Intermittent Problems - Help Us Help You
We've all had them, intermittent problems with something.
They are beyond annoying because they always, ALWAYS fail to show themselves when you are showing the device to the person who can diagnose and potentially fix it.
Because we aren't usually experts in the area that is going wrong, describing what is happening to the technician is often difficult if not impossible.
I mean, how do you say what is going wrong when you don't even know the name of the thing that is misbehaving?
Let's face it, if we could name and shame the offending problem, we may not even need the technician. We'd Google an answer, right?!
It is partially for this reason that I pretty much never diagnose a problem based on what I've been told by the customer.
I need to see and experience what is going on to have a chance of identifying the issue.
For one reason or another the customer can't always be there to "make it happen", even if it is a readily reproducible problem.
So there needs to be a better way of communicating the problems to your technician or you are going to waste their time and your money.
No-one wants to get their computer back only to have it exhibit the same problem it was dropped off to rectify. But if you haven't told us, or been clear enough, we have no chance of getting close to homing in on the issue among the thousands upon thousands of things that COULD be going on.
So what do you do?
Well, smart phones are great for taking photos and videos. Use your phone to record what is happening.
A few years back I had a problem with a new motorbike. I'd get out on the road only for it to "fail to proceed".
Everything was running, but when I released the clutch no forward motion resulted.
So I'd call the roadside service. They'd take away the bike. I'd struggle to find some way home. The next day they'd fire it up and it would work perfectly. So they never believed what I was saying.
So the next time it happened I videoed it with my phone. I did not have to use words. I had proof and they had to believe me.
It may not be ideal for recording other screens etc. but capturing issues with a separate independent device can eliminate the frustration of it "disappearing" while you are trying to garner evidence from the device itself.
Another way is to capture screen shots on your computer.
Pretty much every operating system has a method for capturing screen shots. So when the thing is doing its thing, take a screen shot.
Use a tool to capture the exact things (steps) you are doing that make the issue happen.
If you have a sequence of events that makes "it" happen, but you don't know how to describe it, or it is too lengthy and complex, then use a tool like the Windows Steps Recorder to capture the information for you.
Perhaps the last two tips are the most important:
1) Learn what the names are of the "thing"s that are, and related to, the problem.
2) Use words and meaningful descriptions.
I can't tell you the number of times I've been told what a problem is using single words e.g. "internet", "memory", "hard drive".
The problem with this is that, to a computer person, these will probably have completely different (and numerous meanings) to what a customer/user might think they mean.
For example, to name just a few, I've had "internet" mean "web browsing", "email", "the modem", "the whole computer" etc.
I've had "memory" mean everything from RAM, to the hard disk, to external hard disk, to a file, to "the whole computer".
And I've had "hard drive" mean everything from "the whole computer" down to a USB memory stick...so you see my problem.
So even if you can name the program you are using and what you are doing, that helps a lot.
Of course there are certain diagnostic tools we tech's have at our disposal, but even these aren't much good if your words (or lack thereof) send us on a wild goose chase.
Even further back than the motorbike incident, I had a car that would also "fail to proceed". Except that this would do it while we were driving along.
It too was new and under warranty and it too failed to reveal what was happening every time it was towed back to the workshop.
The mechanics told me that the diagnostics said there was nothing wrong and gave me the car back.
I told the mechanics "I don't give a sh*t what the diagnostics say, this IS happening. I am not an idiot" and I told them to keep the car until it did it to them..which it eventually did much to their surprise. Hmmmm :-(
Of course I was supplied with a loan car for the months (yes months) that these folks drove my car around waiting for it to do its "thing".
And, to be frank, I can't spend days, weeks or months "using" your computer until it does the wrong thing. It isn't like a car where you just go from A to B and use a different vehicle than you might have otherwise. There are a lot more security and privacy issues over using someone else's computer and potentially doing your stuff on it.
So, in a nutshell, you don't have to do any of this, but it will save you time and money if you are able to provide more evidence and some detailed descriptions of just what is going.