It’s really irritating when you can’t browse to your favourite websites or collect your email. Sometimes the problem is with your computer, but not always.
Here’s how to find out.
Check your modem and router
If you can’t connect to any website and you can’t get your email program to work, maybe the problem isn’t your computer. It could be your connection.
Look at your router and modem. Are the normal lights on? If not, are the router and modem plugged into the electrical outlet?
Are the cables connected securely to the router, modem and to your computer?
If you’re not sure, disconnect and reconnect the cables or reboot the equipment. Last week’s column showed you how.
Everyone should know how to do this. Did that help?
If the lights aren’t right, contact your Internet Service Provider for help. The problem is likely theirs to solve.
Is everything broken, or just some things?
Can you connect to anything? If you open your browser and get an error message --- or you simply get nowhere --- try a different destination.
If your start page is 123abc.com and it's down or struggling, your browser won’t connect. Type a different destination into the address bar and see if you can get there.
If you can open something besides your start page, the problem is on the other end, not with your computer or connection.
Is your email program working? If you can’t get to any websites, your email program is also down, and you’ve checked the modem and router, the next step is to make sure your computer is connected to the router/modem.
Is your Wi-Fi turned off? Is your Ethernet cable unplugged? Get your computer connected and try again.
If you can get email, but you can’t browse, or if you can browse, but you can’t get email, your connection is probably fine, and the problem is almost certainly with your computer.
If your email isn’t working, make a note of the error and call your ISP. They might already be aware of a problem with their email servers.
If it’s a password problem, be prepared to let them change your password and let them help you update your email program with that new password.
And please write down that password and put it where you can find it again.
If your email is fine, but you can’t get to any websites, your connection is probably fine and the problem might be with your browser.
What browser are you having trouble with?
A browser is the program you use to view websites. On Windows computers, the most common browsers are Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome.
If you’re using Windows 10, your browser might be Microsoft Edge.
How do you know what browser you’re using? The browser’s logo is one big clue.
- Internet Explorer’s is a lowercase blue “e” with a gold swoosh through it.
- Firefox’s is an orange fox wrapped around a blue globe.
- Chrome’s is a circle or a globe with blue in the middle and yellow, red and green on the outer part.
- Edge looks like an Internet Explorer “e” with a Mohawk.
An easy way to get the name and the version of the browser is to visit http://www.whatsmybrowser.org/. (Obviously, you should do this while your browser is working, not when it’s broken.)
If you have more than one browser on your computer, try a different one. If you can’t or if that’ doesn’t work, check the settings for your computer’s firewall and antivirus programs. Did you accidentally block something?
Have you tried turning it off and turning it on again?
If you’ve gone as far as you can go and still can’t arrive at your intended destination, you might still have to call for help. But you’ll have a better idea of where the problem is most likely to be found and who you need to go to for support.
How to get out of trouble.
What’s My Browser?
Why does rebooting your computer fix so many issues?
Whether you want to solve computer problems yourself or enlist the help of someone more technical, you’ll save time and minimize frustration if you know how to do a few simple things.
Reboot your router/reboot your modem
Persistent issues with connecting to the Internet require rebooting your router and/or modem at some point.
You shouldn’t have to do this all the time. If you do, something needs to be repaired or replaced.
But every so often, you’ll need to do this to troubleshoot a problem or to assist your Internet Service Provider in troubleshooting a problem.
Reboot simply means restart the device, just like rebooting your computer. There are geeky ways to do this, but I’ll just cover the easy way here.
- First, identify the thing you want to reboot.
- The router and modem might be two different pieces of equipment, or they might be all one device. Locate your router and or modem.
- Now locate the power cord that connects that device to an electrical outlet.
- When you’re ready to reboot the device, unplug the power cord. (You don’t have to crawl around on the floor; unplugging either end has the same effect.
- It’s almost always easier to unplug the end of the power cord that connects to the device rather than to the electrical outlet.) Hold that cord in your hand, count to 30, and then plug it back in.
- Wait a couple of minutes for the device to come back to life and see if that fixed your problem. If it didn’t, you can contact your service provider confident in the knowledge that you’ll know how to do this when they ask you to.
Turn off your computer
That sounds simple and generally it is. Click on Start | Power | Shut down. That’s all there is to it most days.
Sometimes, though, computers don’t start up properly or shut down fully, and you might need to shut down manually.
- To do this, press and hold the power button on the computer. You need to hold it down until you hear the computer shut off, and sometimes that can take as long as 15 seconds.
- You want the computer to be silent, and you don’t want to see the power button flashing or illuminated in any way.
- Press and hold that power button like you mean it.
If a technician tells you to disconnect the computer completely from its power source, you need to unplug it from the electrical outlet.
If the computer is a laptop, you also need to remove the battery (unplug from the outlet first!) to stop all electrical current from flowing.
Know what operating system your computer is running
Maybe you want to use Google to find a solution to whatever computer glitch is troubling you, or maybe you want someone to help you.
One of the things you need to know is what operating system you’re running.
The easiest way to find this on a Windows computer:
- Press the Windows key and the R key simultaneously (WinKey+R)
- Type winver in the field next to Open
- Press the Enter key
- This will open a new window with the information you need. See this article for other ways.
If you’re using a Mac:
- Click on the Apple icon in the top left corner of your screen
- Click on About This Mac
- This will open a window with the information. (See this article for more.
I hope you feel a little more comfortable with your computer skills.
I think it’s happened to everyone. You’re cleaning up your stuff and you decide to move a bunch of files and folders from one place to another.
