Without the slightest trace of shame, I consider myself being very good at troubleshooting technical issues that arise on my own systems. I can dig rather deeply, analyze process calls and determine which program is loading what module that’s faulting. I pride myself at being able to solve issues without resolving to reformatting, which in my opinion, isn’t a real solution.
However, when someone rings and tells me, “my computer just blue-screened on me”, I find myself at a lost on how to react. More often than not, I find myself unable to come to a solution remotely.
I’ve been running this through my head because, you guessed it, I received just one such call tonight. I believe a large part my problem is due to the fact that I know very little about what goes on in other people’s computers. Contrast this to my own setups, where I am cautious of, and maintain and a good inventory of what applications I install. Thus, when an error occurs, it is significantly easier for me to backtrack and reproduce the problem.
Another contributing factor is freedom of action. I have full control over my own systems and even the network it resides within. This kind of liberty is often not present when dealing with other people’s computers.
To make complicate matters, people do poorly when it comes to describing the exact problem they’re facing. Having the exact error message, especially in blue screen situations, can go a long way in solving the problem. Although most aren’t very specific, some error messages put a high probability on the fault being hardware related other than software (
PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA comes to mind), greatly narrowing down the source of the problem.
I’m curious as to how others respond when another individual highlights a problem to them. How do you go about gathering as much information about the situation and the events leading up to it as possible in order to make a few educated guesses as to where the problem lies? Is there is standard operating procedure that you follow?