Help understanding troubleshooting

vinnypolstonvinnypolston ■■□□□□□□□□ Posts: 53Member ■■□□□□□□□□
Hi guys! I'm currently studying to re-take the A+ exam (I have the 700 series cert). I've been professionally in IT for 10 years now.. but never pursued a degree. My plans is to take the 900 series as soon as it's released. After that I am going to apply to WGU for my bachelors. Beyond excited. I wanted to share my study notes with you guys. I'm not the world's #1 authority by any means.. but I hope these help :)

The notes are kind of hard to read here on the forums. If you want an easier to read version click here. icon_study.gif


On the new 220-902 objectives CompTIA outlines their six steps to troubleshooting. After you read this section you will understand 220-902 section 5.5, given a scenario, explain the troubleshooting theory.
Let’s begin.

Introduction to Troubleshooting

CompTIA outlines their six step troubleshooting theory in the exam objectives. These six steps include:

  1. Identify the problem.
  2. Establish a theory of probable cause.
  3. Test the theory to determine cause.
  4. Establish a plan of action to resolve the problem and implement the solution.
  5. Verify full system functionality and if applicable implement preventative measures.
  6. Document findings, actions, and outcomes.


As a computer technician; the majority of your job has to deal with troubleshooting. A good troubleshooter takes a logical plan for identifying the problem and resolving the issue. This is your foundation for anything troubleshooting related; regardless if it is hardware or software.

It is also important to always consider if there are corporate policies before making changes.
If possible, always perform a backup before attempting to fix any software problems.

Let’s break these six steps down using an example scenario.
Step 1: Identify the problem

Your first step in resolving a computer issue is to identify the problem. Much of the time this includes questioning the user. It’s important not to make the user feel that it is their fault; even though it may very well be. You may ask the user if they had recently plugged anything into the computer, or downloaded and installed any new programs. Ask the user what was happening before they had the problem as well as how long they have been experiencing the issue.

Question the user: You receive a ticket from Amber in accounting. Amber said that her computer was working fine last night.. but when she came in this morning her email stopped working. She hasn’t been able to send any emails all morning. You should start by asking Amber what happened the last thing she emailed was last night before leaving the office. You should also ask Amber what email program she uses.

Identify any changes made: Since we know that Amber’s email stopped working; we need to identify if there were any changes made. The most logical place to start would be within her email client. Some popular email clients are Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, and Apple Mail. We know that Amber uses Outlook since we have already asked her what email program she uses. So open up Outlook and look for any changes that could have inadvertently been made that could cause her to not be able to send or receive email.

Review Documentation: Always check documentation to see if this issue has happened before or if there were any changes made to services that would affect Amber’s email from working. It’s possible that your companies email provider changed what outgoing port SMTP should use. Maybe Amber had this problem before and another technician documented what the problem was as well as steps for fixing the problem.

Don’t get ahead of yourself though. At step 1 we are just identifying the problem; not fixing anything. Before we can fix the issue we need to establish a theory of probably cause

Step 2: Establish a theory of probably cause (question the obvious)

After identifying the problem in step one; we now need to establish a theory of probable cause. Now is the time to question the obvious. In this step we need to decide if the issue is hardware or software related.

Let’s keep using Amber from accounting for the example. Since we established that the problem was the Amber could not receive email in step 1; we have a good idea of what may need done. Again, think logically and start with the most obvious cause.

We know that for email to work; the computer needs internet. Did the ethernet cable come unplugged? Now that we have established a theory we need to move onto step 3 and test our theory to determine the cause.

Step 3: Test the theory to determine cause

Now we are going to test our theory from step two and determine if it resolves the issue.

In step two we thought that maybe the ethernet cable came unplugged; but sure enough everything is plugged in and the computer gets internet.. At this point we would need to go back to step two and establish a new theory.

Our next theory would probably be to check the email client’s outbox. Our thoughts are that maybe the user tried to email an unusually large file that may be clogging up the outbox. Now we test that theory.

At this point we open up the email client and see that Amber had tried to send an 800mb video file from her computer. The email server kept timing out when trying to send that huge email; causing no email to be delivered. We test this theory by deleting that large email from her outbox. After we delete the large email we click on send/receive and sure enough; the other emails start sending.

Step 4: Establish a plan of action to resolve the problem and implement the solution

I’m going to be perfectly honest.. it’s easy to think of steps 3 and 4 at the same thing. But for the purpose of the A+ exam we need understand that they are two separate steps.

Now that we have tested our theory by deleting the large email from Amber’s outbox; we need to establish a plan of action.
Our plan of action to resolve the problem was to delete the large email from the outbox. Us deleting that email was implementing the solution. Had the ethernet cable not been plugged in; plugging it in would have been the solution.

Whatever your plan of action is; you need to immediately implement the solution. In step 5 we will go a bit deeper and verify the full system functions properly.

Step 5: Verify full system functionality and if applicable implement preventative measures

Great job, super technician, you fixed the computer! But wait.. you’re not done. Now you need to verify the full system works and if able; implement preventative measures.

After fixing the problem you want to make sure that the computer is functioning properly. Try rebooting the computer a few times and then testing the email again. Doing this verifies that you did indeed fix the problem.

If possible, have the user sit down at the computer for a few moments and try some of their daily tasks. There’s nothing worse than thinking you have a problem fixed to just receive another ticket for the same exact problem.

Now if possible implement preventative measures. For this we would suggest to Amber that she shouldn’t email large attachments such as videos or really large images. Again, do this without making the user feel dumb by making accusations that it was their fault; even when it was. You’re on their team!

Step 6: Document findings, actions, and outcomes

In our last step, we need to document our findings. This includes what the issue was as well as what caused it, our solution, and any preventative measures we implemented.

Never underestimate how important documentation is. It makes you and your teams job much easier. Document with as much detail as possible.

For example: Three months down the road Amber might be having the same problem again. By this time you probably forgot what the solution was because you’ve processed hundreds or thousands of tickets for other tech related issues. In step 1 of headed back out to see the issue you see your notes about what happened before. Score!

That's about it! I will be continuously uploading my study notes as I get through the 900 series objectives. If you found this helpful please reply below! If you think I missed something also let me know. We're all here to support each other.

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