If you’ve ever called tech support regarding a piece of hardware, you’ve probably been asked this at least once:
“Have you tried turning it off and on again?”
It’s a common question that can be equal parts frustrating and hilarious, depending on your point of view. It can also feel dismissive, and it’s the punchline to many an anecdote from tech support people – look no further than the British comedy The IT Crowd for examples of that – but there’s a good reason IT professionals typically start a conversation by asking it.
There’s a speck of real-world truth in this…
In the tech support field, there is a fancy word for turning your device on and off: “power cycling.” It should be your go-to move when something goes wrong.
It’s a simple, and yet shockingly effective way to correct many problems. It should be your first step, even before calling tech support. If the device continues to have issues even after power cycling it, then the problem is usually something that needs more in-depth troubleshooting.
As for why IT pros always ask it, they need to go down the list and eliminate potential solutions one by one. If restarting your hardware does the trick, great. If not, it’s better to figure that out quickly rather than waste a lot of time with technical solutions that are unnecessarily difficult and time consuming.
“But, why does such a simple task do the trick?”
Many devices are on all of the time, constantly sending and receiving data (depending on the device). If it’s your computer, it’s doing all the tasks that you ask it to do all day long, even when you aren’t there. Sometimes things can get out of whack and these devices just need a do-over. Turning it off and on lets the device reboot and restart all its processes. In that, it’s a little like a power-nap for the devices.
This is especially so if you are dealing with a wireless or Internet-related device. If you greet your IT professional with the words, “I tried power cycling everything…” you might be able to hear the wave of relief wash over them. It lets them know that you at least know the basics of hardware troubleshooting, and the conversation can be conducted on a slightly more technical level.
For Internet-related things, let’s break it down into a few steps to remember:
Got a problem with your Internet connection? Let’s begin:
- Remove the power to any devices physically connected to the Internet – physically unplug them. This probably includes your PC, your personal router, and any equipment that your ISP has provided you. It’s good to restart your mobile devices too, but don’t bother taking out the battery.
- Wait about 10 to 20 seconds or so. Give the devices enough time to fully power down.
- Plug the devices back in to restore the power to these devices, and and wait for them to reboot into their normal states (typically lights all on, blinking and flickering).
If you’re still unsure, we have a guide on the different ways to reset your device. When it comes to a wireless device, be sure not to “factory reset”, or fully reset it. That’s no fun for anyone, and you’ll definitely be on the phone with your IT department or support person for awhile.
Along with power cycling devices, other easy fixes include double checking all physical device connections, and making sure all cables are snugly seated in their respective ports. Many, many technical problems arise from a physical issue, like a cable being unplugged.
The bottom line is you will quickly become your IT guy/gal’s favorite client it you constantly greet them with the phrase, “I have tried turning it off and on again.” It probably wouldn’t hurt to watch a few episodes of The IT Crowd either so you have some common ground to talk about while they find a solution for you.