This section provides an introduction to System Troubleshooting considered from a small business perspective.

A short tutorial like this is not near enough to be very useful in real business situations. That being said, hopefully you can abstract some value by seeing a pattern of working from the outside in or from the output back to the input.


Any methodical approach is likely to reveal the problem if you don't make assumptions like "its plugged in" or "set to the right channel". These are killers. You don't always have to go look at the wall plug but you had better check the front panel power light. And for those devices without lights? You guessed it.


In order to optimize the damage assessment, a binary search can help. This method tries to bisect the problem and check each half then repeating with each part. This works if the problem can be determined to be before or after the point of inspection.

Suppose there are 10 parts and the seventh one is faulty. Naturally you would have to check seven parts before finding the fault. With a binary search pattern you check part five first. If you can determine that the problem is after 5 then the next guess would be 8. Why? Take the remaining parts 6-10 divide that in half and pick the middle. The final test would be 7. This cuts the search time from 7 to 3.


The problem with this method is the rigor required to pre-analyze the sequence of inspections to determine the order. This is where trouble shooting manuals could be of service but rarely are. They often begin with the most common problems and move to the more obscure. While this helps with the common problems it often leaves you hanging with the more unusual ones.

The diagnostic on this page asks questions. You check the box if you can answer in the affirmative or have acknowledged the answer or performed the indicated processing steps.

Each checked step is marked grey to indicate your progress along the path. You can click a step twice to mark it as not relevant. The troubleshooting chart below includes at some level all processes in a small business.

Q: Are any of your business processes not working?
Q: Is there an overall culture problem in the company?
A: Most often a company grows to reflect the attitudes of the management.
A: Since managers keep around them, people likely to agree with their position, they are rarely confronted with their attitudes which poison the company environment.

A:Sometimes a few key employees have hidden agendas which is counterproductive
A: Rarely, the employees of the company are not up to the challenge of cultural improvement.
A: Exceptions include societal customs which are not conducive to running a business. For example in some countries, if a relative asks you for money, and you have some, then you have to give it to them, even if it is for a bad purpose. In this culture it is very difficult to get people to pay back loans or take financial risk.

Q: Is there a problem in the administration of your company?
Q: Is the Payroll process not working?
Q: Are your Employees not paid in a timely fashion?
Q: Are timekeeping records not collected in an effective way?
A: Consider an automated time recording system that integrates with payroll processing

Q: Are there not adequate tools to process the payroll
A: See Tools

Q: Is there not cash on hand to make payroll at the designated time?
A: Your problem is not a payroll problem but a financial management problem.

Q: Are taxes not withheld properly?
A: Time to hire an accountant with proper credentials.

Q: Are Quarterly taxes not paid promptly?
A: Time to change accountants

Q: Is Accounts Receivable Process not Working?
Q: Is ledger system not adequate?
Q: is ledger not automated?
A: Consider farming it out or automating.

Q: Is Accounts Payable Process not Working?
Q: Is check approval process not adequate?
A: Consider refining criteria to allow delegation of checkwriting.

Q: Are finances tight in your company?
Q: Are factory or service resources scheduled way below capacity?
Q: Are competitors comparable product and service offerings in demand?
A: you have to motivate your sales organization.

Q: Are company expenses above normal?
A: It may be time for investment in tools.

Q: Is Customer Management System not Working?
Q: Is there not an account management structure in place?
A: Time to investigate a CRM system.

Q: Is sales force spread too thin?
Q: Does sales not have adequate account management tools?
A: Consider use of automated CRM system.

Q: Are sales reps involved in too much travel?

Q: Is your Product Development system not Working?
Q: Does it deliver products too late to market?
Q: Does your product marketing group delay product direction decision?
A: See: Thinking Styles.

Q: Do Systems engineers belabor requirements analysis?
A: See Satisfice

Q: Does the design process seem to take too long?
A: Consider reducing scope of development phases.

Q: Is an inordinate amount of reimplementation required during testing phase?
A: There may be a breakdown between Test Engineering and Development Engineering, possibly weak requirements or lack of validation between requirements and design.

Q: Does product quality suffer in general?
Q: Is there no formal quality improvement process in place in your company?
Q: Is management perceived by employees to not be committed to quality improvement?
A See Quality

Q: Are your products always the most expensive for comparable features?
A: Analyze production process to see if cost cutting measures might help.
A: Add feature that differentiates your product.

Q: Is Manufacturing System not Working?
Q: Do raw materials not get ordered on time?
A: Consider reducing flexibility of production schedules.