Windows asks if you’re sure. You’re really sure! But, it turns out you were really wrong and now your stuff is gone.
The first thing to do is, remain calm.
If you delete a file and you realize right away that it was a mistake, press the CTRL and the Z key at the same time.
The key combination of CTRL+Z tells Windows to “Undo” the last thing it did. If deleting the file was the last thing you did, you will probably get it back.
If you haven’t emptied your Recycle Bin, double-click on the Recycle Bin to open it and see if you can locate the file. If so, use the Restore buttons at the top of the Window on Windows 10.
In earlier versions of Windows, you can either right-click on it and then click Restore, or just click once on it and then click Restore this item at the bottom of the window. The file will go back to its last location.
If you’ve deleted email, look in the Deleted Items/Trash folder in your email program, and restore it from there. Email doesn’t go to the Recycle Bin.
If you don’t realize the mistake until it’s too late to do a CTRL+Z and your stuff isn’t in the Recycle Bin, there’s a good chance you just moved it inside another folder.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this with music and photos. But, which folder?
One way to find it is to click on hundreds of folders until you find what you’re looking for.
A better way is to do a computer search. Windows includes a powerful search function.
Just look at the top of any Explorer window in any modern version of Windows. Type in your search term and see if Windows can find your file.
Both tools are free and fast, and both offer a more robust search experience without having to go through all the indexing required by Windows native search.
SearchMyFiles is an excellent tool for finding duplicate files. Both tools work on Windows versions all the way through Windows 10.
Try a file recovery tool. I’ve had success with Recuva.
The program is free, and although the author encourages you to donate, you are under no obligation to do so.
You are also under no obligation to install the toolbars or scanners that might be offered to you when you install the program. Simply clear the check box(es) and continue with the install.
When you run the program, Recuva will ask you what kind of file you want to recover. Choose from Pictures, Music, Documents, Video, Compressed files, Email (yes, it will recover email!) or “Other” which will look for … other files.
Next choose a location from which to recover. If you deleted something from an external drive (like the SD card from your camera!), just tell Recuva to search for it on that drive; don’t search your whole computer.
Recuva will search and present you with a list of files it’s found. You can continue to refine the search results from here, or you can restore now if you see the file you’re looking for.
Not every file can be restored, even if Recuva can find it. You’ll see a green light if chances are good, red if not. Recuva can’t find or restore everything. You still need to back up your files.
But Recuva has helped me get some of my customers out of a jam, and it’s a worthwhile tool to have installed.
Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].
The web is a great thing except when a web page is so cluttered that it’s hard to get your brain to separate the content from the flashing distractions. Firefox has a built-in feature that makes reading a lot easier on the eyes.
Use Reader View for a clean reading experience
When you’re looking at a web page, glance up at Firefox’s address bar. If that page is available in Reader View, you’ll see an icon that looks like an open book. Clicking on that icon opens Reader View.
You’ll find yourself looking at a nice clean page with nice large text. This is a welcome relief from distractions for many of us, but it makes all the difference in the world for people with vision impairments.
You can change the size of the text by using the control at the left side of the page. (It looks like Aa.)
But wait, there’s more
While you’re looking over there on the left, notice the icon with the vertical lines. Clicking on that will cause Firefox to open a control so you can have Firefox read the page to you.
Yes. Now you can have Firefox read to you while you look at another tab in Firefox, or while you’re working in another application --- as I am doing right now!
Want to hear a Castanet article read while you’re doing the Guardian’s Sudoku? No problem.
Want to put away your laundry while you listen to that long article you bookmarked last week and have been meaning to get to? Check out this screencast for a demonstration.
You can mute Firefox tabs
Sometimes you have several tabs open, you’re working away, and suddenly a video starts playing in the background somewhere.
Where the heck is that coming from?
Firefox displays a speaker icon in any tab where sound is currently playing. Clicking once on the speaker icon will mute the tab without affecting any of your other tabs. Clicking again will restore the sound.
You don’t have to scroll through all your tabs looking for the one that’s yelling at you. Just look for the speaker icon to mute it. Or of course you can just close it!
Chrome? Internet Explorer? Edge? Safari?
Yes, other browsers have some of these features. Reader exists in Edge, Internet Explorer, and Safari. Chrome is experimenting with a Reader mode.
You can mute a tab in Chrome and Safari. You can turn off the sound completely in Internet Explorer from Advanced settings. Microsoft Edge has a speaker icon, but it doesn’t seem to control anything, at least it doesn’t on the computers I experimented with.
One more thing about Firefox
Do you need to insert Emoji into your Facebook posts or some other type of text area on the web? Well, that can be tedious.
That’s why someone has come up with a Firefox extension that lets you do this from the right-click menu. Use Firefox to go to this page, install the extension and you’re good to go.
Place your mouse cursor in any text box or editable field on a web page, right click, and choose which Emoji you want to use.
While you’re doing this you’ll only see the description of the Emoji, but stay with it. Once you’re done the Emoji themselves will be in the text box.
More Getting Along With Your Computer articles
- Do not fall for it! Oct 31
- Cool Google Calendar tricks Oct 24
- That was easy! Oct 17
- Check your calendar Oct 10
- Control your Control panel Oct 3
- Beware ransomware Sep 26
- Good and bad utilities Sep 19
- What could go wrong? Sep 12
- I didn't know that Sep 5
- Smart Upgrades, Part 2 Aug 29
- Smart upgrades Aug 22
- Stop emailing your photos Aug 15