“Have you tried turning it off and on again” – the miracle of starting again.

Computers are funny things.

Sometimes, all of a sudden, something that worked yesterday isn’t working today. It could be Word is crashing  or the printer isn’t printing or you cant access the network drive where your work is saved even though its appearing in the list or the VPN isn’t connecting from home.

That’s it, the computer isn’t working! Lets raise a helpdesk ticket. We all know what happens next – The helpdesk technician contacts you, you have a nice chat, they ask you to restart the computer and try again. Voila! It works! You say thank you, they say have a nice day and the ticket is closed. But you can help but think – that’s not really a fix. What happens when it does it again (and it will do it again)? Why didn’t the technician spend the time to find the root cause so that it won’t happen again?

Computer problems fall in to one of two categories. Hardware or Software.

Hardware faults such as faulty RAM, overheating CPU or failing hard drive normally show as general “hard locks” or the dreaded, seemingly random, Blue Screen of Death. These issues generally do not go away with a restart.

Problems with software show as issues that stop specific functions from working. So why does restarting the computer fix software issues? And how does the technician know the difference?

Reason one: Software updates.

Modern Operating systems and software such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Suite frequently update themselves in the background while we are using the computer.  Gone are the days where updates could be easily postponed or could wait until we are ready to do a bulk update. Windows and Office especially will try to update in the background and possibly not require a restart for the changes to take effect. As far as windows is concerned, everything is running normally and the update was successful. When we try to use a 3rd party application that expected the system to be one way, the application crashes when a particular function it relies on has changed. The only thing that could have fixed the issue was restart. No amount of time spent troubleshooting would have changed this.

Reason two: The computer hasn’t been restarted for a long time

Those who use laptops don’t even think twice when moving from office to site to home. We just close the lid which puts the machine in to hibernation and then open it back up again to pick up where we left off. Even Desktop machines that don’t move go in to hibernation when we don’t use them for a while. The machine allows us to continue working just by opening the lid or moving the mouse. Sometimes this can mean a machine isn’t turned off or restarted for potentially months at a time. The PC never has a chance to clear temp files or restart critical services that run in the background. Even changes in the physical location (ie connecting to a new network) can cause problems. Again, no amount of troubleshooting would change this.

Reason three: Sometimes.. stuff just happens!

A good technician can tell the difference between an actual problem and a transient issue – and they can do it quickly. Software sometimes just gets confused. There is no rhyme or reason to it, it just happens. A restart allows the system to have a clean slate.

The bottom line is: Computers and the software they run are not perfect, sometimes starting over is all it takes to get the computer and your work day back on track!

Ps: Even though our technicians may restart your computer to resolve an issue, rest assured they are very good at seeing patterns within the helpdesk tickets. If the same thing is happening too frequently, it will be investigated!