How To Describe Your Problem to a PC Repair Professional

Tips on Properly Communicating Your Computer Problem

Photo of a man and woman talking in front of a computer
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Even if you've decided that fixing your computer problem yourself isn't for you this time, you still need to figure out exactly what your problem is and how to communicate that problem to whichever computer repair professional you've decided on hiring.

Or better yet, maybe you have decided to fix your own computer problem but you need a little help through the process.

"My computer just isn't working" isn't good enough, I'm sorry to say.

I know, I know, you're not an expert, right? You don't need to know the difference in SATA and PATA to effectively describe your particular PC issue to a PC repair pro.

Follow these simple tips to ensure that the person you're paying to fix your computer, or the one you're asking nicely to help you for free, has a clear understanding what the problem actually is:

Be Prepared

Before you post to a forum or social networking site for help, or start unhooking your computer so you can get some service on it, you need to make sure you're prepared to explain your computer problem.

If you're prepared, you'll describe your problem to the computer repair person more clearly, which will make he or she better informed of your issue, which will probably mean that you'll spend less time and/or money on getting your computer fixed.

The exact information you should be prepared with will vary depending on your problem but here are several things to keep in mind:

  • If you have an error message: What's the exact error message on your screen?
  • If you don't have an error message: What exactly is your computer doing? "It just doesn't work" isn't helpful information.
  • When did the problem start happening?
  • Did anything else happen at the same time the problem started? (e.g. a blue screen of death, smoke coming from the computer, virus warning, etc.)
  • What have you already done to troubleshoot the problem?
  • Has the problem changed since it first started happening (e.g. computer shuts off more frequently, error message appears at a different time now, etc.)

If you're getting in-person help, I recommend writing all of this down before you head out the door or pick up the phone.

Be Specific

I touched on this a little in the Be Prepared tip above, but the need to be thorough and specific is extremely important! You may be well aware of the trouble your computer has been having but the computer repair expert is not. You have to tell the whole story in as much detail as possible.

For example, saying "My computer just quit working" doesn't say anything at all. There are millions of ways a computer might "not be working" and the ways to fix those problems can vary tremendously. I always recommend stepping through, in great detail, the process that produces the problem.

Also important with most problems, at least when getting help online or over the phone, is to let the expert you're talking to know the make and model of your computer as well as what operating system you're running.

If your computer won't turn on, for example, you might describe the problem like this:

"I hit the power button on my laptop (it's a Dell Inspiron i15R-2105sLV) and the green light that always comes on does so. Some text shows up on the screen for just a second, which I don't have time to read, and then the whole thing shuts off and there's no lights on at all. I can turn it on again with no trouble but the same thing happens. It's running Windows 10."

Be Clear

Communication is key to properly describing your PC issue to a computer repair professional. The entire reason for your post, visit, or phone call is to communicate to the person helping you what the problem is so he or she can properly fix, or help you fix, the problem.

If you're getting help online, be sure to reread what you type for clarity, avoid using ALL CAPS, and a "thank you" goes a long way considering the help you're getting is probably being provided free of charge.

When getting help in person, basic communication rules apply like elsewhere in life: speak slowly, enunciate properly, and be nice!

If you're describing your problem over the phone, be sure you're calling from a quiet area. A barking dog or screaming child is unlikely to help anyone understand your problem more clearly.

Be Calm

No one likes computer problems. Believe me, sometimes a computer repair person learns to hate computer problems even more than you, even if it is his or her job. Getting emotional, however, solves absolutely nothing. Getting emotional frustrates everyone and works against getting your computer fixed quickly.

Try to keep in mind that the person you're talking to didn't design the hardware or program the software that's giving you problems. The computer repair expert you're getting help from simply knows about these things - he or she is not responsible for them.

Maybe even more importantly, be sure to be nice and thankful when getting help online, like from a computer help forum. These folks help other people simply because they are knowledgeable and enjoy helping. Being rude or getting frustrated at the back-and-forth will probably just get you ignored in the future.

You're only in control of the information you're providing so your best bet is to take another look at some of the tips above and try to communicate as clearly as you possibly can.

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