Solve weird computer problems – a worked example

How to solve computer problems and get your PC working again

My computer was acting strangely and clearly was not right. With a bit of detective work the problem was found and the solution was applied. Use the same technique to solve your own computer problems.

Error!

The problem I was having with my computer, an HP laptop, may not be the same as the problem you are having, but the solution to it is quite general and it can be applied to other situations. Knowing how to solve computer problems is a useful skill to have.

The first indication of the problem was that the fan on the computer was blowing like a hair drier. The computer was hot and the fan was revving up to maximum to keep it cool. When computers and devices get hot, it usually means that the processor is working flat out doing something, and not always something useful. It usually means that something is wrong.

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Clicking the power/battery icon at the right side of the taskbar and selecting More power options, enables the power plan to be changed. Setting it to Power Saver limits the processor speed and this reduced the heat output a little. It does not cure the problem, but at least it reduces the effects slightly.

The next step is to find out what might be wrong and you should right click the taskbar and select Task Manager. There is a lot of information in Task Manager and on the Performance tab you can see the processor clock speed. This rises when the processor is working hard and falls when it is idle and has nothing to do.

The Processes tab shows the CPU, memory, disk and network activity. The CPU was low, partly because of the Power Saver power plan, and partly because it’s a fast CPU – a Core i7. It didn't help in this case, but sometimes you can see a process (program) is out of control and using too much CPU, so it's worth checking.

Clicking the Memory column to sort it by usage revealed something interesting.

 Task Manager

Service Host: Windows Biometric was using a lot of memory, which was strange.

 Task Manager in Windows

But a second or two later, it wasn’t. It was acting very strangely, using 1,338.7 MB one second, 642.3 MB the next second, flip flopping between the two, give or take a few tens of megabytes. Memory usage was up and down every second. TouchControl was using a fair bit too.

The key information here was that the Windows Biometric service was doing something strange. The problem on your computer might lie with a different program, so just look for anything strange.

What is the biometric service? Biometrics are ways of analysing body characteristics in order to determine someone's identity. My HP laptop has a fingerprint scanner and I can log in to Windows by swiping my finger over it instead of entering a password. It sounds better than it is and half the time it does not recognise my finger. For this reason I have turned it off.)

An important step here is to check for Windows updates. This might be a bug in Windows that has been fixed. In Windows 7 or 8, open the Control Panel, click Windows Update and then click Check for updates. Always click Show all available updates because optional ones are hidden. In Windows 10, go to Start, Settings, Update & security, and check for updates in the Windows Update section.

In my case there were no updates. Windows was up to date, including optional updates too.

Next on the to-do list in this situation is to check the drivers. IObit Driver Booster 3 Free. Running this showed lots of outdated drivers. You should not update drivers that are working fine and you should only update them to fix a problem.

This driver caught my attention because of the mention of Biometric devices.

 

It was highlighted in red as Extremely Old. Clicking the arrow to the right of the Update button and selecting Details showed this information:

 IObit Driver Booster

There was an update to the driver. The driver may be old, but so is the update, and besides, the computer has been running fine till now. I suspect that a recent Windows or some other software update has thrown a spanner in the works and now the old driver is not compatible.

The Update button in Driver Booster was used to update the driver and now the PC is running fine. In Task Manager Service Host: Windows Biometric is now showing just 0.9 MB memory usage and 0% CPU usage, which is a bit different to the 1,338.7 MB it was using before. TouchControl dropped from 398MB to about 9 MB too.

 

The PC is using 1.5 GB less memory than it was!

It was a weird problem, but a bit of detective work found the solution, which was to update a driver. There are other outdated drivers, but because they are not causing any problems, I will leave them. If something is working, don’t try and fix it!


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3 Comments on Solve weird computer problems – a worked example

  1. techbdzone // 2015/09/09 at 18:52 //

    Thank you It was very good article.
    waiting for more.

  2. Annemarie // 2016/03/06 at 12:58 //

    Thank you so much! I had the exact same problem with my HP laptop and this article helped me to fix the issue! Very good article, easy to understand and follow, well done!

  3. I had the same problem with my HP laptop. Thanks to your article, I could solve the issue. Thanks a lot. Luc

Comments are closed.