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How to ask Trouble Shooting questions - A Guide
tantryl 
27/2/06 3:31:57 PM
Hero
Immortal


How to ask Trouble Shooting questions - A Guide

I've noticed for a long time that we have a fairly ineffective way of asking questions and getting them answered here. And for the longest time I just assumed that was normal. And you know what? That assumption was right bang on.

However I can understand people wanting the best and most informed answers they can get, and this is a little guide to achieve that goal.

1. List The Components of your PC

As best you can. CPU, RAM, Motherboard, Graphics, Case, PSU, HDD, Opticals, PCI devices. Try and do it in point form and include as much detail as possible, like this:
- AMD Athlon 64 3400+ S754
- Gigabyte K8VT800 Pro
- 2 x 512MB PC4000 Kingmax
- WD2000JB & WD800JB
- Pioneer 109
- AOpen QF50C w/ 450W GTR PSU
- Asus 6800GT AGP 128MB

If you're not sure on any particular part, try a free scanning program such as: http://www.ezaudit.com/scan/default.htm


2. Clearly State What the Symptoms Are.

This is a pretty obvious, but often it's missed. When telling us the computer crashes:
+ Let us know when it crashes and what programs are open at the time.
+ Does it always happen when those programs are open?
+ Can you reliably recreate the problem by performing the same actions?
+ If you have any BSOD messages, note down the error codes (e.g. STOP 0x0000008E on the win2k.sys file) and let us know.


3. What Have You Tried?

Chances are you tried to fix it yourself before coming here. In detail, what did you try?

MemTest comes up clean - let us know. Prime95 runs for hours on end - let us know. You've tried reinstalling the drivers - let us know.


4. Never Make Assumptions Nor Conclusions.

While you need to follow steps two and three, you also have to remember not to extrapolate yourself on these things. Don't ask "Is it the RAM?" or "Is it the PSU?". This will generally make people focus on what you think the problem is instead of logically thinking it through themselves and coming to their own conclusions. When someone asks "is it the RAM?" you'll nearly always get "Yeah, it could be the RAM" regardless of what you describe in the thread. Let us know what's happening, and what you've tried, but don't tell us what you think .

This may seem counter productive at first - but presumably you've come to the forum for an opinion different from yours. Try and let the people helping you form their own opinion, if they don't get told up front what it most likely is they're more likely to come up with a different and more effective answer.

Present people with a problem, not an answer.


5. Don't Try to Grab Attention with ??? or OMG or all caps.

This will generally encourage people who don't know as much to enter the thread and give advice, and generally cause serious people who can answer your question to avoid the thread. Try and be descriptive but brief in your thread title, to attract people who have knowledge in that general area.

Here are good examples taken from todays front page:
- "RAID 0 broken stripe :'("
- "leadtek vc100xp capture card query"
- "Pioneer A10 giving me coasters above 16x"
- "Laptop issues - Boots from any cd - except windows"

Here are poor examples:
- "Memory dumps, BSOD! argh! not enough Power?" (makes an assumption, right there in the title )
- "WTF'S WRONG WITH MY PC NOW...............?????" ( All caps, pointless ...'ing and five question marks and I don't have any idea what he's struggling with. )
- "Ah, doesn't it look pretty?" (Doesn't what look pretty? Might attract people, but not serious answers. )

Now I just wrote this guide up in 5-10 minutes so I expect it needs a bit of revising and I'm willing to take on suggestions. But I'm always right about everything, so I'm sure it's pretty good as is.

Oh yeah.


6. Don't be so arrogant, tantryl .
Good rule that one. Doesn't apply to everyone though.



Addendum:
Someone recently (mid-2008) PM'd me and asked how you'd know which forum to post your question in. This is a paraphrase of that reply:

The most important thing is simply to put it in the forum that makes the most sense to you. Building & Troubleshooting would usually be the place for any troubleshooting style problems since as point #4 suggests you should never make assumptions when asking for help. You wouldn't be putting it in CPUs, Motherboards, RAM etc. because then you're making the assumption that that's the fault.

