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29 basics things IT people want you to know


1. Rebooting really does fix the majority of all IT problems!

Have you tried turning it off and on again? If an application starts acting up, or your computer starts running slowly, there might be a quick fix. By taking a minute of your time to reboot your computer, you can start over fresh. Consider rebooting a second chance for your machine to forget everything that’s troubling it, regroup, and get its act together. What’s more, recent patches or updates might not take effect until you restart your computer — so if your machine recommends a reboot, you should.

Heck, before writing this, I fixed a Wi-Fi issue by rebooting my smartphone. It really works.

2. Logging off and on is different from rebooting.

When you log off of your machine, you’re simply signing out of the system so that someone else can sign in. To get the full benefits of a full restart, you’ll either need to shut down (turn your computer off and on again) or reboot the machine.

3. Turning the monitor off and on isn’t the same as turning the computer off and on.

The power button on a monitor only turns off the screen without restarting the computer. While you’re smart and know this already, some people get confused.

4. The terms “computer” and “CPU” mean different things.

The computer is your entire machine … memory, hard drives, case, and all. However, the central processing unit (CPU) is the main computer chip — usually less than a few inches wide — inside of the computer, most probably made by Intel or AMD.

5. The computer’s desktop is not a good place to save important files. Neither is the recycling bin. 

Where you save your files matters. For example, IT departments might only back up files located in certain folders, such as those on a network drive. And in the case of the recycling bin, occasionally the files there are automatically deleted forever. Besides, files in the desktop folder appear over your background image, making your screen look like a jumbled mess.

6. The “deleted items” section of Outlook is not a good place to file important emails.

Just like the recycling bin, the deleted items folder in outlook gets automatically cleaned out from time to time. But believe it or not, some people like to store their most important emails there! For the task of holding your important communications, you should create special folder instead.

7. Not everything that can be emailed should be emailed.

Because it isn’t the most secure method of communication around, and because of regulatory issues, you shouldn’t include the following in emails: confidential materials; customer information; trade secrets; social security and credit-card numbers (and more!). Also, you shouldn’t email large files because they often won’t go through — and if they do, they put a large burden on your company’s email server. Use a secure file share instead.

8. Don’t “reply all” unless necessary.

Especially on communications sent to large groups of people — for example, the entire company  — don’t feel the need to reply to everyone. This will needlessly generate a lot of extra data that will clog up / slow down the mail server for everyone else. Besides, unless you’re the CEO, it’s unlikely that everyone wants to hear what you have to say.

9. If an email is returned as undeliverable, it likely won’t go through the second, third or tenth time you send it either.

The only thing trying to send an email that many times will do … is frustrate you. Address the underlying issue first (perhaps your computer isn’t connected to the network?) before trying to send again, and again, and again.

10. If a document didn’t print the first time, it won’t print no matter how many times you click on the print button.

Similarly, trying to send a print command 10 times likely won’t do anything good, but it might give you 10 copies of the same thing when the issue is finally resolved.

11. Clicking on a link 50 times won’t make it open any faster, either.

Having a happy finger might unexpectedly cause 50 windows to pop up once your computer decides to start responding again.

12. There’s a difference between the internet, your network connection, the intranet, and a specific website being down.

Losing your connection to the internet and the internet being down are different things. You can be connected to the network in your office without being connected to the internet. So even if you can access shared folders and internal websites, you might not be able to reach external sites like Google. Also, sometimes individual websites experience problems. Just because Amazon is having issues, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Wikipedia is also down.

13. IT does not control cellphone reception, or Wi-Fi outside the office.

If you aren’t on Wi-Fi, your phone company (Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, et al.) handles the voice and data networks your cellphone connects to. IT doesn’t have control over that network, so they can’t typically help you if you don’t have signal. And when you’re traveling outside the office, all bets are off because IT doesn’t control Wi-Fi networks at your house, in airports, or in your hotel.

14. If in doubt, read the instructions or Google the answer to a question.

The internet is an amazing resource at your fingertips. If you don’t understand an error message or know how to do something on your computer, there’s a high probability that someone has written about it or even made a step-by-step instructional video about it. Also, manuals and documentation for most products can be found online.

