When a computer is operating properly, it’s easy to forget the complex systems inside, all working together to make emailing, video and instant messaging, browsing, shopping and everything else possible.
All it takes is just one code, in one program, in one piece of software, to jam up the entire process. If you’re on a video conference and the video suddenly cuts out, trying to find that single malfunctioning needle in a haystack can seem impossible, especially for a layman. Most of the time, though, it can be done, and easier than you might think. Try following this checklist and see for yourself.
1. Check Your Hardware
One loose cable can cause a lot of headaches. Check and make sure the cords for your webcam, microphone, monitor and computer itself are plugged in securely. Even just jostling your desk could make any one of them slowly come loose. If you suspect one of these things is actually malfunctioning, try testing it out on another computer. If you did find a problem and fixed it, make sure you’ve turned your computer off and on again. This simple step is the golden rule for most IT experts, as it will wipe away any “misbehaving” code, says Chris Hoffman with How To Geek, and restore your computer back to “square one.” If it was working before, and there are no more problems, then it should work again.
2. Check Your Connection
If the video is going slow, distorting, or dragging, or the audio isn’t matching up, there’s a good chance your computer is just fine, and your internet connection is the culprit! A lagging connection will garble and delay any streaming video, and if you’re on a wireless connection, this is as easy to check as looking at the icon on your taskbar. For everyone else, you can check the strength of your connection at Speedtest.net. All healthy connections should be above 40. If you’re getting anything near that or below, then you’ve found your problem. Your best option here is to reset your router, which can be done by unplugging the device and waiting 15 or so seconds before plugging it back in. If that doesn’t fix it, your next step is to contact your ISP. Your Internet Service Provider should be able to look into the problem and let you know if there’s something you can do to fix it on your end, or if they need to do a restart themselves.
3. Check Your Software
Once your chat client is installed on your computer, make sure it’s actually acknowledging all of the necessary devices; if it doesn’t know your webcam is there, it can’t start to stream it. Check the settings in both the audio and video categories, and validate that everything listed there matches up with your devices. If this is your first time using a new program, or your computer just installed updates, you’ll need to make sure your video messaging service is still installed, compatible, and running properly. On Windows, you can use the Task Manager to check for any problems on this end. The Applications tab lists any programs that aren’t responding, and the Processes tab lets you know if any of your programs are using too much memory. If you’re experiencing any errors of this kind, consider switching to a video meeting program that has a history of strong performance. This will make live video conferencing for IT all the easier.
4. Look for Help
Well, you’ve checked everything on the list to the best of your ability, and you’re still experiencing problems. It’s time to contact a professional. There are steps you can take to make this step easier for both of you; take screenshots, or write down any error message you received. Describe all of the troubleshooting you did, and phrase your still existing problem as clearly as possible. “It’s broken” isn’t going to give them much to go off. “I can hear them but they can’t hear me” is a good start. Make sure you’ve saved and backed up all your important files, and hand the whole mess over to an expert. After all, if this isn’t your skill set, taking drastic steps to fix your problem could just lead to more frustration, voided warranties and lasting damage to your computer.
Our reliance on technology has made troubleshooting computers and all their applications, part of our daily lives, especially at work. Becoming comfortable with these problem solving techniques will make you a more valuable asset anywhere there’s a computer. Which, today, is quite literally everywhere. Each error is an opportunity to get just a little more computer savvy, so don’t try to avoid them, and try not to be intimidated. Be patient, observant and resourceful and you’ll be surprised at how quick you’ll be able to resolve the problem.