If you're unsure on what forum to put it into then tell everyone at the start or end of your post that you are unsure, and ask people to kindly use the Report to Moderator function to request it be moved. Never post the question in more than one section, it makes Atomicans angry, Hulk styles. Posting "I want this moved" in the thread itself will have no effect as the moderators don't read every single thread on the forums. Use the Report to Moderator function if you want your own thread moved (see the "Tell someone who cares" section of the Forum FAQ).


Edited by tantryl: 15/6/2008 12:50:37 PM

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Caelum 
27/2/06 4:01:47 PM
Banned

ffs, sticky it already!

-----
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Reminds me what to leave behind.
Light eats night and all i never said,
Reminds me what to do before i'm dead.

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shorty56au 
27/2/06 4:13:10 PM
Champion

Agreed. Excellent guide so far. Lets hope everyone reads it and (more importantly) learns from it.

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"I reject your reality and substitute my own..." - Adam Savage

Lambo 
27/2/06 4:34:25 PM
Mod
Hero

Immortal


Good one...:)

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aliali 
27/2/06 4:38:17 PM
Hero
Titan


+1 on the sticky.
goddam that was quick.


Edited by aliali: 27/2/2006 4:39:12 PM

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Live fats. Die wide.

Caelum 
27/2/06 4:45:03 PM
Banned

heh, stickiest sticky in sticky history!

-----
Sun reclines, heats my mind,
Reminds me what to leave behind.
Light eats night and all i never said,
Reminds me what to do before i'm dead.

For all things shiny: http://speedlabs.org

Sneddo 
27/2/06 9:52:14 PM
Hero
Titan


Now, force people to read it and understand!

Unfortunately, I see this having as much effect as the last thread like this :(

Edit: spelling


Edited by Sneddo: 27/2/2006 9:52:52 PM

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tantryl 
28/2/06 7:34:37 PM
Hero
Immortal


Too true Sneddo, too true.

Maybe I should try and get the title changed to:

"zOMG I FIX JOOR PROBS LOL!!!!!"

-----
"How did I manage to raise such a smart kid?"
"I've had a great teacher."
"Thanks, son."
"No, not you, my karate teacher. He's really smart."
---
Vote [1] Fuzz for Best Ever Mayor of Atomic

1shot1kill 
5/3/06 4:07:28 PM
Mod
SuperHero

Immortal


I can't believe I didn't see this earlier! Top effort, Tantryl , now all we have to do is get everyone to read it. At least the thread number should be easy enough to remember when I type the URL into every fourth or fifth thread. :p

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Certa Cito

Quake And Bake 
6/3/06 8:30:03 PM
Champion

i read it :)

This man speaks good words....this man speaks the truth


Edited by Quake And Bake: 6/3/2006 8:30:30 PM

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Rybags 
8/5/06 12:09:47 AM
Hero
Immortal


How about:

7. Provide problem resolution details.

You might not be the only person with the problem you've described. If you find a fix, either from the replies in your thread, by your own efforts, or elsewhere on the net - provide a follow-up post telling people how your problem was fixed.


and the old classic:

8. Use Google/The Forums Search function first.

If your TV-out doesn't work, you want to know how to flash your motherboard or graphics card BIOS, chances are that your exact problem has been posted a dozen or more times before.

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Dajobo 
28/6/06 4:21:53 PM
Guru

As good as this is, it needs a partner thread...

How to Answer Trouble Shooting questions - A Guide
1st. Read the question.
2nd. Read it again.

If you have absolutly no idea, read the replies and learn. Don't just guess and waste peoples time.

If your going to help, do it by answering the question, not pushing your views on alternate hardware or software.
eg. If someone askes for help with a Windows 2000 problem the last thing they need is someone else crapping on about using Linux instead.

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tantryl 
8/7/06 3:39:20 PM
Hero
Immortal


Hah, good call.

I should really revise the first post properly. And adding a How to Answer section ain't a bad idea :P

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most of us who have had sex are going to agree with tantryl



iamthemaxx 
19/8/06 8:09:41 PM
Guru

This is a great example of how to ask a question:
http://www.atomicmpc.com.au/forums.asp?s=2&c=8&t=16963

Kudos to Mattyoops .

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iamthemaxx 
10/3/08 10:39:55 PM
Mod
SuperHero

Immortal


Posts from here have been removed (that is you out2lunch).


If you want to ask a specific question then make a new thread.
This is purely a How To.

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