Sometimes when computers malfunction, the timing can be coincidental causing you to chase your tail around trying to fix it. Most of the time when your computer starts acting squirrelly, its good practice to consider the last thing that happened right before the problem popped up and then try to undo whatever it is that was changed.
But then again, sometimes undoing the last thing that happened can be a red herring, causing you to spin your wheels for hours. Take this email I received from George for instance: "Hi Sean. Read your articles every week and look forward to them. It's the first article I look for in Hometown News. "Sean, I was having a problem with my Microsoft mouse, so my son gave me an optical mouse to install. I just disconnected the old one and plugged in the optical mouse and turned the computer on. It began loading files for it and now, every time I turn on the computer, I have to hit F1 to continue loading windows. "Then I'm told that Windows has updated my computer clock and asks me to check it. It is always wrong and I have to correct the month, year and time. Do you have any ideas what is causing this because it never has done this before? I'm sure it had to do with adding the new mouse (italics added by me). I recall reading one of your articles where you said most computer problems were due to software added to the computer. Any corrections I can make? Thank you in advance and please don't stop writing your articles because you certainly have made a big difference to so many of us." - George from Port St. Lucie.
On the surface, it would appear George is on the right track, because he knows that when he added the new hardware (the mouse) - and often when new hardware is installed - problems can occur. But, after reading his email and considering what was going on, I realized that George was about to start "chasing rabbits." This is how I replied to George: "Hi. Thanks for reading! What's happening on your system likely has nothing to do with the new mouse, just coincidence that it started happening at the same time you added a new piece of hardware. Your machine is probably older than three years, yes? On your motherboard is a small battery, such as that found in a watch. When that battery runs down, you will have to hit F1 every time you boot and reset the clock. With the battery dead it loses track of time when it powers down and all BIOS settings have to be reset on boot up. Un-plug the system, open the 'can' and look for a watch-like battery (probably about the size of a quarter) and replace it. That ought to correct the issue. Hope that helps and thanks again for reading." - Sean
The next day I opened my email and found the following e-mail from George: "Hello Sean. Thank you so much for the info on the dead battery. I never thought of that and yes, my machine is over seven years old and I have never opened the 'can,' but the way you explained it, I think I can do that. I will let you know how I make out. Again thank you so much for your help."
And the day after that: "Hello Sean. Just a follow up on your advice regarding replacing the computer's battery. It worked like a charm. I looked in the computer manual to find the info on the battery (CR2032), purchased a replacement from Radio Shack, opened the 'can' and even I accomplished this task. Will wonders never end? Again, thank you so much for your help and keep writing those interesting and informative columns in Hometown News."
Just as I suspected! Consider just how much time could have been wasted had we not thought about what was going on and instead just assumed that the change of hardware was the culprit. I can't help but think just how many older systems are still in service out there and how many people are having to hit the F1 button every time they have to boot. If this sounds like you, try replacing the battery; you may have the same success as George.
Sean McCarthy fixes computers. He can be reached at (888) 752-9049 or help@ComputeThisOnline.com (no hyphens).