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For Seniors: How to Troubleshoot Basic Computer Hardware Problems

Although there are unlimited possible combinations of hardware settings, you can trace most hardware problems to a relatively small number of causes. Here are some tips for troubleshooting some of the most common PC problems.

  • Your computer is suddenly silent. Make sure that you haven’t muted the sound. The sound card or adapter inside your PC has failed or is no longer adequate for your needs.

    Solution: Instead of opening the case, plug in an external sound adapter such as Creative’s USB SoundBlaster Live! 24-Bit External, which attaches to a USB port on almost any desktop or laptop computer.

  • Your PC needs new or better wireless capability. You want to give your computer the ability to communicate wirelessly with other devices, or you need to upgrade an outdated or malfunctioning built-in Wi-Fi adapter.

    Solution: Several manufacturers offer external Wi-Fi adapters and antennas that connect to your PC through the USB port. One advantage of using an external Wi-Fi adapter is that it usually comes with a more substantial antenna than its internal equivalent, and you can adjust the placement of that antenna to get the best transmission and reception in your home or office. The latest “N” Wi-Fi technology adapters have a small footprint and offer better coverage than earlier models do.

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  • You can’t install programs on a computer with no CD/DVD drive. If you own a minimalist netbook or a small desktop computer, the tiny size and low cost often come at the expense of things like a CD/DVD drive. But without a CD/DVD drive, how do you install new programs?

    Solution: A couple of simple work-arounds are available. The first and most obvious solution is to download programs or data over the Internet or across a local area network or to use a device such as a flash memory drive to transfer program content to the computer. You can purchase very large flash drives to store up to 256GB worth of programs or data.

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    Another option is to install an external drive. Drives of this type are small units, similar to those used in full-feature laptops, that draw electrical power from wall current and connect to the computer through the USB port.

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