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There are a lot of books and information available out geared towards computer troubleshooting. Some of them cover just the basics of computer systems, while some of them go straight to the electronics part of computer systems. I would suggest you to make yourself familiar with electronics a bit as electronics are the foundation of every computer system. There are many good books on the topic of electronics found on Amazon. These books will give you a very good foundation. When you get familiar with electronics, then there are good books available that deal with computer system basics such as CompTia A+ and Desktop and Portable Systems that deal with Mac computers.
There is also one book in electronic format that covers the electronics arena of computer systems, but is written in a way that only someone with an electronics background would understand. This book also needs to be edited and rewritten; the writing quality needs to be improved, though the information is very useful.
There are also good materials if you want to learn to troubleshoot operating systems as well. One is Troubleshooting Mac OS x Snow Leopard for Apple computers and there is also a book about each operating system from Microsoft. There are also certifications from Microsoft and Apple that are about troubleshooting too.
Most of the faults that we see with computers are hardware related. An especially frequent problem is hard drive faults. These hard drive faults can actually be explained with a high density of the data.
The second most common problem we see would probably be virus infections. There is still a big chance that a virus will go trough all the security software and infect the system.
Overheating problems are also very common, especially on laptops. These days, laptops have a heat sink design that is very small and compact. And, because the heat sink is so small and the gaps between the plates are small, the dust usually gathers between them and can clog the side where the fan is located. This is a very common fault, and if you look for it, you probably will find it on every laptop.
Another common fault that is related to the power supply or power adaptor for laptops is when the hard drive is damaged by a faulty power supply. Even when the computer boots and works, it does not mean that the power supply is working properly. If the hard drive gets damaged, it might indicate that it was getting voltage fluctuations or spikes from the power supply. I have heard many times that replacement hard drives also fail, and this could be an indication that there is something wrong going on with the laptop or the power supply, but not necessarily with the hard drive.
The interesting thing is that faults on a computer tend to be common. If one model has a specific fault, then there is a high chance that all the computers with the same model will have the same fault. This is because of design errors or use of faulty and low quality parts.
There can also be a pattern found in which circuits fail on the motherboard. The circuits that are getting most of the load have a bigger chance of failing. For example, Step Down converters are likely to fail because they get heavy loads.
Software troubleshooting partly depends on the software that is installed on the computer. If it is a personal computer, then most of the time it is a hardware related issue. If it is a server, then the issue most likely relies in the server configuration, and the troubleshooting process is much more complicated.
There are a lot of books and guides on how to work with servers: active directory, Microsoft Exchange, etc. Many companies have Microsoft servers to manage their businesses.
What I can say from my experiences is that most computer faults are related to electronics or media faults. Software faults, such as driver’s conflicts, are very rare. Except for viruses, there are not many faults related to the software side.
Servers usually have problems with configurations, and this is a very different type of troubleshooting.
You can use many techniques for computer related troubleshooting like Apple’s General Troubleshooting Theory. I need to mention that General Troubleshooting Theory does not go deeper and does not cover electronics troubleshooting.
I have my own method to troubleshoot computers. I start to look for faults that happen often and use a lot of diagnostic programs, stress test software, as well as diagnostic and measurement tools for electronics.
Specific faults of the computer model can be found on the Internet. I suggest using as much diagnostic tools as possible. One type of diagnostic software might overlook the fault for which another program will most likely reveal. For example, QA+32 will not find relocated sectors on the hard drive nor will it warn if the South Bridge is overheating.
The more you read about computer repair, the clearer the picture will be as to what’s going on within the system. Symptoms do not usually show where the fault is.
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Me holding a laptop hard drive