable, here's how to troubleshoot: General issues
- Confirm that your PC meets the software's minimum system requirements.
If it doesn't, you'll be unable to run the program without upgrading
your computer's hardware. Note that PCs which barely meet or just
slightly exceed these minimums may run the software more slowly and can
be less reliable. Windows 7 and Windows Vista users can reference the Windows Experience Index to quickly gauge their PC's general capabilities.
- Check for compatibility with Windows 7 and Windows Vista.
Close open programs and windows that you're not currently using. These
can eat up system memory and processing power, slowing your PC or
preventing additional software from running. Try running the program
- Check available hard drive space. Roughly 5 to
10 percent of your hard drive's total storage allotment should be left
free to ensure optimum system performance in Windows 7 and Windows Vista, prevent crashes, and keep Windows running at top speed.
Note Use Disk Cleanup to free more space:
for program updates and information on frequently encountered issues at
the software manufacturer's Web site. For Microsoft products, you can
also load Windows Update for Windows 7, Windows Update for Windows Vista, or visit the Microsoft Download Center. If you install an update, restart your computer, and attempt to run the program again.
- Uninstall or delete unwanted programs in Windows 7 or Windows Vista to cut down on clutter and remove any drain on your system's resources.
- Disable programs you don't use to in Windows 7 or Windows Vista
by preventing them from automatically loading when Windows starts. If
you’re running Windows 7, restart your computer, and try the program
- Defragment your hard drive in Windows 7 or Windows Vista to improve performance.
- Scan for viruses and spyware. Windows Defender in Windows 7 and Windows Vista
can help detect and prevent threats, along with preventing annoying
pop-up notices and unauthorized home network intrusions. You can scan your PC for free.
Reboot your computer and try loading the program again. If it still
won't load or work correctly, you may need to uninstall the software
and then reinstall it from scratch and reboot again. Advanced users can
also try these advanced troubleshooting tricks in Windows 7 and Windows
- Consult Microsoft Help and Support and the Windows Community.
If live assistance is required, first contact the software
manufacturer's customer support department. For additional assistance,
try Microsoft Customer Service and Support.