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Troubleshooting Basics

Troubleshooting Basics

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Published by: smile4ever54 on Sep 15, 2010
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09/19/2012

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 A
ll the technical knowledge in the world is useless ifyou don’t knohow to apply that knowledge in afocused troubleshooting effort.In this article,I’m offering a simple,easy-to-remember lesson in Problem-Solving 101:SOAP.I don’t mean the Simple Object AccessProtocol.I’m talking about the “SOAP”method used by many medical professionals to“troubleshoot,”or diagnose,their patients.
The shotgun approach
Recently,a consulting client hired me to createa PC-based database for tracking help desk calls.While on the job,I witnessed firsthandthe problems that can result when an overzeal-ous,newly minted A+ technician tries his handat troubleshooting. To give the tech credit,he was first in his A+ class and obviously eager to do a good job. An end user had called to report that she wasgetting an error message when she tried tolaunch an application.He asked the user a cou-ple ofquestions and then announced,“I’ll beright there.”“Do you want to create a trouble ticket forthis one?”I asked.“I’m not sure what happened,”the techreplied,“but I’m probably going to have toreinstall Windows or reimage the machine.”Even though I didn’t have all the facts,hissolution seemed like using a shotgun to kill aflea.
The SOAP approach
“Maybe you need to try SOAP first,I sug-gested.The technician at first thought I wasjoking.Then I explained that SOAP meansbreaking a problem down into four sections:subjective,objective,assessment,and plan.Here’s what each piece ofthis problem-solving method means:
Subjective
 —This part is what the customersaid.The doctor asks,“Where does it hurt? The tech-support professional asks,“Whathappened?”Even ifthe customer’s report isimprecise or even downright wrong,thesubjective report frequently will give you astrong clue as to the problem’s cause.
Objective
 —This part is what the techni-cian observes.Whether you connect to themachine through remote-access software oryou show up in person at the user’s work-station,the objective part ofthe reportshould,to the best ofyour ability,reflectthe facts.
 Assessment
 —This part is your diagnosisabout what went wrong.You base yourassessment on a thorough review ofthesubjective and objective reports.
Plan
 —This part is what you’re going to doto resolve the problem. The technician liked this approach somuch that we incorporated SOAP into thehelp desk database.Our fields included ItemNumber,Date OfCall,User Name,Techni-cian Name,Subjective,Objective,Assess-ment,and Plan.Here are the SOAP entries we added to therecord in the help desk database:
Subjective
 —Client tries to launch applica-tion and nothing happens.
Objective
 —Visited workstation andobserved that client is double-clicking adesktop shortcut,and nothing happens.Right-clicked shortcut to confirm target.Searched local drive and determined thatthe file does not exist.
 Assessment
 —File is missing.The client isaccustomed to launching the application by clicking a shortcut to a specific file.Whenthat file was deleted or renamed,the short-cut was orphaned.
Plan
 —At client’s request,restored themissing file from backups,which madeshortcut work again.Explained to client
A problem-solving method for supportprofessionals
 Feb. 26, 2002  By Jeff Davis
2
PC Troubleshooting Basics
 
how to launch application using Start | Pro-grams,in addition to using the shortcut. The SOAP approach may not work foreveryone.However,it provides a nice formatfor documenting the details ofa tech-supportproblem and the results ofyour troubleshoot-ing efforts.
 A
 TechRepublic member who is starting an on-site computer repair and main-tenance service recently asked,“Whatare the most common PC problems I willcome across and what parts should I have onhand,and in what quantities,to deal with theseproblems?” While it’s crucial for traveling techs to keepspare parts handy,it’s even more important forthose working from a shop to always stock a variety ofbasic components.Knowing whichspare parts to keep on hand can be a real time-saver for both you and the customer.
The basics
Some helpful TechRepublic membersresponded to this question by suggesting someparts always to have on hand,such as RAM,power supplies,PC cases,spare video cards,and CD-ROM drives.I agree,but would alsolike to recommend that you always have thefollowing:
Keyboards (USB,PS2,and even DIN)
Mice (USB,PS2,and serial)
3.5" floppy drive
Modems
NICs
Hard drives
 A couple ofsurge protectors
Cables ofall typesI came up with this list ofequipment basedon my experience working for a chain ofhos-pitals,most ofwhich were in very remoteareas.I would typically have to drive up to 600miles to the middle ofnowhere to fix variouscomputer problems.Computer stores were vir-tually unheard ofin these areas and with thedistance involved,there was no going back home to get a forgotten part.Unfortunately I was driving a small sports car at the time,sotrunk space was at a premium.I had to choosemy spare components carefully.
Keyboards, mice, andfloppy drives
I started offby carrying a couple ofspare key-boards,mice,floppy drives,and a spare moni-tor.There’s nothing more frustrating thanattempting to make a routine repair only todiscover that the machine has a bad floppy drive and can’t read your disk.Likewise,it’samazing how banged up and practically unus-able some keyboards and mice can become.Irecall one particular repair in which someoneroutinely ate lunch at his or her desk,and thekeyboard actually had a fungus growing on itfrom the food particles that had accumulatedin it.That day,I was really happy to have aspare keyboard because I didn’t want to touchthat one.
Be prepared: A guide to the spare partsevery tech should keep on hand
 May 23, 2002  By Brien M. Posey, MCSE 
3
PC Troubleshooter Resource Guide,Fourth Edition

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