15. Just because you can access a website from your home computer doesn’t mean you need access to it at work.

Computers at work should be treated differently from your home computer. Companies have to worry about hackers, malware, legal issues, and ensuring there’s enough bandwidth for everyone at work. (Your excessive video streaming really slows down the network.) IT sets up firewalls, filtering software, and puts restrictions in place for a reason — to keep everyone safe, keep the company out of trouble, and to ensure that all employees can do their job.

16. If your work computer is locked down in some way, there’s a reason why.

Remember the time Bob downloaded a virus that spread throughout the entire company? How about the time George brought down the email server because he just had to forward the link, “” to everyone in the office?

17. Lock your computer when you walk away.

When you leave your computer behind without locking it, anyone can use it without a password. From there, they might copy (or delete) important files without your permission, install malware, or even send emails pretending to be you. Every time you leave your desk, you should lock your computer (on Windows, press the Window key+L or press Ctrl+Alt+Del and lock).

18. On Windows, Ctrl+Alt+Del gives you other options.

When you press Ctrl+Alt+Del, you can do things such as change your password; run the task manager (which lets you know what’s running on your computer); or log off.

19. Right-click is your friend. So are double-click, and click-drag.

When simply clicking on a button isn’t doing what you want, or presenting you with the right menu, try a different mouse function. If one doesn’t work, try one of the other options for a greater chance at success.

20. Password problems? Check the caps lock and num lock keys.

If your password doesn’t seem to work for some reason, no matter what you do, it might be because you’re entering it in all capital letters, thanks to caps lock. And if you use the numbers in your password, make sure that num lock is on the correct setting.

21. DO NOT write your password down and stick it to the bottom of the keyboard!

Or worse, on your monitor. All someone would have to do to hack your machine is be able to read since you’ve given away the secret. Even if someone is not physically right in front of your computer, they might snap a photo of your exposed passwords.

22. Be careful if you rely on your web browser to remember passwords.

Think about it … if you forget to lock your computer and someone gains access to it, they’ll be able to log into all of your accounts, potentially stealing important data or ordering stuff on the internet using your money.

23. When you tell IT exactly what an error message says, it makes a big difference.

The IT department needs more information than “the system is down.” Tell them exactly what’s wrong and they’ll be able to help you more quickly. However, a vague description of the problem will lead to unnecessary delays.

24. Taking a screenshot can help you show IT exactly what’s going on.

The “print screen” button on the keyboard captures a picture of everything that’s on your screen. You can then paste the image into an email, or to a program like Word or Paint. Alternatively, you can use the “Snipping Tool” to capture a specific part of the screen. On a Mac, Command+Shift+4 does the same thing.

25. If you ask for some IT support, you need to be available so IT can ask you followup questions.

Don’t go running off, if you want your issue resolved quickly. If you’re not there, either in person or on the phone, IT might not be able to fix your issue in a timely manner.

26. Your PC needs to be on for IT to support you remotely.

IT can often use a remote support tool to see what’s on your screen. They can even take control of your computer in order to resolve issues for you. However, this can only happen if the program is running, which means your system has to be powered on.

27. If you don’t have the newest, latest, and greatest tech toys … it’s usually not because IT doesn’t want you to have them.

IT professionals typically love new tech. However, buying new hardware and software can get expensive. If you’re using an ancient PC at work, it’s probably because bosses who control the budget don’t like spending money on newer gear.

28. Be patient, and be nice to IT pros.

Members of the IT department might be working on a dozen other things in addition to your request. And when they’re juggling issues, they need to prioritize emergencies over things can wait a bit. If your question or concern isn’t urgent, don’t expect immediate service.

29. A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an IT emergency.

Within reason, the IT department will do everything it can to help you out. However, don’t expect them to drop everything from their busy schedules just for you. Your definition of an emergency isn’t the same as theirs, especially if yours is a last-minute request.

What did you think of these 29 computer tips IT pros want everyone to know?


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