A+: How to Evaluate the Client’s Environment

Depending on the clues you receive in the initial interview, you should go to the client’s work area prepared to perform a variety of tests. You might need to perform several tests to rule out certain problems, and must look for three major issues when evaluating the customer’s environment, and 

    • Power issues
    • Interference sources
    • Symptoms and error codes—this might require that you try to reproduce the error

Power..........Multimeter, circuit tester
BIOS beep, error codes...List of BIOS codes, POST card/display device
Printer self-test........Printer, paper
Windows bootlog..........Start Windows w/ Bootlog option on
I/O port.......Connect loopback plugs, run 3d party diagnostcs
Video tests..........Third-party diagnostics
Hardware resources...........Windows Device Manager
Device drivers...........Windows Device Manager

Testing Power

Systems that won’t start or that have lockups or shutdowns with no error messages could be the victims of power problems. If a system malfunctions at a customer site but works properly at your test bench, power problems due to improper wiring might be to blame.

Looking for Sources of Interference

Power problems also can be caused by interference from other devices, such as copiers, vacuum cleaners, elevators, and alarm systems. If a system performs properly when moved away from its normal work area, but malfunctions when it is returned to its normal location, or if it works during the business day but not after hours (when an alarm system is activated), interference might be to blame. Power Conditioning Devicescan be effective in dealing with sources of interference.

If the problem is network-related, it might be necessary to reroute UTP (unshielded twisted-pair) cabling away from interference sources or connect the cable to a different port on the hub or switch.