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Why does switching it off and on again work?

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  • October 30, 2020
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There is a well worn and established cliché in the IT world, that being the advice “have you tried switching it off and on again.” Without doubt, this is something you will be familiar with, be it from the hit comedy show The IT Crowd, a well meaning colleague that has suggested this to you… it’s entirely possible that you might have received this advice from an IT professional.

But this does raise the question, why is this such a well known and well-used course of action for day to day IT problems?

Why does it work?

The answer of why switching it off and on again works is a relatively simple one. In basic terms, rebooting a machine will wipe all of the temporary data getting stored by the computer and more often than not that will often include whatever is causing the problem. Essentially this is the computer equivalent of starting again with a clean slate.

Electronic devices (because this more often than not works for phones and tablets as much as it does computers) can be running multiple programmes at the same time. Multiple programmes can mean multiple opportunities for commands to conflict with one another – and whilst troubleshooting can require expertise, anyone can switch a machine off and on again. This is often why it is the recommended first course of action.

Does this always work?

No, it’s obviously not a cure 100% of the time. Often what will happen is that a reboot will solve the immediate issue you’re having (basically be a short-term fix) but it’s unlikely to address the underlying cause if it’s a bigger IT issue. So, whilst this might be the first thing IT support might ask you to do, if a problem keeps happening then it will be something that needs a resolution.

What to do next if switching it off and on doesn’t work?

If you’re still getting problems after a reboot there are a couple of things to quickly check that might be causing an issue before calling for IT support.

Step 1 – Check for updates. This could be updates to your operating system (eg Windows), updates to antivirus or it might be updates to a particular programme if that is causing trouble. Sometimes these can be easy enough to reinstall – but if you are in any doubt, consult with an expert.

Step 2 – Also check recent programmes that have been installed onto your machine. These too can sometimes cause problems and its often why it is recommended that you do a machine restart after installing something new.

Step 3 (and Step 3 doesn’t have to be done last) is to give us a call. We work with many different sizes of businesses to support them with their IT needs. And whilst we of course, do use the phrase, “have you tried switching it off and on again,” from time to time – we are adept at getting to bottom of any IT problem our clients are having to ensure the smooth running of their business.

Want to learn more? Contact us today.