Don’t worry! We won’t lead with the legendary “Turn it off and on again” although that does seem to work incredibly often. True story, many years ago the author of this piece had an issue with some Microsoft Software (it was Windows 3.0 if anyone remembers that far back) and he was genuinely, seriously, asked to turn the machine off and on again to see if it resolved the issue. We like our blogs to be a little more useful and informative than that, so we lean towards common sense solutions that you may or may not have thought of.
We’ll initially focus on “updates” as this category of fixes tends to be the most often relied upon and thus, through sheer numbers, the most misused!
Before we begin, though, we need to explain a few terms that will be referenced later. It’s crucial that a distinction is made as the approach to handling things is often based on the nature of the beast in question! Without further ado, then;
Core update functionality built into every version of Windows since
Windows 98. It focuses on the actual operating system itself, and nothing more. In essence, Windows Update has the ability to compare the current Installation of Windows with the various latest components that Microsoft has available for download. Later components often have bugs fixed, security flaws removed or functionality added.
This is an optional feature of Windows Update. When enabled, it broadens Update’s search to include peripheral software from Microsoft, for titles such as Microsoft Office.
This is code stored on a storage device (usually within Microsoft Windows) that controls the behaviour of the PC / laptop / tablet.
This is very special, specific code that is not stored on a drive but instead, in a ROM (Read Only Memory) chip on the device in question. Such devices could be wireless controllers (to give laptops WiFi for example), printing controllers (that tell the printer how to handle jobs from PC’s etc). Firmware essentially allows low-level hardware to communicate within a broader system.
Similar to firmware, but instead of being stored inside a particular chip on a device, it is stored on a storage device and used to tell Windows how to handle the hardware.
Special “libraries” that rely on being up to date in order to function correctly. A classic example of this would be for Anti-Virus / Anti-Malware.
Let’s make all that a little clearer
Software / Hardware / Firmware can be summed up with an example expanding on the Wireless Controller mentioned above;
Contains a wireless chip for WiFi
Wireless chip contains FIRMWARE: Wi-Fi chip uses firmware to dictate its features
Contains a hard drive
Hard drive contains SOFTWARE: Windows code (e.g. Windows 10)
Hard drive contains DRIVERS: Special code running under Windows that
“talks” to the WiFi Firmware
Using this information
There are a number of Best Practice approaches here and it pays to know what they are as “Gung-Ho” is not generally recognised as the most effective modus operandi. Below are some broad guidelines with respect to the handling of the items we’ve been talking about.
Windows / Microsoft Update – Ideal Policies
1. Windows Update
Never Disable it! It’s a “Good Thing”. The main caveat here is to
ensure that Windows Updates are not going to cause an important Windows device to reboot at an inopportune time. Updates can be paused (up to 7 days) to allow you to be more specific about when you allow it to run. In short though, Windows Update should be run
as often as possible, and never disabled.
2. Microsoft Update
Again, this is a Good Thing and should always be used. Please note
that Microsoft Update is NOT enabled by default, so you’ll have to go into settings and fix that. (The method varies according to Windows version).
When a modern Operating System (read, Windows 7 or 10) is performing an update, there will usually be a message displayed to the effect of “Please do not turn off your computer”. Please, HEAD THIS WARNING, NO MATTER HOW LONG IT TAKES. We often get users who have ignored this message, powered off their PC / laptop, and then run into trouble even starting Windows on the next boot. In such circumstances, professional help is often required restore the machine back to rights.
The other stuff
By this, we mean applications that is not of Microsoft origin. Examples could be Sage Accounts, Solidworks 2019, Adobe PhotoShop etc. No blog has sufficient space to list everything out there, but you get the picture. In general, quality software will have an easy update solution built into it and you should liaise with the vendor if you are not sure. This is particularly important with Sage, as it’s very important that any updates you apply on one machine are replicated across all machines running the software.
In general, the later the version of the software the more functional and stable it is. However, there is value to the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and we would not blindly recommend wholesale updates of all applications just for the sake of it.
In short, then, if you’re having a problem, update (but carefully and in collaboration with the software vendor).
Drivers We would recommend that you treat drivers like the software they are, and only update them if you are looking to solve a specific issue. It’s rare that a driver update will cause a new issue, but “rare” isn’t the same as “never”.
Now this is where it gets a little murky for the end user. You may or may not have heard of the term “bricking” but it’s worth recapping now; improper updating of firmware can cause a total failure of that device, rendering it as much use (in technological terms) as a brick! Definitely not for the faint of heart and ideally best left to a trained technician with deep experience in performing this sort of procedure.
Always keep up to date. Moreover, if you’re going to run a virus scan (for example), ensure you’ve updated the dictionary first.
I’ve updated everything – still not right!
If you’re still getting problems even after the above, you might want to look at some other basics;
1) Check cables are all plugged in properly (especially in Network switches, printers etc.)
2) Look into drive health in slow / crashing PC’s
3) Look into specifications of PC’s (in 2019 we’d recommend an SSD drive, Core i3 CPU and 8GB RAM for a basic “Office use” machine)
4) In cases where your internet is “up and down” liaise with the ISP and don’t accept the oft-parroted line that the fault is within your building. Yes, it might be, but usually it’s not!
If all else fails
We’ve had a decent stab at providing you with the basics here, and all this in the absence of any specific fault description to enable us to deep-dive into the suspected problem area. Despite this though, it’s reasonable to acknowledge that we can’t possibly cover every problem / cause / solution without description / investigation. Give serious thought to contacting us and we will;
- Listen to your fault description
- Agree a path of investigation and cost parameters prior to undertaking work
- Take the agreed corrective action
- Look at any potential ways to prevent a recurrence
- Explore the possibility (if required) of setting up a formalised assistance arrangement
Regarding the last point, Nemark is more than happy to work on an ad-hoc basis but since our primary mantra is to always deliver value for money, we feel that this is best done within an organised support framework where the costs are lowered (on a like for like basis), pre-agreed and spread across a financial year. Doing it this way prevents unpleasant invoice “spikes”. Why not read our other blog on this subject, which questions the merit of having a full time “IT Guy” in your employ?
If you wish, our engineers will be happy to tell you what they’ve done to correct the issue (even if it’s just turning it off and on again!) but whatever your preference, you’ll be returned to productivity far faster than would usually be possible via the solo route.