Getting out of trouble

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In spite of your best care and educated handling, computers can and will misbehave at times. Just keep your cool, and try to solve the problem in a systematic way. And be assured there is no good time for the computer to crash, or freeze, or hang-up on you!

The most common scenario is that the computer does not respond to any key stroke or mouse clicks. What do you do under such a circumstance? Take the following steps, in the order they are mentioned.

1. Wait for up to 2 minutes for the computer to respond. It may be busy doing other things in the background.

2. If the screen is dark, check for power supply. Does the building have power? Is the computer still plugged on to the wall socket? Are all the cable connections still in place and secure?

3. Many late model computers have a "suspend" or "stand by" feature that blanks out the screen and goes in a "sleep" mode to save electricity when the computer is not used (no key strokes, no mouse clicks) for a certain period of time. To "wake" the computer, generally you have to press any key, or move the mouse. So try that and see if the computer comes back to life. When my computer automatically goes on "stand by" mode, both the computer's power-on light, and the monitor's power-on light goes from green to amber (the monitor's amber light also blinks). To "wake" the computer, I have to press the computer's power button once. So check if your computer has also gone on "stand by" mode.

4. If the monitor is not dark, but the computer is not responding to key strokes or mouse clicks, check thoroughly the cables that connect the keyboard and the mouse to the computer. Your pet or your baby may have pulled these cables while you were not looking!

5. Gently and slowly hit the Escape (Esc) key a few times. In many programs that will take you back one step, and you may get out of trouble that way. You should try the "Esc" key before taking any more drastic steps.

6. If you have tried everything described so far and still no luck, it is time to give the computer a three-finger salute (commonly known as the magic key combination). With the index finger and middle finger of your left hand, press and hold the "Alt" and "Ctrl" keys respectively, then with the index finger of your right hand tap the "Del" key once. If you are using Windows98 or any later version, a Close Program dialog box will appear listing ALL the programs that are running on the computer at the time, including the ones that are running in the background, and the offending program will usually be listed on the top (and highlighted) with a remark that the program is not responding. If the offending program is not highlighted, first highlight it by clicking once on it, then click on the "End Task" button. The offending program will be closed, and you will lose all your unsaved work. At least better than just sitting there and staring at the frozen computer!

7. When the Close Program dialog box is open, if you press Alt+Ctrl+Del buttons again, your computer will restart and you will lose all your unsaved data. Try not to do this unless everything else have failed.

8. Rarely, even the Close Program box might freeze. In that case your last resort is to restart the computer. This is really the most drastic measure, as there is a chance that some files on your hard drive might get damaged. So try not to do this. To restart the computer, if you have a restart button on your computer, press it. If you don't have a restart button, turn off the power switch on the computer, wait several minutes, and then turn the power button back on.

9. After a improper shut down, if you are using Windows98 or any later version, when you turn on the computer again, you will see "ScanDisk" is checking your hard drive for possible errors. You will also be warned not to shut down the computer improperly in the future, but to use Windows "shut down" feature to exit Windows first. If ScanDisk does not start automatically after a disaster like this, you should run it yourself.

10. Some programs have an "AutoSave" feature I did not know about. Couple of years ago, I was scanning some family photos when disaster struck. I had to shut down my computer before exiting from Windows properly. When I restarted my computer, I discovered with gratitude that my photo editing software has presented me with some pictures marked "found" or something similar. I thought I had lost the pictures! However, don't rely on this. Get in the habit of saving your work often.

11. This last suggestion I am going to make on how to get out of trouble quickly is actually based on preparedness to face disaster when it strikes. Inspite of all the precautions and meticulous care, the unexpected and undesirable can still sometimes happen and they usually happen at the worst possible time. You might suddenly lose some valuable work or some files in your computer might get corrupted for unknown reasons. Instead of pulling all your hair out, it is better to have a data recovery software handy for such unforeseen circumstances. These software can recover lost files and repair damaged files quickly and efficiently. They might just prove to be life savers at times! Please keep this suggestion in mind.

If you need help using the Internet, check out the companion site:
Internet Basics For Seniors
If you need help with Windows XP, check out the companion site:
Help with Windows XP (New)
If you are an absolute beginner in computing, check out:

ABC's of Computing

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