Friday, 21 May 2010

Troubleshooting Flaky Systems Behaviours

Sometimes, we need to learn lessons the hard way.

I remember replacing the rear end on a 1500 series truck (mine) due to a major squealing sound that did not go away _after_ the change out. The problem turned out to be the hanger bearing. Lesson learned.

When it comes to computers, there is the workstation that behaves rather erratically over time. We would go through the regular troubleshooting steps looking in common problem areas such as software conflicts, memory issues, or physical problems on the hard drive’s platters.

Or, how about the printer that behaves fine for a number of days then stops responding or prints out funky characters instead of the page(s) sent to the printer.

The lesson being highlighted here has to do with starting with troubleshooting the small things first.

One of the small things that is common to both IT related problems listed above was that the interface cable turned out to be the culprit.

In the first example where the workstation was behaving flaky, the SATA cable connecting the hard drive to the motherboard turned out to be the problem.

For the printer, the USB cable connecting the printer to its workstation was the problem.

It is probably due to just how rare a cable turns out to be the culprit in a problematic setup that we overlook changing them out as part of our early troubleshooting steps. We usually go to some fairly great lengths to troubleshoot a problem before a cable even becomes a consideration.

So, sometimes, depending on the errant behaviour, it may be a good idea to actually _start_ by swapping out whatever interface cable or cables. We can then eliminate them right out of the box.

BTW, when it comes to USB cables and printers, watch the length of that USB cable relative to the cable’s diameter. If there is a need to run a cable longer than the standard 6’, then make sure that the extra length cable contains a heavier gauge core cable set to reduce the possibility of signal loss between the PC and the printer.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

*Our original iMac was stolen (previous blog post). We now have a new MacBook Pro courtesy of Vlad Mazek, owner of OWN.

Windows Live Writer

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