Troubleshooting is an important component of technical support and refers to searching for the source of the problem and addressing it. It is an approach that is used to deal with problems in computer systems, machines, and electronic devices.

Several stories point to the origin of troubleshooting. One is that during the 1800s California gold rush, mines hired tough, no-nonsense guards to shoot troublemakers. They were referred to as “troubleshooters.”

Another story tells of technicians dispatched by the 19th-century telephone and telegraph companies to hunt for problems in their infrastructure. They were instructed to “shoot” these troublesome problems down.

Other interesting terms…

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what is troubleshooting

Troubleshooting is a systematic approach to problem-solving, specifically for issues concerned with sudden equipment breakdown and system or software bugs. As such, it involves a variety of techniques to diagnose system or equipment failure and implement the appropriate corrective action.

The term commonly figures in engineering, technology, and process industries. As an approach, it is often applied in information technology (IT), usually to address hardware or software malfunction. The goal is to not only remedy a problem, but also to ensure product longevity, lower costs, and prevent safety hazards associated with product usage.

What Are the Different Troubleshooting Methods?

Troubleshooting generally requires three methods to pinpoint the root cause of a problem and fully restore a piece of equipment or application to its operational state. The methods are discussed below.

1. Diagnosis or failure analysis

This is the process wherein a product’s or process’s modes of failures are investigated. With it, a device or process may be picked apart or checked with the aid of diagnostic tools to understand how defects could impact operations, as well as the safety of users.

2. Process of elimination

The process of elimination is a problem-solving method where solutions are screened until only the best one is left. One example of this process is the split-half search technique. It refers to the practice of eliminating 50% of the potential sources of an issue until you determine its ultimate source. Once the cause has been identified, the problem is replicated so a solution can be chosen and subsequently administered.

3. Process or product restoration

This is the process wherein the solution is applied to either fix or replace the problematic component. Here, a technician or troubleshooter has to verify that the issue has been fully resolved and will no longer cause future problems.

What Is the Troubleshooting Process?

The troubleshooting process comprises five steps. We’ll discuss them in greater detail below.

Step #1: Identify the Problem

Before any problem can be solved, you have to identify what it is first. You should know what you’re up against and its possible causes. Did the machine fail? Does it no longer perform as expected? Did it result from a user error? Is it a random anomaly? What happened that alerted you to the problem?

Step #2: Collect Relevant Information

Next, you need to collect all available information about the machine and how it works. You can consult its manual. How often is the machine used? Who uses it? What for? How long? You’ll also need its maintenance history, problem reports, and every other data.

Step #3: Analyze the Data

Now, with all the information you gathered, try to determine the problem’s root cause. Seek the advice of expert maintenance troubleshooters. Ask the person who reported the fault. If the machine failed before, ask questions like:

  • Were new replacement parts used?
  • Has the machine been upgraded lately?
  • Was the type of input material changed?
  • Was the machine used differently?
  • Was there an electrical surge?

If after analyzing the data, you still don’t know the root cause, go back to Step 2.

Step #4: Propose and Test a Solution

When you know what you’re dealing with, create your action plan. Get to the solution using a process of elimination and trial and error. Test your theory on a less necessary device. Keep testing until you find the right solution. If nothing works, go back to Step 3.

Step #5: Implement the Solution

If you accurately diagnosed the problem, found the solution, and tested it, it’s time to fix the problem. Make sure the machine works the way it should before you sign off. Take note of all the steps you took so should the problem arise again, you’ll know what to do.

What Is an Example of Troubleshooting?

Perhaps one of the most popular troubleshooting commands is “Control + Alt + Delete” (Option + Command + Escape on Mac), which opens the Task Manager on Windows (Force Quit Applications on Mac). Through these applications, users can determine which program has become completely unresponsive, close it or restart the computer altogether.

What Does Effective Troubleshooting Entail?

The success of troubleshooting depends on the expertise of the professionals handling it and whether or not they observe the prescribed approach. IT professionals can refer to knowledge bases and various troubleshooting manuals issued by hardware or software vendors. Such manuals list commonly encountered technical problems, usually in the form of questions, followed by recommended solutions. Most troubleshooting steps for virtually any simple or complex issue can also be Googled.

Key Takeaways

  • Troubleshooting is a systematic approach to problem-solving in technical support. It involves diagnosing and addressing equipment breakdowns and software bugs.
  • The term “troubleshooting” traces its roots to California gold rush guards and technicians in the 19th century.
  • Common troubleshooting methods include diagnosis or failure analysis, the process of elimination, and product restoration.
  • The troubleshooting process consists of five steps—identifying the problem, collecting relevant information, analyzing the data, proposing and testing a solution, and implementing the solution.
  • An example of troubleshooting is using the Ctrl + Alt + Del command to open the Task Manager and address program unresponsiveness.
  • Effective troubleshooting relies on the expertise of professionals and following prescribed approaches, including referencing knowledge bases and troubleshooting manuals.