I want you to feel comfortable and confident in dealing with a lot of your computer conditions. But there is a point when you should NOT try to do it yourself. That point is where you don’t feel comfortable, and when there is too much to lose.
Most computer problems that people have are NOT hardware related, they’re software or operating system related, and that’s good news—as long as you make backups. Yes, we’ll talk about that too. And once you know that you have all your precious pictures backed up, and all your installation files are in places where you can install your programs again if you need to, there’s not much you can do to permanently damage the machine, unless you talk it into jumping off a table.
First, do a reboot. Lots of stuff just goes away at a reboot. If that didn’t solve the problem, do a full shut down,disconnect the power cable at both ends (the computer and the plug) and reconnect. This makes sure that it is fully plugged in, so when the tech asks, you can say you’ve verified it. Next check all the other cables, even if you don’t think they’re loose, and even if you don’t think they are important to the problem. Disconnect each one (except the power) and reconnect. If that hasn’t solved the problem, and if you have reached a point where you just don’t want to fool with it anymore, or where you really don’t know if you’re up to the task, by all means, call a pro. There really are people who love this stuff; I’m one of them. Here’s what that pro will want to know: The type of machine: desktop or laptop. Manufacturer, model. Operating system. He’s going to want to know what troubleshooting steps you have tried, and that is where you will tell him you have rebooted and checked all the cables. Be as clear as you can about the issue, and remember that he hasn’t seen it happen on your machine. Above all, remember, he’s trying to help, he’s not purposely trying to make you feel stupid. We often forget that this stuff has a vocabulary all its own and not everyone has studied the dictionary.
If your machine needs hands-on tech support, be clear about getting your files backed up before he starts work. That’s getting to be standard practice, but ask anyway.
Most important, as with any service person, if you don’t feel comfortable, and if you don’t feel confident in his ability, you don’t have to use that one; find another one. And remember, techs are human, and they will need you to communicate with them as clearly as possible, and if you can do that, the two of you can fix your computer.