Sometimes technology doesn’t work the way it should. You may experience technical difficulties such as your computer freezing or your internet connection not working. You might be unsure what to do. But many common computer problems can be solved with some simple steps.
Problems with your device
You may experience a sudden fault, or perhaps you’ve been dealing with an ongoing issue. Some common problems you may notice with your laptop or smartphone include:
- running slower than normal
- freezing or crashing
In many cases, simply turning your device off and on again can fix the problem.
- If you’re using a phone or tablet, press and hold the power button for a few seconds until it shuts down and wait for a few minutes before turning it on again.
- If you’re using a computer or laptop, you can shut it down through the on-screen ‘Start’ menu by clicking on the power icon. If it’s frozen, press and hold the physical power button until it shuts down.
If your device is running slowly, try closing any applications (apps), programs and websites you’re not using.
- Apps you’ve used on your phone or tablet continue to run in the background, even after you’ve left the app. Depending on your device, you can usually shut these down by swiping up from the bottom of your screen and swiping on the app you want to close
- If you’re on a computer and you’re stuck on an unresponsive program, you can force it to close. On a Windows computer, press the Ctrl + Alt + Delete keys at the same time, select ‘Task Manager’ and click on the program you want to close. On Apple computers, press Command + Option + Esc to use force quit.
Sometimes your device won’t turn on. It might be low on battery – plug it into a direct power source and leave it for 15-30 minutes before turning it on again.
Your computer or laptop may be able to help diagnose and fix any problems you’re experiencing.
- If you’re using a Windows device, it can run a troubleshooter to identify and fix problems.
- If you’re using an Apple device (MacBook or iMac), use Apple Diagnostics to check for hardware problems.
Problems with your internet connection
You may find that webpages are not loading, your web browser is displaying an error message, or your internet is slower than usual.
First, see if there’s a problem with your device:
- Check your device is connected to the internet – the WiFi access on your computer or smartphone may be turned off, or it may be trying to connect to another network.
- Test your WiFi on different devices if you can – if you can access the internet on your computer but not on your smartphone, for example, it might be a problem with your device. You can restart your device and try to connect again.
- Try a different internet browser. If you can load websites on another browser, it may be a problem with your browser.
If your WiFi is turned on for all your devices but none of them can connect to the internet, it may be a problem with your router.
Look at the lights on your router. Most routers have a light that shows the status of the internet connection. Check the instructions that came with your router to see if the light is showing whether there’s an internet connection or not.
- Restart your WiFi network – turn your router off, unplug it and wait a few minutes before plugging it back in and turning it on again. You might have to wait a few more minutes before trying to connect to the internet again.
- Move your router to a better place, such as an open spot in the centre of your home. If you can’t move it, try to move any furniture that’s in the way or other electrical items that could interfere with the WiFi signal.
- Try using a different Ethernet cable to connect the router to your computer – this is a cable that carries broadband signals between your router and device. You can try using a cable even if you have wireless internet.
In some cases, your router might show there’s a connection, but you still can’t get on the internet. Call your internet service provider. They may talk you through how to fix it, or let you know if there are connection problems in your area.
Uswitch has a guide on how to diagnose and deal with internet connection problems.
Most internet providers have a page on their website that gives you real-time information on any technical issues that they might be having at that moment.
Where to get support
Sometimes, the problem needs more than a simple fix. If you’re not sure how to solve an issue, AbilityNet offers free computer and technology support for older and disabled people.
If you’ve tried troubleshooting your device several times and it’s still not working, it may need to be repaired. If your device is still under warranty, you may be able to get it fixed for free by the manufacturer. This won’t include problems you may have caused, such as broken screens and water damage, even if it was by accident.
Most warranties for a new device are for one year, unless you’ve paid for an extended warranty – check with the manufacturer. If your device isn’t under warranty, you’ll have to pay to get it fixed. To find a computer or phone repair professional, you can:
- call the technical support helpline for the manufacturer of your device.
- get in touch with AbilityNet for information
- search online or in the phone book – remember to check reviews
- look for approved businesses on Buy With Confidence
- ask at the shop where you bought the device.
If you have an Apple device, you can visit an Apple store for help with diagnosing and repairing a device, or arrange for it to be sent to a repair centre.
Here are some terms you'll come across on the rest of this page:
- cache – information from a website that your browser may save to your device’s hard drive, so the website loads faster when you next visit it
- cloud storage – instead of saving files to your device, you save it to internet storage. Popular options include iCloud and Google drive
- cookies – data that’s stored on your device when you visit a website. It tells the website information, such as how often you visit that website
- malware – this is short for ‘malicious software’, which is any software that could harm your computer
- hardware – the physical parts of your device, such as the hard drive or a laptop keyboard.
Tips on looking after your device
To prevent problems in the future, look after your device by carrying out some regular basic maintenance. You should do this even if you don’t spot any issues. This will help keep it running smoothly for longer.
It’s important to update your device’s software regularly. This will fix any bugs and security issues, and your device will perform better.
- If you use a smartphone or tablet, you’ll usually be prompted to update your device. You can also check for updates in the ‘Settings’ on your device.
- If you use a Windows computer or laptop, check for updates by accessing the ‘Settings’ on your device and clicking on ‘Update & Security’. You can also set your computer to check for updates automatically.
- If you use an Apple laptop (MacBook), check for updates by accessing the ‘System Preferences’ on your device and clicking on ‘Software Update’.
There are other steps you can take to maintain your device:
- Run regular anti-virus scans on your computer. This finds and removes any malware, such as computer viruses, from your device, keeping it secure for you to use. A quick scan only takes a few minutes, although a full scan can take longer. Your computer might already come with anti-virus software installed – for example, if you use a Windows device, it’ll have Microsoft Defender.
- Back up your important files and data. If your device’s hardware or software fails, you could lose your data. It’s a good idea to keep a backup (copy) of important files. You can do this in two ways: by saving files onto an external hard drive or by saving to cloud storage.
- Uninstall programs and apps you don’t use, and delete files, downloads (such as music, documents and pictures) you don’t need. This frees up memory space on your device, which can help make your device run faster. Clear your web browser data, such as browsing history, cookies and cache.
- Be careful when downloading files, programs and apps you’re unsure about. For example, never open an email attachment from someone you don’t know. For more information on internet safety, visit our webpage Staying safe online.
- Turn off your devices when you’re not using them. Although it’s common to keep your phone and laptop running or in 'Sleep' mode, shutting them down when you've finished using them will give them a chance to refresh, save energy and solve any system issues.
For free online courses to help you improve your digital skills, visit Vodafone's Hi Digital learning platform, in partnership with independent Age.
If you’re finding it hard to use your device comfortably, because the text on your screen is too small, for example, there are ways to fix this. Visit our webpage Adapting your devices for more advice on how to make your devices easier to use.
If your device is old and often has problems, you may want to upgrade instead of trying to fix it. Read our webpage Smart technology for tips on buying equipment that’s right for you.