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Five simple tricks to solve Wi-Fi problems, Windows issues and more

Desktop admins encounter a lot of complex problems. It's important to solve the basic ones -- such as a faulty Wi-Fi connection -- to keep the cogs in the machine running smoothly.

If you are just getting into the administrator game you are probably quickly realizing that it's a steady stream of Windows issues, Wi-Fi connectivity disruptions and other seemingly small incidents.

Users delete their Recycle Bins, applications freeze and sometimes you have to fix a problem without users' login credentials. The frustration and the challenges are real, but don't lose your cool.

Explore five basic desktop admin problems you will run into and what you can do to be the hero, including how to identify the source of Wi-Fi connectivity problems and how to handle local administrator rights.

How to identify the cause of Wi-Fi connectivity issues

Wi-Fi is such an established technology it's easy to overlook as a source of serious problems. But even a hiccup in Wi-Fi service can have major repercussions. As a result, resolving Wi-Fi issues quickly and efficiently is a major priority.

If users can't access their apps they will have a hard time getting any work done. When they run into frozen or locked apps you must be able to solve the problem fast.

When Wi-Fi problems emerge you should ask two main questions. First, who is having a problem? This lets you know if the issue is contained to a single user or area. If a specific area is experiencing an outage there could be a coverage problem. The answer will also let you identify a common thread between users who can't connect to Wi-Fi. Perhaps some users need a firmware update, for example.

Second you must ask, is this a recurring problem or a one-time issue? If the problem is recurring then the users might have an issue with their Wi-Fi passwords. If it's an isolated incident then the access point could overloaded. If you have trouble pinpointing the problem on your own, you can turn to online diagnostic utilities to get to the heart of the issue.

Frozen apps never bothered me anyway

If users can't access their apps they will have a hard time getting any work done. When they run into frozen or locked apps you must be able to solve the problem fast. As is the case for identifying Wi-Fi problems, you should find out if it's a widespread or isolated issue. If it's widespread you might be staring at a buggy app.

If just one user has issues then his device configuration could be at fault. Hardware problems, such as bad memory and CPU or storage limitations could cause complications. Even something as simple as a broken fan causing a computer to overheat can bring app performance to its knees. If hardware is not the culprit, investigate the OS. If device drivers are not up to date or a Windows page file is corrupt, an app will experience problems. You should also run Windows Update to make sure everything on the user's device is current.

How does one even delete the Recycle Bin?

You might not think that the Recycle Bin would be at the bottom of the Windows issues you would have to deal with, but sometimes it disappears. A third-party program or Group Policy could hide it, its registry information could be erased, or a user could accidentally delete it.

Fortunately with Windows 8 Microsoft made it a bit harder to delete by eliminating the delete option when users right click the Recycle Bin. But it is still possible to misplace the Recycle Bin in Windows 8, and if users work with Windows Vista or XP, the Windows 8 fail safes do not exist.

If a user deletes his Recycle Bin or it disappears for any reason, there is one easy way and one risky way to bring it back. The easy way is to click on Change Desktop Icons in the Personalization section of the control panel. Check the Recycle Bin box and the Recycle Bin is back in business. The risky way requires you to modify the OS's registry with a registry hack. It's risky because one slip up could destroy the entire OS. As a result, you must back up everything before taking this route.

Troubleshoot a problem without a user's password

So you need to troubleshoot a user's computer but you don't have the password. You might think you're up the creek without a paddle, but you're not. If the device is on a domain-joined network you can simply log into the computer with any authorized domain account. A word to the wise, though: Do not use an account with administrative privileges to log in. If the issue is from malware, you could spread it to the entire network.

If the device is not part of a domain-joined network things are a little trickier, but still doable. Just remove the device's hard disk, attach it as a slave drive to another Windows PC and run CHKDSK. You can also fix any boot sector problems without the login information.

What to do about admin rights

Local administrator rights can be a touchy subject and a real source of Windows issues, especially when you're dealing with executives and other higher-ups in the company. They don't want to be limited in what they can do or feel slighted because they have less power, but whether or not they have admin rights really shouldn't be their call. Yes, letting users have admin rights allows them to fix little problems on their own and makes them feel in control, but giving users local admin rights is a major security risk. It gives users carte blanche. They can do almost anything, including download any app, use any program, and choose to undo or ignore any of IT's decisions. It is also one of the easiest security problems to avoid.

To navigate the politics of restricting admin rights, you can limit capabilities on a user-by-user basis or set restrictions gradually. For example, instead of yanking the rug out from under users, start by preventing them from overriding IT. Then limit the apps they can download and so on. It might be hard for users at first, but they will get used to it and you will have a lot less to worry about.

Next Steps

How to configure Windows 8 startup

What's the deal with all the svchost.exe processes?

Provisioning desktop apps with Windows to Go

The dangers of Microsoft Windows PowerShell

This was last published in February 2016

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