Hip To Be Square

Here Comes Trouble

Is your printer having a tantrum or floppy drive throwing fits? If so, fear not: Stephens offers plenty of problem-solving techniques.

Your printer won't print: For this problem, Stephens recommends the "Vulcan nerve pinch," the process of pushing a series of buttons on your printer to get it to print a test page. You can often get this info from the printer's instruction manual. If it prints, that means the printer's just fine. (If not, you'll need to consult the manufacturer's Web site or tech support for help.) To isolate the cause of the problem, try printing something in another program--if it doesn't print, it's a software problem, and you'll probably need to reinstall the printer driver. Check your printer cable to make sure it's connected properly as well.

Your printer prints garbage: In his book, Stephens writes, "If your printer appears to be printing secret coded messages from space, do not alert the authorities. No one will believe you. (Remember Roswell?) Simply reinstall the printer software from the original disks or CD-ROM. If the aliens still attempt to communicate, the problem may be the printer cable. A bad one could cause cross-signals that create this problem. Bring your cable to the computer store and have them test it; if it's faulty, buy a new one (about $10)."

Your computer won't boot up: Chances are, you've performed one of the four most common "stupid human tricks," Stephens says. Make sure it's plugged in (duh!), check the power source and power strip, and make sure the monitor is turned on.

Your computer is frozen: If nothing happens on the screen but your mouse responds, wait 20 to 30 seconds to react. A program may just be taking longer than normal. If your mouse doesn't work, press the Caps Lock or Num Lock key, and see if the keyboard light turns on and off. If it doesn't, it's probably a hardware lockup; restart the computer and see if it works. If the light does turn on and off, unplug the mouse and plug it back in. This will probably fix things. (If not, read the manual!)

Troubleshooting typically involves isolating the problem through a series of logical steps like these, Stephens says. When things aren't working properly, a simplistic--yet sensible--approach is best.

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This article was originally published in the October 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hip To Be Square.

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