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What is troubleshooting?

Troubleshooting is a technical process where a computer user finds a solution to their computer issue. It's an important skill used in many IT roles including help desk, system administration, and networking.

Who does this article apply to?

This article applies to all Ubuntu users, whether they are experienced or new users. It hopefully gives new users the tools to fix their computer problems with as little frustration as possible. It will also help sharpen experienced users to they can better troubleshoot their problems quickly and effectively.

It can be very difficult to find an answer to a Ubuntu problem that's buried in resources such as the Ubuntu Wiki or in a Google search results. This article provides a great way to get started in troubleshooting and figure out where to go with your own computer problems.

Not all users will go through the troubleshooting process, but this will hopefully provide a more systematic approach to troubleshooting with the guidelines presented.

When would troubleshooting be useful?

Troubleshooting is useful when you have to figure out a computer problem that you need to resolve. There may be times that it isn't a good time to troubleshoot (e.g. when you are about to start a presentation). In those situations, it may be better to postpone the problem to another day.

Why learn to troubleshoot?

Unfortunately, the Internet and its users won't have the answer to every computer problem you encounter. There are many different factors that can cause your computer issues, including a bad software version, incompatible hardware, software configuration, and so on.

If you know how to troubleshoot, you'll know how to fix your computer problem right away instead of spending hours upon hours finding an answer to your issue or waiting for someone on the forums to solve it for you. If your issue involves hardware, troubleshooting can even help save you money from buying a whole new computer to fix your issue.

Lastly, troubleshooting has an added benefit of teaching you how use computers and how they work as a whole. You can also use this knowledge you learned yourself to help others with their computer issues as well.

How do you troubleshoot?

It's important to have a general understanding of a computer as a whole. It would take many articles to to explain everything about how Ubuntu works. Fortunately, you won't have to read every online article in order to troubleshoot your problems. You only need to know enough to fix the issue you currently face. You can also look up any additional information that you don't know as needed.

The more problems you troubleshoot, the better you'll get at it. You'll also get a better at understanding how Ubuntu works too.

Preliminary steps: Here are some general questions to ask yourself before starting the troubleshooting process. They help resolve many common problems before getting more involved in a computer problem. Note that all of these steps are in order from least involved to most involved:

  • 1) Are my cables plugged in properly?
    • - This is a silly question, but you'd be surprised how many hours a problem took simply
      • because a device wasn't plugged in all the way.
    2) Does my computer meet the system requirements to run it?
    • - Many resource-hungry programs such as 3-D games and video-editing software require certain
      • hardware constraints that must be met in order to run properly. These issues can reveal themselves as slow performances and unexpected crashes while running a program. This issue requires comparing the hardware specifications of your computer with the system requirements of the software you're running. o You can find out your system requirements through a simple Google search of the program
        • you're running.
        o To figure out your system specifications, you can open a terminal (Ctrl + Alt + T) and
        • entering "sudo lshw", which will reveal your current system specifications.
      - Keep in mind that if you are running Wine for Windows programs, the software requirements
      • will require a little more than specified.
    3) Does my program require root privileges?
    • - If the program does require root privileges, you can run the program in a terminal (Ctrl +
      • Alt + T) and entering "sudo" and the name of your program.
    4) Can I consult a manual provided with my software/hardware?
    • - All new software and hardware purchased come with a manual describing how to use
      • the product or software. It comes with step-by-step instructions to help you use your product properly. o Many of these manuals also have a troubleshooting section on how to fix common issues
        • related to the product.
        o If you don't have a physical copy of the manual, you can also find a PDF of it on
        • most products' website. It's located under the support page.
      - For many Ubuntu and Linux commands, they have their own separate manual pages called the
      • manpages. To read the manpages, simply type "man" followed by the command you want to enter.
    5) Does my Ubuntu software require any missing dependencies?
    • - Linux software requires common pieces of software that depend on the software you're using.
      • To resolve any dependencies, use "sudo apt -f install <application used>"

    6) Do I need to update and upgrade my software?
    • - This requires checking for the latest versions and downloading those versions. This can
      • sometimes provide software revisions to fix common bugs or other issues. It can be

        accomplished using "sudo apt update && sudo apt -y upgrade".

