Easy solutions for 10 common IT help desk problems.
Catherine Heath, Guest Contributor
Help desks in most organizations are extremely busy places. A wide range of issues and problems are normally sent into the help desk and the support team has to find ways of dealing with them.
Nevertheless, there are some problems that recur again and again, to the point where you may be tearing your hair out trying to help users reset their password for the umpteenth time. Or troubleshooting the same errors with their computers might make you want to drown yourself in your coffee.
“Have you tried turning it off and on again?” might not be a sufficient solution – although in many cases this does work! Many problems require in-depth troubleshooting to find the answer, and users are desperate for the help desk to assist them.
On the bright side, you may feel inspired that you know how to easily solve these common problems for your users.
10 common help desk problems and solutions
1. I forgot my password!
You go away on holiday and you forget your system password when you come back. You regret not writing your password down on a post-it-note underneath your desk. There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to access all of your files because you forgot your password, and the answer is usually a quick email to the help desk.
It’s important to bear in mind that you might be entering your password incorrectly but this problem could be fixed.
Maybe you do remember your password, but you’ve left the CAPS lock key on while trying to enter it. This is an important troubleshooting step when the user thinks they have forgotten their password. Additionally, their password may have expired and you should ask them whether they’ve received notifications asking them to update their password.
If they really have forgotten the password and they need a new one, the help desk can send the employee a password reset link. If there are further problems, the help desk can offer more support.
2. The blue screen of death
Encountering the blue screen of death is the worst fear of any Windows user. It results in a loss of productivity and potentially the need to invest in new hardware.
The blue screen signifies that the system has crashed and often makes the user fear that the computer is irreparably broken. They have no choice but to immediately contact the help desk for assistance.
However, it’s not usually as bad as you think. You can still save a computer that is experiencing the blue screen of death. The problem is usually related to the hardware or one of the drivers, and can often be fixed by restarting the system.
It’s important to remember that the blue screen of death often includes information about the nature of the issue. Making sense of the screen’s text can often tell you whether a restart will be sufficient or you need professional help to save your computer.
3. Can’t connect a USB device
It’s common for a help desk issue to involve a computer that won’t recognize a USB drive. Maybe the user has an important file saved on their device and they want to import it onto their computer but are encountering issues. There are many reasons why the computer will fail to recognize the device, including a problem with the USB port in question.
Ask the user to check whether the device is recognized by a different port. You can also ask them to check whether the USB drive works on another machine – if it does then it’s probably an issue with the computer rather than the USB.
If it’s a problem with the device itself, then the help desk can provide assistance with looking into possible reasons and coming up with potential fixes.
4. The system is running slowly
Sometimes, users contact the help desk with the problem that their computer is taking too long to execute tasks. A slow-running computer is frustrating and severely hampers productivity.
This could be happening for a number of reasons, the most likely of which is that the user is running too many programs at once and this is making the computer slow down. The solution is to close down some of these programs to cause your computer to speed up.
Another possible reason is that the computer is running scans or updates in the background without the user’s knowledge. This plays a big factor in slowing down your computer. If possible, try to reschedule the updates for outside of work hours when they won’t have an impact on the computer’s performance.
5. I can’t print my work
Having problems with the printer is one of the most common reasons that users contact the help desk. There’s nothing more frustrating than being about to go into a big meeting and being unable to print the agenda. A troublesome printer seems impenetrable and users have no idea how to fix it.
The solution could be as simple as the printer being turned off. It’s advisable to ask users to check this first. If the printer is on, there may be problems with the configuration which will be harder to fix.
If the problem is a configuration issue, then someone from the help desk might need to go down and change the settings.
Alternatively, the solution could be that the printer paper tray is jammed, the printer has run out of paper, or the printer has run out of ink or toner. These are problems that the user could probably fix themselves, or they could ask the Operations Manager to do it for them.
6. I deleted an essential file!
Sometimes users accidentally delete important files from their computer, which is enough to make anyone tear their hair out. All that work is lost and they worry that they can’t get it back.
