Do the Easy Things First. The classic example of this is the “is it plugged in?” type question. “My computer screen is blank” - “Is the computer plugged in?” (I actually had a case once where a client’s server had “crashed” and it turned out that the nighttime cleaning crew had knocked the plug out of the socket). In the Windows world, this frequently involves the simple step of rebooting the PC.
A corollary to this a principle I learned in a troubleshooting class long ago: if you have two possible explanations, and one will take 5 minutes with a 10% chance of success and the other will take an hour with a 90% chance of success, do the shorter one first. You never know, it might work.
Transfer of Pain. In physical therapy there is a principle called “transfer of pain” where the place the pain seems to occur is not the actual location that is the cause of the problem. (I recently suffered a rotator cuff injury, so this has been on my mind.) There is a similar concept in computers where the cause of the symptom is not necessarily apparent from the description of the symptom.
Thus a client recently called to complain that they couldn’t open certain documents in Worldox (although other users could open them fine). They “had to” have someone else email them the documents so they could work on them. It turns out that if you started from Worldox and double-clicked on a document indeed it would not open. However, if you tried to open it from Word it opened just fine. Further, the documents in question were old-format *.doc documents and not the newer *.docx Word format. It turned out that Word had not been installed properly on the PC and that the Windows association of the *.doc format did not indicate that Word should be used to open those documents. Not really a Worldox problem at all, although that is where the symptom manifested.
This example illustrates another point: there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Frequently, there are multiple ways to do the same thing: you can open a document by opening Windows Explorer or by doing File Open from Word. If one way doesn’t work, try another – it can help identify the exact issue.
It also points to another principle when a problem is reported with any network-based program: is the problem affecting all users? If so, chances are the program or the network is involved in the problem. If the problem is affecting just one user, chances are the program is not involved per se and the problem lies somewhere with the configuration of the specific computer.
Take the thorny issue of searches not working in Worldox. If your searches are not working but everyone else’s are, the problem probably lies with your computer (chances are your network connection has been lost). If nobody can do searches, the problem probably lies with the program (chances are the indexer is down). If other programs are also not working, chances are the issue lies with the network.
While these examples are drawn from Worldox, the general principles are applicable to any program you may be using.