Time 2.2 hrs

Difficulty Beginner
Prerequisites Teardown and Rebuild (Electronics)
Departments Human Technologies
Authors Ross Parker
Groupings Individual
Minimum Year Group None


In this unit you will learn some key ideas to help you troubleshoot and fix common computer problems.


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5 mins
What Is Troubleshooting?
Getting Started
  • Troubleshooting is a type of problem solving, where we take something that is not working and try to fix it quickly and effectively.
  • Good troubleshooting can help you get back to work faster, with less frustration, when things go wrong.
  • In this unit we will use the example of a WiFi (short range wireless network connection) problem, but the same steps can be applied to any number of situations.
    • Examples are for Mac, but the same things can be done on other systems in similar ways.
5 mins
The Symptoms
What Is Wrong?
  • Imagine you are trying to access from a Mac laptop, but the page is not loading. Instead, you see this screen:

  • You think it is a WiFi issue, but you are not sure what to do. Read on...
10 mins
1. Try A Substitute
Something Similar
  • If is not working, it could be a problem with your WiFi connection, or perhaps Google is just temporarily down.
  • To test the problem, try loading a few other sites:
  • Think about what the results might tell you:
    1. If none of the sites is most likely a problem with your computer, your WiFi or your broadband connection.
    2. If all of these sites except YouTube is a problem with Google.
    3. If only sites in Hong Kong work...then it is a problem with Hong Kong's connection to other countries.
  • In the case of numbers 2. and 3., there is no much you can do other than wait.
  • In the case of number 1, you might be able to fix it.
10 mins
2. Restart It
Turn It Off And Then On
  • It is often said that restarting something solves 99% of computer problems. But what to restart?
  • In this case, start by turning your WiFi connection off and then back on, using the WiFi icon in the Mac system notification area (top right of your screen), or by clicking on the WiFi icon on Chromebook

  • If this does not solve the problem, then try to turn your whole computer off and then back on.
  • If this does not work, on a Mac you can try a special restart called an NVRAM or PRAM reset.
10 mins
3. Get More Information
Learn More
  • Most of the time, the problem will be solved by now, but sometimes you need to dig deeper.
  • To learn more, look at the status of your WiFi connection by using the Open Network Preferences option in the WiFi icon in the notification area. On Chromebook, go to Settings and click Network

  • This will open a window that looks like this. Check to see that the light indicator for WiFi is green and that your IP address does not start with 169.254:

  • Seeing an orange or red light, or an IP address starting with 169.254 means there is a network problem.
5 mins
4. Test Another Devicce
Phone? Tablet? Laptop?
  • At this point it is worth trying another device on your network, to see if you get the same problem.
  • If you can, use another laptop, phone or tablet that is on the same network, and load the same page:
    • If it works on this new device, the problem is with your other device.
    • If it does not work, then it is likely to be a network problem.
10 mins
5. Restart Everything
Network Hardware
  • Given that you seem to have a network problem:
    • If you are at school, you would probably now want to report this issue to the IT Services department in The White House.
    • If you are at home, you could try and restart your network devices:
      • Look around your house and locate your network devices.
      • You probably have two such devices that look something like this:

A modem (left) and WiFi router (right)

      • For each device, turn the power off at the wall, wait 10 seconds, and then turn the power back on.
      • Wait 3 minutes for the devices to restart and get connected.
10 mins
6. Install Updates
  • Software, the programs and code that make your devices work, is "soft" in the sense that it can be changed.
  • Over time software on your devices becomes out of date and causes problems with your network.
  • If you can connect to a network, you can try and get the most recent updates for your device:

  • Your WiFi router also has software, although it is slightly harder to change and so is called firmware.
    • Updating firmware can be risky (it can break your hardware!), but you can always ask your parents for help or permission to try and do this.
5 mins
7. Ask An Expert
  • There are lots of experts online who have offered advice on fixing problems.
  • Obviously, if Google is not working, you cannot Google an answer! But, you could try one of these other search engines instead:
  • If your device can't connect to the Internet at all, you can always ask a friend to search on their device.
  • And, your school has a number of ICT experts, who you can always call on for help.
    • If you get help, ask what the problem and solution were, so you can try and get better at troubleshooting.
  • There are also local experts who you can pay to help fix ICT problems if you are really, really stuck.
5 mins
8. Contact Your ISP
Last Ditch Effort
  • Your home accesses the Internet via an Internet Service Provider (ISP).
  • In Hong Kong your ISP is most likely to be PCCW Netvigator, but could also be
    • Hong Kong Broadband.
    • Pacific Internet.
    • HKNeT.
    • HGC Broadband.
  • Calling your ISP for support can solve problems, but you need to be patient and expect that to tell you "it is not our fault"...which you need to push back against.
10 mins
  • The following comic, although intended to be funny, provides a very good reminder that we can solve our own problems if we think hard, try different things, and search online:

45 mins
Finishing Up
  • Wow, that was a lot of things to think about!
  • In order to show evidence of what you have learned here do the following:
    • Create either:
      • a new post on your eportfolio site entitled Troubleshooting
      • or a new Google Doc called Troubleshooting
    • Write a short introduction about this unit, stating what you think troubleshooting is.
    • Give a numbered list of useful steps in troubleshooting a problem
    • State what you think the most important mindset is for troubleshooting.
  • Once your post is ready, publish it and submit the link to this unit.
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