But it’s not the end of the world. Often, these files can be recovered from the recycle bin or the trash, but other times it may have been emptied and it’s a little more difficult to get these files back.
First check whether the user’s file is in the recycle bin. Secondly, get the user to search for the file on the system using the file name and if it’s located anywhere on your device then you should be able to find it. Meanwhile, stop using your system for any other task to reduce the risk of your data being overwritten.
If it isn’t anywhere on the system, you may be able to recover the file for the user from the server backup.
7. I forgot to save my work!
Working for hours on a document and closing it but forgetting to save your changes is one of the reasons users might be sent into a panic spiral, and quickly contact the help desk.
It should be easy enough to recover the work if the user has been using Microsoft 365. The Autorecover feature saves work automatically, and this should be enabled by default.
Microsoft Office will periodically save a version of your work in the background every ten minutes, so all you need to do is reopen the application you were using and access the file on the left-hand sidebar.
If you can’t find a saved version of your work, you can search your computer for a temporary version of your file.
8. Slow internet connection
There are many reasons why the wifi connection might be slow for users, the first of which might be their distance from the router. Another reason could be that the user has many browser windows open at the same time which will slow down their internet connection.
Fixing these problems is relatively easy. First of all, you could move closer to the router. Secondly, you could try closing down some of your windows and see if the internet speeds up.
A slow internet connection is more of a problem if there is an issue with your internet service provider. You should check to see whether anyone else is experiencing problems. If it’s a service issue, the help desk may be able to contact the company about connectivity.
9. The computer just shut down!
Another reason that users contact the help desk is having their computer shut down on them, which can be alarming and cause loss of work.
If your computer shuts down unexpectedly the most likely cause is the hardware overheating. When the device gets too hot, it shuts down to prevent further damage to the machine. Make sure you are using your computer on a cool, flat surface and that it is free of dust.
In the case that overheating isn’t the reason, the computer may be afflicted with a virus. The user should contact the help desk straight away to get help with minimizing the risk and preventing cyber attacks in the future.
10. Losing access to the wireless network
It’s frustrating when the wireless network at your office boots you out for no apparent reason. Internet connectivity is essential for many jobs today and not being able to connect majorly disrupts productivity.
If a user is having trouble connecting to the network then this could be because the router is overloaded. In many cases, the same issues that lead to slow internet can result in losing wireless signal entirely.
To check whether this is an issue with the specific device, a user could be asked to try and connect with a different device in order to troubleshoot the problem. If it’s not device specific, the help desk could contact the broadband provider for assistance.
The reasons that businesses need help desk software
To make sure your business is able to handle these typical help desk issues, you not only need a highly skilled support team but also the right help desk software. A help desk solution like Keeping will allow you to handle all your incoming requests and keep on top of user conversations.
No matter whether your users are contacting you about internet speeds or connecting a USB device, help desk software keeps all your tickets in one place in a shared inbox. You’ll never lose track of a user conversation again and be able to work out if your tickets are open, pending or closed.
In help desk software, you can track agent performance with in-built analytics that tell you how swiftly agents are responding to user issues. You can also keep track of how many tickets are coming into the help desk so you can plan your staffing accordingly.
Alongside your help desk software, you can think about creating a self-service knowledge base that will help your users to troubleshoot their own problems. Every help desk agent knows only too well how many problems could be solved by users themselves, if only they knew where to look. Think about investing in a help center that deals with common user issues, and prevent many tickets from arriving in the help desk.
Troubleshooting user issues means the help desk plays a very important role in maintaining the productivity of every team. Without the assistance of the help desk, users may not have access to the software and hardware they need to do their jobs.
As any help desk team very well knows, there are a variety of user issues that can arrive on any given day. It’s clear, however, that certain issues crop up over and over again, and that’s what we’ve tried to list here in this article.
When most problems are known to the help desk, this can accelerate the help desk’s ability to solve user issues. If they belong to typical categories, the solutions are the same every time and support knows exactly what to do to help users. Users will appreciate this outstanding customer service and are able to continue on with their day.