Q: Do manufacturing processes result in substantial rework?
A: Time to initiate a quality improvement process

Q: Do finished products not ship on time?
Q: Is QC holding up shipment for process problems?
A: Consider embarking on quality improvement program

Q: Is Product Delivery system not Working?
Q: Do Product deliveries not get scheduled consistently?
Procure an enterprise resource planning (ERP) tool.

Q: Is Service Delivery System not Working?
Q: Do service deliveries not get scheduled consistently?
Q: Do you not use a central dispatch method?
A: Adopt a CRM system.

Q: Does any of your business IT appear to not be working?
Q: Does part of your Computer Network appear to not be working?
Q: Does your web Browser not Connect to the Internet?
Q: Does the modem have any lights lit on it?
Q: Does your company use DSL to connect to the Internet?
Q: Are there 3 lights lit on the DSL modem?
Q: Is the modem connected to a NAT router?
Q: Is the modem not configured as a Bridge?
A: Procure modem login from ISP
A: Log into modem
A: Configure modem as bridge

Q: Is the router connected to or have a built in access point?
Q: Is there a wireless icon on the system tray?
A: Open the wireless control
P: Connect to the local access point.
A: The following items must match the access point. Log onto router to verify correct settings.
P: Set the security protocol
P: Set the password
P: Set the SSID

Q: Is the icon filled blue?
T: Verify that web browser can access new page (not cached)

Q: Does you network connect with a cable modem?
Q: Is the LAN light off?
A: Check the cable from the computer or router which ever is first

Q: Is the wan light off?
A: Call the cable company and have them test the line.

Q: Does your network connect to the internet with a broadband wireless modem?
Q: Do you use dial up to connect to the internet?

Q: Is the Modem Plugged into an AC Source?
A: Some modems have a power switch. Check that.
Q: Are you sure the source has no power?
A: Call the modem provider and have new modem shipped to your location.

A: Try plugging a lamp or other simple device into the outlet to verify that it is hot.

A: Plug modem in to AC source.

Q: Do applications not connect to shared folders?
Q: Do any computers in the subnet have the same network name?
A: Open My Computer Properties
A: Click Change Name
A: Make name unambiguous

Q: Do any of the computers have a different workgroup name?
A: Open My Computer Properties on computer with different name
A: Click Change Name
A: Make workgroup name same as others.

Q: Can you not access a shared printer from another computer?
Q: Can each computer ping itself
A: not likely an IP Stack problem

Q: Can each computer ping each other by address?
A: Not likely a connectivity problem.

Q: Can each computer ping all others by name?
A: Not likely a name resolution problem.
Q: does resolved address not match ipconfig?
A: possible name resolution problem.

Q: Does network include NAT Router?
Q: does ipconfig show netbios over tcp/ip disabled?
A: Enable NetBIOS over TCP/IP in TCP/IP Advanced properties WINS Tab

Q: is NetBIOS over TCP/IP entry missing from ipconfig/all?
A: Enable NetBios over TCP/IP in TCP/IP advanced properties WINS Tab

Q: Is NetBIOS over TCP/IP still not set?
A: Start NetBIOS Helper Service: Start -> Control Panel -> Administrative Tools.

Q: Does net view from one computer not see all other computers?
A: Possible sharing problem

Q: is Print Sharing not enabled
A: Open Control Panel
A: Double click on Printers and Fax
Q: Is printer not shared on local computer.
A: Right click on printer icon
A: Select Sharing...
A: Give printer name for sharing
A: Click share printer

A: Double click on firewall
Q: Is it on?
A: Click on Exceptions Tab
A: Check File and Printer Sharing
A: Edit item and set scope to subnet

A: Close Firewall dialog

A: Remove NetBui
A: Printer sharing Advanced enable ICMP incoming echo request
A: Remove IPX protocol
Q: Is windows firewall disabled?
A: Enable windows firewall.
Q: Is printer sharing enabled as exception?
Q: Does antivirus have firewall enabled such as Norton worm blocker or security monitor?
A: These must be disabled.

Q: Does your firewall not allow subnet activities?
A: Enable trusted computers access to your subnet.

Q: Are there multiple routers?
A: Make one connected to modem be DHCP Enabled
A: Make other routers connected not by WAN port
A: Disable DHCP on sub routers
A: Make subnet mask wide enough to address all ports

Q: Are you not receiving expected email?
Q: Can you not access your webmail?

