Solutions to 5 most-common problems

July 15, 2004|By Doug Bedell and Jim Rossman | Doug Bedell and Jim Rossman,Knight Ridder/ Tribune

Getting a balky computer to behave can be a Dr. Phil experience: You confess your problems to some know-it-all geek, and he insults your intelligence.

Now that Internet access is available in multiple spots in our daily lives, such indignities can be more easily avoided.

Here are the five glitches that most often interrupt computing life and some commonsense ways to restore sick machines to good health.

1. Can't send or receive e-mail

Your e-mail has been working flawlessly, then boom M-y instead of receiving the daily dose of junk, you are faced with the error: M-tHost M-fmail.msn.comM-F could not be found.M-v You donM-Ft remember doing anything that would cause a problem.

What to do

* You should not change any settings on your computer before you try some quick fixes.

* Check your Internet connection by calling up a Web site. If you can surf the Internet, you can rule out your connectivity as a culprit. If your computer is not online, you must fix that problem first. (See M-tCanM-Ft connect to Internet.M-v)

* Double-check your account settings in the preferences of your e-mail program.

* Verify that the account user name (usually the first part of your e-mail address) and server names are correct. You should have this information written down somewhere. If you donM-Ft know your settings, look for an e-mail help page at your Internet service providerM-Fs Web site.

* Call your ISP to see if there is a mail server problem. While you are on the phone, have the technician verify that your account is not locked because someone tried a wrong password too many times. If you still canM-Ft get your e-mail, stay on the phone with your ISPM-Fs technicians. ItM-Fs their job to get your connection working. They will talk you through resetting your preferences and reinstalling the software, if necessary.

2. Power comes on, but the monitor is blank

First, donM-Ft panic. Cursing, stomping the machine or banging it with your hands or power tools will not help. Take a systematic approach to narrow down the problem.

What to do

* Check the following: Is the power cable for the monitor plugged in correctly? Is the monitor turned on? Is the cable from the video card to the monitor plugged in correctly? Is the video card seated properly? Take the cover off the CPU, remove the video card (itM-Fs the one attached to the monitor), reinsert it, then try again. If allM-Fs well in there, push the power button again and watch the lights on the front of the PC. Do any blink or light up? Can you hear the fan in the power supply whirring? If so, you most likely are having a hardware problem.

* If the problem persists, remove everything but the CPU, memory, keyboard and video card, then boot again. Does the error still occur? If not, add back one component at a time and restart until the system fails to respond. Once the error recurs, you have identified the culprit.

3. Can't connect to the Internet

Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to connect to the Internet. LetM-Fs assume the problem is not with your Internet service provider. That would be too easy.

What to do

* Check your point of connection, the modem. Dial-up and broadband connections both rely on a modem. Unplug and reconnect the cable at both ends. Dial-up modems are fairly easy to troubleshoot. You can hear if the modem is dialing and the screeches and beeps as the computer negotiates a connection speed. If you can hear the screeching but no connection is established, recheck your account settings or reinstall your ISP software if you have a disc.

* Call your ISP to verify the settings. A good list of troubleshooting articles can be found at

* Broadband users can look for green lights on their modems to indicate a good connection to the ISP. If you have made a connection and still canM-Ft surf the Net or check e-mail, see if your computer received an IP (Internet protocol) address, which is assigned by a server at your ISPM-Fs data center. Windows users can choose Run from the Start menu, type M-tCommandM-v in the dialogue box and hit return. A command line window will appear. Type IPCONFIG /ALL and hit return. Your IP will be displayed. It is four groups of numbers separated by periods, such as 192.168. 100.100. If your computerM-Fs IP address starts with 169, it means you really arenM-Ft on the Internet M-y the server didnM-Ft assign your computer a valid address.

* To troubleshoot Internet connectivity issues in Windows XP, get to a computer that can see the Internet and print out the information at cid=314067.

4. The computer won't boot

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