tech tips for writers / writing

20 Techie Problems You Can Fix

Tech Tips for Writers is an (almost) weekly post on overcoming Tech Dread. I’ll cover issues that friends, both real-time and virtual, have shared. Feel free to post a comment about a question you have. I’ll cover it in a future Tip.

There are about twenty problems that cause eighty percent of the tech stoppages. I’m going to tell you what those are and how to solve them. Trust me. They’re easier than you think to solve. I routinely teach them to third, fourth and fifth graders, and then they teach their parents.

I’ll tell you the problem first, then why it generally occurs and the most common solution to fix it. Here goes:

Deleted a file

Why? By accident or changed my mind          

What to do: Open Recycle Bin; right-click—restore

Can’t exit a program                                      

Why: Can’t find the X or Quit tool. This happens with young children’s programs and those pesky internet ads that marketers don’t want you to be able to exit

What to do: Alt+F4 works 95% of the time. Try that.

Can’t find Word                                             

Why: Shortcut moved, was deleted by accident or became inactive        

What to do: Right-click on desktop—select ‘New’—“Word Document”

Keyboard doesn’t work  


Why: Lost the connection                               

What to do: First check to be sure it actually isn’t working by pushing the ‘Num Lock’ on the right side. Does the ‘Num Lock’ light go on/off? If it does, the problem is something other than the keyboard. If it does, try this: Re-plug cord into back of tower or reboot

Mouse doesn’t work                                       

Why: Lost the connection                               

What to do: Move it around to see if the cursor moves. If it doesn’t, re-plug cord into back or reboot

Start button is gone                                        

Why: Task bar disappeared                            

What to do: Push Windows button in the lower right corner of the keyboard

No sound        

Why: Mute is on; Volume is down; headphones are unplugged      

What to do: Unmute the sound or turn it up from the lower right corner of the screen; plug headphones in; reboot

Do you notice how often I say reboot? Sometimes, the computer simply gets confused and drops actions out of the queue which means they stop working. All you have to do is restart the system to get things back to normal.

Can’t find a file                                              

Why: Saved wrong, moved                              

What to do: Push Start button—Start search; when you find it, take note of where it is. Better yet, resave in a location you will remember

Menu command grayed out                           

Why: You’re in another command                  

What to do: Push escape 3 times. This gets you out of whatever you were working on and makes the command you’d like to use available

What’s today’s date?                                     

Why: You forgot!                                             

What to do: Hover over the clock in the lower right corner; if you’re in Word, start to type the date and it will prompt you with the current date. Another way to enter the date if you’re in word is with the shortkey Shift+Alt+D

Taskbar gone

Why: Student interference    

What to do: Push the Windows button on the keyboard (between Ctrl and Alt on the left side). If it’s been hidden, drag the top border up to expose it

Taskbar was moved                                       

Why: Student interference                              

What to do: Click on an open part of the taskbar and drag it to the bottom of screen (or wherever you prefer it to be)

Desktop icons messed up                               

Why: Student interference; you added more icons and now everything’s confused

What to do: Right click on screen—select ‘Sort by’ and select the method you’d like the icons arranged (name, type, etc.)

 Computer frozen                                            

Why: Mouse frozen; keyboard frozen, dialogue box open                       

What to do: Check solutions in this list. If nothing works, reboot

Program frozen                                              

Why: Dialog box open; not selected on taskbar                                          

What to do: Look around the screen until you find a dialogue box open. It’s probably asking for input. Once you supply the answer, it will close and your program will work again. Clear the dialog box. Or, the program may be blinking on the taskbar because it accidentally fell asleep down there. Click the program on taskbar to reactivate

I erased my document/text                            

Why: Ooops                                                     

What to do: Ctrl+Z

Screen says “Ctrl-Alt-Del” 

Why: You rebooted                                          

What to do: Hold down Ct+Alt—then push Delete. This will either bring you to the log-in screen or to the desktop

Program closed down

Why: Ooops                                                     

What to do: Is it open on the taskbar?  If so—click on it; if not, reopen program—see if the right sidebar shows that it saved a back-up and select that to open

Tool bar missing at top of www

Why: Pushing F11 key                                    

What to do: Push F11 key

Toolbar missing in MS Office (2003)

Why: Closed by accident                                

What to do: Right click in toolbar area; select missing toolbar

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersCisco guest blogger, Technology in Education featured blogger, and IMS tech expert. She is  the editor of a K-6 technology curriculumK-8 keyboard curriculumK-6 Digital Citizenship curriculum, creator of technology training books for middle school and ebooks on technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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