By Paulo Rodrigues
In the beloved British sitcom “The IT Crowd,” Roy, Chris O’Dowd’s scruffy-IT-guy character, grudgingly answers the phone with, “Hello, IT. Have you tried turning it off and on again?” Then, he resentfully walks the person through restarting his or her computer — invariably resolving the problem — and quickly returns to his magazine.
Does This Actually Work?
Just to be clear, our office at TSP looks nothing like the windowless pit of nerd angst depicted in The IT Crowd. We’re much friendlier on the phone as well. That said, it’s certainly true that restarting your computer can help resolve many common problems.
For your computer, restarting is a little bit like getting a good night’s sleep. All the junk that fatigued you yesterday is cleared out, and you face the new day refreshed and ready to go. Your computer can also get fatigued, so to speak, and this is caused by one or more processes:
On a typical day, you might use a web browser, email program, word processing program, music program (no judgment on what’s playing), and perhaps a chat program. From your end, it looks like you have five programs open. In fact, your Mac computer can have over 400 processes running. These processes include those five programs you have open, additional processes that support those programs, and processes to run various other routine functions: things like checking for other devices on your network, scanning files for search, and managing your computer’s clock.
Sometimes, one or more of these processes has a problem. Perhaps an unexpected input has caused a process to become stuck, the computer equivalent of mistakenly eating that third 7-Layer Burrito.
As you use your Mac computer, open new programs, connect to a server, put your computer to sleep, wake it up in a new place, and so on, these minor issues begin to stack up. Your computer may slow down or heat up, and certain functions may stop working altogether. When you restart your computer, these processes are all shut down together, then load again fresh and only when needed.
But My Uncle Dave Is a Server Guy, and He Says Modern Systems Don’t Need to Be Restarted…
We often hear things like this, and it’s important to note that there are two key differences between servers and computers:Servers run the same programs all day, every day, from the same place, so they’re less susceptible to problems that arise from changes to a computer’s programs or its environment.
Restarting a server can impact many people at once. It’s often worth it for your uncle Dave to spend a couple of hours troubleshooting a computer issue if it means that he doesn’t have to restart the server. You may not want to spend that kind of time troubleshooting an issue if you can restart your computer and return to work in only a few minutes.
Do You Guys Just Go Around Turning Computers Off and On?
IT service providers often use automated management tools to restart computers at specific times. The intent is to enforce a mandate that all computers don’t go too long without restarting. However, this approach has problems.
Think about the last time you were using your Mac computer to work on an important project. You might have left your computer on with documents open for a few days, multitasking in different programs to get your work done. You’re nearing the finish line and… f^$%& IT! Your computer has to restart now and you’ve lost your place in your work.
At TSP, we take a friendly, knowledgeable approach to IT. We analyze every help request and track recurring issues. Each quarter, we share these findings with our customers. If issues are recurring because Mac computers need to be restarted, we can implement intelligent restart reminders.
An intelligent restart reminder works like this: If your computer was last restarted more than a week ago, our central management system tells your computer to display a restart reminder message. There’s no forced restart, and you can close the message and continue working on your computer as needed. Also, if you restart regularly before a week passes, you’ll never see the reminder. For more information about our Mac support services in Boston, call or email us using the contact credentials provided below.
In our experience, after implementing an intelligent restart reminder, the number of help requests we receive for these issues goes down by half. Once people get used to restarting their computers regularly — or simply powering them down at the end of the week — the reminders go away, and everyone is happy.