7 tips for troubleshooting your remote work technology

A wi-fi analyser like NetSpot can be a big help in diagnosing connectivity problems.

Can't call tech support? Sometimes the answer is as simple as restarting a device, or figuring out the problem by process of elimination.

One challenge when working remotely is not having an on-site tech support team to call on, but did you know you can solve many tech problems by using some relatively straightforward techniques? Let’s start with some general tips that may help with a range of issues.

Troubleshooting tips

Use a process of elimination. Most tech problems have a range of possible causes, so take a systematic approach towards eliminating them.

  • Check the simplest causes first: Monitor not working? Check that the cable is plugged in properly. Smartphone not charging? Try another cable. Checking the simplest possible causes first could save you a lot of time and hassle.
  • Restart it: If you’re having trouble with a device, try restarting it. That clears its memory, and may fix the process that caused the issue. However, if it’s a computer, use the operating system’s restart feature if you can. The hardware reset button should only be used as a last resort, as it can result in data corruption.
  • Take note of any error message, either writing it down exactly or taking a screenshot. You’ll need it to search for solutions online or when making a tech support call.
  • Check official resources: Tech vendors generally offer rich self-help resources online, such as frequently asked questions (FAQs), knowledge bases or forums to help customers.
  • Know your limitations. You’ll find a lot of unofficial solutions on the internet. Many are useful, but some may land you in even more trouble – particularly if your device is still under warranty. If in doubt, seek help from the vendor or a professional.

Slow internet?

Get to know your router’s settings to change wi-fi channels, secure your network and more.

Slow or unreliable internet could be due to your broadband connection, your router, wi-fi, a network cable or your device, so it’s definitely a problem that requires a process of elimination.

Try restarting your router. If that doesn’t work, consider the devices that have a bad connection, and work out if there’s a common denominator. If it’s one computer connected via an ethernet cable, for example, that cable could be loose or need replacing.

If the troublesome devices are on wi-fi, try moving one close to the router.

If the speed increases as you move closer, it’s probably a wi-fi issue. Newer wireless routers support two frequency bands, which appear as two separate networks: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. Choosing the latter could be a simple fix, as it’s likely to be less congested, faster and offer greater range than 2.4GHz.

Routers can also use different wi-fi channels, so check your router’s manual for instructions on how to switch to another channel that may have less interference.

Experiment with the position of the router, use a wi-fi analyser, or buy a wireless extender to improve wi-fi coverage.

Still got problems? Try plugging your laptop directly into your broadband modem. You’ll need an ethernet cable and possibly an ethernet adapter for your laptop. If that solves the problem – or your wi-fi network remains flaky – you may need a new router.

If there’s still a problem when connected directly to your modem, try another laptop if you can. If that doesn’t help, contact your internet provider.

Slow computer?

Tools like CleanMyMac can help reduce storage clutter and optimise your system’s performance.

A slow-running computer can really affect your productivity and concentration, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to buy a new computer. Here are a few things you can try first.

First, remove any unwanted apps and check for clutter that has built up over time, including programs running in the background. Windows and macOS have tools that allow you to do this, but third-party optimisers such as iolo System Mechanic for Windows can speed up the process.

Alternatively, a clean reinstallation of your operating system will nuke everything you don’t need. Just be sure to back up everything you do need first.

Full hard drive?

A full or near-full hard drive is a hassle, and it can affect your computer’s performance.

The techniques in this article will help reduce storage clutter, but if they’re not enough, you may need to archive older or lesser-used files on an external hard drive or in the cloud. You can do the latter by using OneDrive’s Files On-Demand feature in Windows or macOS’s store in iCloud tool. Dropbox Business offers a similar feature.

Lost a file?

Can’t find a file? First, check Windows’ Recycle Bin or macOS’s Trash to see if you have accidentally deleted it. Perhaps you accidentally saved it to another folder, so use you operating system’s built-in search function to look for the file.

If it’s gone, don’t panic. Tools such as Disk Drill can recover “permanently deleted” files. However, act quickly, because it won’t work if new data has overwritten the area on the drive where the file used to be. Disk Drill can even recover files on a damaged storage device, or deleted emails.

Want an earlier version of a document? Dropbox, OneDrive and similar apps offer a version history feature.

Spilled water on your laptop?

We all know we shouldn’t drink near our laptop, but what do you do when you ignore that advice (like most of us do) and spill liquid over the keyboard?

First, if your laptop is connected to the mains, disconnect it from the power point immediately, and power it down. Quickly wipe away as much liquid as you can, and unplug the power cable and external devices.

Open your laptop as wide as you can and turn it upside down, placing a paper towel underneath. Let it drain for a day or two.

The next step involves disassembling your laptop and drying the components, but that’s best done by a computer technician.

CPA Australia podcast: Career skills revisited: Working from home

Maintenance tips

Here are some simple suggestions to help you head off problems before they arise.

  • Use antivirus software. Among other nasty symptoms, malware can really slow down your system, so if that’s a problem for you, try running a virus scan.
  • Back-up. Make sure you back up everything you need, including data files for applications such as Outlook, that may not be in an obvious place. Using a file-syncing app like Dropbox is a good start. For important data, however, you should also use dedicated back-up software daily to copy the files to a second location, such as an external hard drive.
  • Save your work regularly – just in case your computer crashes. Turning on auto-save, if your application supports it, can make this easier. Just be aware in recent versions of Microsoft Office, auto-save will only work if you name and save your file to OneDrive before starting on the document.

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