A+: Best Sources for Replacement Parts, and Keeping Track of Solutions

“Known-Working” Doesn’t Mean “New”

To perform parts exchanges for troubleshooting, you need replacement parts. If you don’t have spare parts, it’s very tempting to go to the computer store and buy some new components. Instead, take a spare system that’s similar to the “sick” computer, make sure that it works, and then use it for parts. Why? Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it works.
I once replaced the air conditioning compressor on my van with a brand-new, lifetime-warranty alternator that failed in less than a week, and six more replacements failed (all from the same batch or defective parts). Whether it’s a cable, a video card, a monitor, or some other component, try using a known-working item as a temporary replacement rather than brand-new.
Rather than give away, sell, or discard working video cards, hard disks, and other components you have replaced with faster, bigger, better upgrades, keep at least one of each item to use as a replacement for testing purposes or as a backup in case the upgrade fails.
If you don’t have spare parts, use a spare system if possible rather than knocking another working system (and user) out of action by “borrowing” parts from an operational system. Use the same brand and model of system for known-working spares if possible, because the components inside are more likely to be identical to the “sick” system you are diagnosing.
Swapping from an identical or nearly identical systems is especially important if the system you are diagnosing uses proprietary components or is a laptop computer.

Keeping Track of Your Solutions

Make a practice of keeping detailed notes about the problems you solve. If your company has a help-desk system with tracking capabilities, use it. Even if the best you can do is write up your findings, you can use desktop search tools to find the answers to the same problems that might arise later.
Be sure to note symptoms, underlying problems, workarounds, and final resolutions. To help capture the information you need:
• Use Windows’ Screen Capture feature (press the PrtScn button and copy the clipboard contents into Paint or another image editor) to grab screens.
• Use the Save As Web Archive feature in Internet Explorer to grab web pages complete with text and links as one file.