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Think beyond computer problem solutions than just knowing them

Mira Yurizaki


Fixing computers is always a satisfying thing. Especially after chugging away at it for hours or even days. And when you come across the solution, you tuck it away in your memory, notebook, or what have you so the next time the problem shows up, you can fix it again. But I don't think that's enough to really "master" the computer.


I'm having a feeling that a lot of people who are beyond beginners accumulate solutions to problems or at least know how to find them online and simply spout out the solution. While this is fine for minor problems, more involved issues tend also seem to get little more than a glance as to understanding why something is happening in the first place. I find this detrimental and growth stunting in some ways.


Since it came up recently, I saw yet another reply in a thread where the OP mentioned cloning drives and the reply was "just reinstall Windows, you'll have problems if you clone." The last time I had any care about trying to talk to these people, I was linked to an article to someone who cloned it and shared their nightmare story about things were broken, but they just reinstalled Windows and everything was fine. It makes me wonder... have these people actually cloned their OSes or are they just spouting rhetoric that someone else wrote? Because I'm looking at myself going "I've cloned a half dozen times, none of them had issues." And then there's the fact that cloning is a popular way for mass deployment of a system. It's simply much faster to copy the data over to a new drive than it is to go through the setup process.


Without poking at the solution presented, it breeds misinformation that spreads. I did do a somewhat haphazard test of cloning an OS and used it, and my research only led to one thing that might possibly be it and it's caused by something someone would likely do. But if the solution to cloning is "don't do it, reinstall Windows because cloning causes issues" and the person can't explain why, then I don't think whoever says that doesn't understand the nature of the problem or the solution. They don't have to go down the specific details like "oh because xxx driver is dumb and hard codes where it lives" or "yyy setting affects zzz thing that's dependent on aaa thing", but something that at least makes sense.


Why is this important? Because establishing a root cause is helpful to knowing if the same problem happens again and you try the same solution you always have but it doesn't work, you can try a solution that's related.


One example of this is when people report their RAM usage is very high, but when they add up the amount of RAM their apps are taking up, it's much less. Like Task Manager reports 15/16GB is used, but the apps only use up 3GB. People often go "you might have a virus" (possible) or "something is wrong with RAM" (also possible). However, when I see this problem, I ask OP "Can you check if your non-paged pool is high?" Why? At first when I looked into this issue, the one thing that popped up a lot was that the Killer NIC driver's were leaking, and this causes the non-paged pool to increase in use. And so far most of the time when someone reports this, they're using a Killer NIC, so a driver update usually solves their problem. The root cause might be "Killer NIC drivers leak memory, causing the non-paged pool to increase." But then I dug around with what the non-paged pool is: it's kernel space memory that can't be paged out. So it's possible the poorly written drivers of any sort can do this. So the solution in general isn't just "If you have a Killer NIC, update the driver", it's "update your drivers if you haven't, one of them may be leaking and the update may have fixed it". I also found out after some random testing that VMs usually use the kernel memory space, which may also cause a situation like this to happen.


In another example, I work for a company that does system critical software. That is, this software needs to be reliable as failing can mean serious injury or death to those operating the machinery that software controls or to others that happen to be around it. When a problem comes up and it's severe, we investigate the hell out of it to find root cause. We do not like solutions that work but we don't know the "why." We still implement and post the solution, but it's not very helpful if we don't know what caused it. Because if it happened once, it'll happen again, and the solution may not be a complete solution, it may just lessen the severity of the consequences. And if we know the root cause to that problem, it may start lighting bulbs in our heads that the issue may have led to other problems.


So the next time you come across a complicated problem and solve it, try to figure out why that problem happened in the first place. You never know, it may allow you to fix your computer without consulting Google.


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