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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | General Troubleshooting Techniques | General Diagnostic Techniques ]

Dealing With Intermittent Problems

Intermittent problems are ones which appear to happen spontaneously or randomly. They seem not to be caused by anything obvious and are not repeatable. They can be extremely difficult and frustrating to diagnose.

Sometimes problems that seem intermittent really aren't; it's just that the specific set of circumstances that causes the problem to occur may be obscure or hard to notice. Spend some time trying to determine what the circumstances are when the problem arises. For example, many problems with crashes or lockups will occur only after the system has been on for more than an hour; some may occur only within the first few minutes that the PC is turned on. You may find that program A only crashes when run at the same time as program B. Or that a particular behavior is associated with a peripheral of some sort.

You will have to be patient when dealing with these sorts of issues. Since the problem is not something you can duplicate at will, you may not be able to systematically work your way towards the ultimate cause. In this situation you may have to employ trial-and-error, making a change and then waiting to see if the problem recurs. It can take days (or longer) sometimes since you have to wait before seeing if the problem happens again. Be patient.

Next: Correlation May Not Imply Causation

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