Computer Advice (Free!)

It’s Rocky; It’s a Coast; It’s Maine!

Written in response to some specific incidents. If you write with a computer (any electronic device) you should read this.

You may be reading this on a smartphone. You may be reading this on some sort of tablet (there are lots of them these days.) You may even be reading it on a desktop computer, which is what I produce this site with. No matter which device you use, you are, in fact, using a computer (yes, even if it’s an Apple product.) I am inspired to write this post because of several instances later where I’ve either advised, or had to, do a hard reboot on a device. (Most recently this desktop on which I write.)

The desktop story is that I clicked on a mail that looked like it was from the USPS. Delivery problems, it said. Okay, that happens. But instead of an email I got a loud message about how someone has used my ip address without my knowledge to access a site with dangerous malware on it, and now my computer is “locked up” because of that. Now, first of all, nobody can ever know whether you or a hacker used your ip address without your knowledge. What are they, mind readers? Second, the technical term is not “locked up.” What happens is that your computer is locked, and you are “locked out.” And thirdly, they wouldn’t put a phone number in the warning page. There were updates pending, so what the heck, I ignored the warnings from the loud page and restarted. My computer updated, but the loud page didn’t go away. So I did a “hard reboot,” aka a “cold reboot,” and everything is fine. Fancy that. Now, if you’ve never been an IT person, you might not even know what a “cold reboot” is. I mean, you turn your device off and on all the time, I’m sure. But you still have times when the thing seems slow, messed up, won’t run your favorite app, won’t even make a call sometimes. I speak from experience. A hard, or cold reboot will cure all of these ailments in any computer.

What is a hard, cold reboot? If you have a desktop without a battery you can easily demonstrate one. Just reach around behind the big box wherein the mystery that is your computer resides. Pull out the power cord, carefully so as not to damage it, and then wait thirty seconds, and then plug the cord back in. Poof! A computer has billions of teeny circuits that, taken together, represent everything the computer can do. Each teeny circuit (I’m talking electron microscope teeny here) is either on or off. When the computer is first turned on, it sets each teeny circuit to “off.” That makes a clean working area for what follows, which will first be your operating system, then whatever apps you decide to run. Starting clean like that means that your programs will all run optimally, you know, as near to perfectly as possible. You should do it once in a while even if you don’t have trouble, as a way to prevent trouble from cropping up.

But what if you have a battery in your device. My desktop, for example, is in fact a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 plugged into a docking station. It acts just like a desktop; I’m using a large format monitor, plus a real keyboard (bliss) and a mouse. Easy-peasy to use, but tricky to cold reboot. For many tablets, the trick to hard (cold) reboot is to hold down the power button until the device turns on again. Huh? Well, it’s on when you start. Press the power button and ignore the screen messages. After a bit your device will turn off. If you keep holding the power button down, the device will turn on again shortly. If it doesn’t start back up in thirty seconds, let go of the power button, then press it again. In fact, if you accidentally let go of the power button after the device is off, that’s okay too. Just press the power button (for a few seconds, usually) until your device restarts.

I’ve had Motorola phones that cold rebooted just like that. My Samsung requires me to hold down both the power button and the volume down buttonĀ at the same time. Something similar works with every tablet and smartphone with a battery. With phones, especially, it’s a good idea to do that cold reboot every couple of days. I do it before I go out driving for Lyft or Uber, as their driver apps are veritable resource hogs. (I mean that they use up a lot of memory, processing time, network bandwidth, and battery. It’s the memory that causes problems, so a cold reboot makes sure the app has all that it needs.)

There you go: my public service announcement for the quarter, uh, half, uh, year? Whatever. Cold boot your device every so often. You’ll be glad you did.