    7) Should I reinstall my software?
    • - This helps provide a fresh new install of a program that could be a problem. It can also re-
      • write any configuration files that were created in the program. It can be accomplished using

        "sudo apt autoremove --purge <application>"

    8) Do I need to update any drivers?
    • - Updating drivers may resolve any device-specific issues related to the running of a program.
      • This helps in many device-related issues including graphics cards.

Step 1: Describe the symptoms.

Once you've gone through the preliminary steps and confirmed the issue still exists, it's time to get a little more in depth on your problem.

In these next steps, we will use the example of troubleshooting

The first sub-step in this section is to know what the problem is. As simple as it sounds, it's very important to declare the computer problem to yourself the problem you're troubleshooting. This will guide everything you do in the following steps. It also helps to identify what your goal is so you won't get sidetracked with other problems. Lastly, there may be situations where you'll have multiple Ubuntu problems to troubleshoot and identifying one problem at a time helps you stay productive and focused.

The next sub-step is to describe the symptoms around the problem. Take notes (on paper or mentally) of what is going on with the problem. Take note of anything that COULD be related to your problem. It's important in this sub-step to not dismiss any symptoms as "too trivial" or "too insignificant." You'll dismiss symptoms in the next step. This step is simply getting a full list of anything that may not look right to you.

Some potential symptoms include error messages, unresponsive behavior, and terminal output. If you the problem involves software-related problems, you can open a terminal and run the problem software in it. Most software in Linux allows debug output in the terminal that can be read for errors. This may give important insight to the issue at hand.

Step 2: Make an Educated Guess on What the Problem is

Now that you have notes on the different symptoms, it's now time to figure out the "why" behind your problem. Review your list of symptoms and try to find some kind of pattern involved with your problem. This is where your knowledge of Ubuntu, Linux, and computers comes handy. As I said above, you won't need to know everything about all three in order to solve your problem. In many cases, it helps to not know too much because of information overload. Too much knowledge can be a hindrance to solving your problem.

If you don't know where to start with a problem, you can try reading articles on the Internet related to your problem. For example, to troubleshoot a problem where Ubuntu can't boot, it may help to review online articles on Linux's or Ubuntu's boot process. It may provide potential insight related to your computer issue at hand.

Step 3: Come Up with a Strategy to Resolve the Issue at Hand

The third step is now to find a solution to the problem. If you haven't already, refer to the preliminary steps above before you try any new solutions. Those steps give simple solutions to common problems with Ubuntu.

You can sometimes solve your problem on your own. With the information you gathered from the previous steps along with your knowledge of computers, you may know enough on how to solve the issue at hand. For those who are new to computers and Ubuntu, it's okay to not have this knowledge and experience with Ubuntu to solve problems. You can try the following paragraphs instead to assist you.

If you aren't able to solve the problem on your own, you can also try researching more information on how to solve the problem. Research can include the help of somebody else or other forms of resources (online, book, etc). Your research will help you uncover problems that people have already experienced before. Although I said above that it can be difficult to find a solution online, it's always good to see if people have experienced a similar issue to your problem. This helps save you time and effort from finding a new solution to a problem that's already been solved online. Why reinvent the wheel if you don't need to?

There are countless articles and Wiki's to refer to in fixing your problem. The bottom of the page includes some resources to help get started in troubleshooting.

If all else fails, ask somebody in the community: - Forums, whether on Ubuntu's site, Arch Linux's, or other forums related to your issue. - You could also try the Ubuntu IRC chat (hopefully somebody can leave the IRC chat information here).

These steps will help you find a strategy to help solve your problems. The next step carries out that strategy and afterwards.

Step 4: Test the Strategy. See if the Problem has been Resolved

This step is pretty simple: test your solution and see if it resolved your issue. If it didn't, refer back to step 1 above. This time, you have more information about your problem now that you tested out the solution. It will help you revise what information you've included in your previous steps so you can get closer to solving your problem.

List of guides

TroubleShootingGuide (last edited 2017-12-15 23:10:59 by sccman)