When you need help fixing your computer, the last thing you want is a communication problem. Before you call tech support or file a bug report, there are a few things you should do to make sure you get the best help possible.

Step 1: Try Some Basic Solutions First

The person on the other end of the tech support line has to deal with tons of people every day who don’t know much about computers. Some support lines even run off scripts they’re required to go through no matter who’s calling in. Either way, they’re going to suggest you try some simple things that fix most problems. You can make the phone call go a lot quicker (or skip it entirely) by doing a few simple things first:

For browser problems:

  • Restart the browser: Your browser is probably the most-used app on your computer. If multiple separate websites aren’t loading (or not loading correctly), try restarting your browser first. It’s quick, easy, and solves a lot of problems. On the other hand, if it’s just one site that’s having a problem, check services like Down For Everyone Or Just Me to see if the site itself might be the one with the problem.
  • Disable extensions: As great as extensions are, they can also introduce problems. If your browser starts behaving oddly after you install or update an extension, disable them to see if the problem stops. If it does, re-enable them one at a time to figure out which one it is. You can also check a website in incognito mode to quickly rule out any extensions or cookies that might cause a problem.
  • Clear your cache and cookies: One of the first things tech support will suggest you do if you’re having browser problems is clear your cache and cookies. May as well get this step out of the way. Like restarting your browser, clearing your cache can fix a lot of under the hood problems without the need for a lengthy diagnostics phone call.

For internet problems:

  • Unplug your router for 10 seconds: When your internet goes out, it’s not always your ISP’s fault. Sometimes your router can be the problem. Restarting your router is one of the first solutions tech support will suggest.
  • Perform a speed test: Assuming you have any internet access at all, a speed test can tell you whether it’s your connection that’s the problem or someone in the house. If you’re paying for one speed but getting another, you might need to call your ISP. If you’re getting the right connection speed, but things are still slow, there may be a bandwidth hog on your Wi-Fi. Speaking of…
  • Turn off extra downloads: Steam users are used to the periodic slowdown that comes from a game update downloading in the background. Avid torrent users, regardless of skill with tech, can forget to turn off torrents when their downloads are slow. Before you call your ISP, make sure your computer isn’t downloading something in the background.

For general PC problems:

  • Restart your computer: When your computer does something weird, this is always the first, best step to fixing it. It’s also extremely important when it comes to the next phase we’ll get to in a bit: ensuring a problem is reproducible.
  • Close other applications: If your machine is running slower than normal, you may have too many applications running, hogging your RAM. Close background apps until you’ve freed up some space (of course, you shouldn’t go overboard, either). This is also a good way to isolate any problem applications that may be causing trouble.
  • Free up disk space: When your RAM gets full of data, your PC can offload some of that data to your hard drive. If your hard drive is already pretty full to start with, this can cause your system to grind to a halt during regular use. Make life easier on yourself by clearing out a few gigabytes of data before you call support and see if that fixes things. This may also help you identify whether you have a faulty hard drive that’s causing the issue.

These things won’t fix all of your problems all the time, but if you check these before you call someone, you can dramatically reduce the number of calls you have to make in the first place. More importantly, with the possible exception of turning off your torrents, tech support will probably ask you to do some or all of these things anyway. That frustrating phone call will go a lot smoother when you’ve got this out of the way first.