Q: Can administrators not remote connect to your computer?
Q: Does your router not have a static IP?
Q: Is DynDNS Loaded?
A: Create account at
P: Add domain Record domain name and admin user and password in safe place. Add domain as
A: Log domain for OSS

A: Download dyndns updater
A: Configure updater Configure as server then update immediately

Q: Is port forwarding not enabled on your router?
Q: Linksys Router?
A: Log into router. Linksys routers do not have user just password like car.
A: Go to Applications and Gaming
P: Set Application to ssh
P: Set Start to 22
P: Set End to 22
P: Set Protocol to TCP
P: Set IP to ip of local host to be monitored
A: Since this port does not change it is better if host has static not dhcp ip

Q: Is SSHD not loaded?
Q: Is windows not configured for cygwin?
A: Set a Password on an admin user
A: Set the following environment variables
P: CYGWIN=ntsec
P: Add to path ;c\cygwin\bin

Q: Is Cygwin not running? Note: Only one host on lan need have sshd running?
A: Download cygwin Store in \cygwin. Keep files in downloads
A: Enable net openssh
P: Click binary

Q: Is sshd not running?
A: ssh-host-config
P: yes yes yes ntsec
Q: First start?
P: cygrunsrv -E sshd (to Stop running sshd server)
P: cygrunsrv -R sshd (to Remove server configuration)

A: Install sshd
P: cygrunsrv -I sshd -p /usr/bin/sshd -f "SSH Demon" -y tcpip -y vsmon # with zone alarm.
P: cygrunsrv --start sshd
A: Start sshd server
A: test ssh
P: who am i
P: ssh localhost
P: yes
P: ls -h /cygdrive/c
A: Check result If you see directory then install is ok

Q: Is public key exchange not enabled?
A: This Precludes need for passwords with exchange of rsa keys
A: On Remote host system
P: Type ssh-keygen -t rsa (to Generate public key)
P: cd .ssh
A: securely copy keys
P: scp

A: On Master system
P: cat newkey >>authorized_keys
P: rm newkey
P: chmod 666 authorized_keys

Q: Is secure Shell not started?
P: ssh -I -L 5900::5900
A: For example
P: ssh -l Compaq_Owner Bruce -L 5900: Note replace local host number with sshd host number if multiple remote machines

Q: Is VNC not loaded on master and remote computers?
A: Download VNC
A: On Remote host system
A: Run VNC Server (Fast)
A: If only 1 computer at remote site then enable loopback if multiple computers then only enable loopback on machine with sshd server.
A: Check accept socket connections
A: Check the following;
P: Auto, Do Nothing, Poll Foreground Window, Poll Console Window Only, Remove Desktop Wallpaper on client connections
A: Check Ok

A: On Master system
A: Run VNC Viewer
A: Connect to
A: VNC Remotes password

Q: Does your computer appear to not be working?
Q: Does the system not start correctly?
Q: Does it not start in Safe Mode?
Q: Are there any programs or data that must be saved before a system reload?
A: Save files to Flash Drive
P: Obtain boot disk
P: Boot System off CD
P: Copy files to flash drive

Q: Is it an HP
A: Attempt Recovery
P: During boot press F10
P: Answer questions

Q: Is it a Dell?
A: Attempt Recovery

Q: Do you have Windows CD?
A: Format Hard Drive
P: Use DBAN to erase all previous data

A: Load OS
A: Enable automatic updates
A: Load any appropriate service packs

A: Load Drivers
A: Load Network Drivers
T: Verify that web browser can access new page (not cached)

A: Load display drivers
T: Verify that desktop fills terminal viewing surface.
T: Verify that font size is acceptable to client.

A: Load Sound Drivers
T: Test sound by playing sample in Windows Media Player

A: Load Printer Drivers
T: Test Printer from Notepad by printing simple file.

A: Load Scanner drivers

A: Load Applications
A: Load Office
P: Activate Office via Word
T: Verify that Excell loads and allows the editing of a cell
T: Verify that Power Point Loads and allows the creation of a slide

A: Load business applications
A: Load Quickbooks
P: Restore Quickbooks database
T: Verify that QB can connect to database

Q: Are there any Restore Points
A: Try an earlier restore point.

A: Try to identify a faulty Device
A: Load Device manager and attempt to determine if a driver needs updated

Q: Do you not hear a fan noise coming from the computer?
Q: Is the computer plugged into a UPS?
Q: Is the UPS light off?
Q: Is the UPS not plugged in?
A: Plug it in to a wall receptacle.
A: Try to avoid using extension cords

A: plug the computer and other essentials directly into a wall outlet.
A: If computer works then replace UPS or its battery.

Q: Is Utility company AC not available?
A: Too much load on UPS. remove non essential devices or replace UPS with higher power rating.

Q: Is there no picture on the Display Monitor?
Q: Is the monitor power light not on?
Q: Have you cycled the power button?
Q: Is the monitor not plugged in?
A:Plug it in.

