IT Wizardry – for non technical people

For those of you that are not “techy” people, using a computer can be a sometimes frustrating thing. Understanding what you are trying to accomplish vs. what the computer will let you do can be a struggle. Sometimes the “techy” people make the solutions to your computer related issue seem like IT wizardry or at least you hope that is the case.

Truth is, it isn’t wizardry at all. Computers are straightforward, hardware and software. Please allow me to lay out some groundwork here.

If we look at a nonlaptop computer, we have a monitor (unless this is an “all in one computer”), a PC case, a mouse and a keyboard. Inside of the PC case you normally have a motherboard, RAM (random access memory), a hard drive, and a power supply (maybe some other devices as well(CD / DVD, video card or floppy drive)). This hardware allows electronic bits of data to move around and be processed. The keyboard, mouse, and monitor are input devices, allowing you to work with the computer.

Hardware troubleshooting is usually straightforward, most manufacturers have built-in tools for this purpose (startup checks or internal applications to the OS). The function of these checks will depend on the manufacturer. You can run these on a regular basis to ensure the longer-term success of the hardware that you purchased.

From there you have an operating system loaded onto the hard drive (Windows, Linux, Unix).

Most of you are probably comfortable using the Microsoft Windows OS’s. This OS has the largest share of the user market, personal use, company use, government use to name a few. Depending on the version of the Windows OS that you are used to using, you have different Start buttons or User Interface. This is also the OS with the most issues. Rebooting regularly (weekly), and staying current with system patches usually clears up some of the issues.

Some of you may be used to your Unix OS on your Apple system. The next largest share of the market and the next most stable OS. It can still have issues, but some of those are caused by applications or caused by user changes.

Which leaves us our final OS, the Linux distro family. For those of you that use Linux based systems, most of you don’t need this article, as you already have a solid understanding of the wizardry. This OS can go days, months and sometimes years without rebooting (depending on the distro and version) as most of the system patches can be installed while the system is live and without reboots. These OS’s have come along way in UI and usability in the years past.

Hardware and  OS’s covered, now we move on to applications. Predominately, this is where issues happen. Poorly written applications, application incompatibility with other running applications, application incompatibility with the OS or security-related problems.

Now all of that said, when you have an issue with your system, I would almost guarantee you are not the first person to experience that problem with your system. Those “techy” folks jump on to google and type in something similar to the issue you are experiencing (Outlook not receiving email or Dell computer beeps four times during bootup as examples). This usually gives them a handful of possible troubleshooting steps, and one of those will usually resolve the problem. See, not wizardry at all.

I know one of the most hated things for non-technical people to hear is “have you rebooted lately?”; however, there is a reason they ask that first. A reboot can usually clear up all kinds of minor computer related issues. Beleive it or not most “techy” people hate asking it as well because they hope that you have already tried the simple (rebooting) troubleshooting before calling them. One other little tidbit, if the “techy” person you are working with on a problem cannot clearly explain something to you, they don’t fully understand the product or how it works (Sorry tech folks).

I hope this helps to clear up some questions and dispel the wizardry aspect of IT. No wands or pointy hats needed here.

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