Q: Does it periodically say No Signal?
Q: Is the Signal cable not screwed to the back of the computer?
A: Before tightening, Inspect to see that all pins are nearly same length and not bent or broken.

Q: Is picture distorted?
A: Use on screen menu or monitor buttons to fix shape of picture.
A: Change to lower resolution to see if picture improves.
A: If it cannot be corrected then order new monitor.

Q: Does the mouse pointer not respond to mouse movements?
Q: Is it an optical mouse
Q: Is it a wireless Mouse
A: Try changing the batteries.

A: Verify that mouse is plugged in.
A: Power down computer, then wait 10 seconds before powering it up again.
A: Replace mouse

Q: Does the start not button allow the activation of programs?
Q: Windows XP?
A: Use Task manager to kill explorer.exe
A: If it does not restart use run command to start explorer.exe

Q: If not Windows XP then restart operating system.

Q: Does one of the installed applications not work?
Q: Is it Email?
Q: Is it Outlook?
P: In Outlook select Tools->Account Settings
Q: Can you no longer neither send nor receive?
Q: Have you not recorded settings?
A: Record settings for later use
P: Select account
P: Click change
P: Record all info on this page
P: Click more Settings...
P: Select Outgoing Server Tab
P: Record all info on this page
P: Select Advanced tab
P: Record all info on this page

A: Remove Account
P: Select account
P: Click Remove

A: Recreate Account
P: Click New...
P: Fill in from info recorded earlier

Q: Can you receive but not send email
A: Enable Authentication
P: Select account
P: Click change
P: Click more Settings...
P: Select Outgoing Server Tab
P: Check My outgoing server (SMTP) requires authentication
P: Select Use same settings as my incoming mail server
P: click OK

A: Change SNMP ports
P: Select account
P: Click change
P: Click more Settings...
P: Select Advanced Tab
P: Check This server requires and encrypted connection(SSL)
P: Set Outgoing Server (SMTP) to 587
P: Set Use the following type of encrypted connection to TLS
P: Click OK

A: Workaround Outlook domain bug
Q: Is mail server ip address unknown?
A: Ping it
P: Load command prompt and type
P: ping
P: record IP address

P: Select account
P: Click change
P: Change Outgoing mail server (SMTP) to IP address
P: Uncheck Remember password until prompted later.

Q: Can you no longer receive email
A: Set to receive using authentication
P: Select account
P: Click change
P: Click more Settings...
P: Select Advanced Tab
P: Check This server requires an encrypted connection SSL
P: Set Incoming server (POP3) to 995
P: Click OK

P: Click Test Account Settings...

Q: Does your printer appear to not be working?
Q: Is the printer on light not lit?
Q: Is the printer not plugged in to a wall outlet?
A: Plug it in.

Q: Is the printer not turned on?
A: Turn it on.

Q: Does the printer not have paper?
Add paper to input cartridge

Q: Is your Scanner not working?
Q:Does it have a USB Cable?
Q: Is USB port not connected to computer but to a USB hub?
Q: Has the printer Software not been installed
A: Install printer software

A: Plug into USB port.

Q: Is power not connected?
A: Plug in power cable

Q: Does self test not work?
A: Replace scanner.

Q: Does a Scanner Application not work?
A: Verify that application is downloaded or have source media
A: Uninstall application
A: Reinstall application

Q: Is your Phone system not working?
Q: Is there not dial tone at the POP?
A: Call Telco Service for repair.

Q: Is there no dial tone at the Computer?
A: Check lines to POP.

Q: Is phone line not plugged into line jack on the dial up modem?
A: Some modems have 2 ports. One is for the line while the other is for a phone.
T: Verify that line from telco is plugged into line port.

Q: Does modem not indicate call progress?
Q: Is modem configured to indicate call progress?
A: Replace Modem

Q: Is phone number not correct?
Q: Are login id and password correct?

Q: Is your FAX machine not working
Q: Does it not receive FAXes?
Q: Has a phone not been tested on the FAX line?
A: Plug a phone into FAX line.
A: Call FAX number
Q: Does phone not ring?
A: Schedule telco service call

A: Call FAX number
A: Do you hear answer tone?

Q: Is your copier not working
Q: Does it sound as if it does not have power?
Q: Is it not plugged in
A: Plug it in

Q: Is it not turned on?
A: Turn it on.

A: Check Fuses at disconnect and in copier

Q: Are any diagnostic indicators present?
A: Read manual to clear condition.

Copyright Spidel Tech Solutions, Inc. 2004 All Rights Reserved.  Updated: 9/10/2008 10:46:42 PM Idx: 2428 Site Design STS

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