Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles

General Troubleshooting Theory

This chapter is from the book

Reference Files

Chapter Test 3 (Chapter_Test_03.pdf)

General Troubleshooting Flowchart

Component-isolation charts and exercises


This lesson takes approximately 45 minutes to complete.


State the goals and benefits of systematic troubleshooting

Describe three things you should do throughout the troubleshooting process and the key steps you should take or consider before performing a repair

Identify the steps, strategies, and potential resources for systematically troubleshooting issues and products

Identify the most appropriate questions to ask a customer to help identify the cause of the issue

Understand the qualities that make a repair action a quick fix

Define the split-half search process and specify the recommended order for checking various issues in that process

State three reasons why you should test a range of functionality when verifying a repair

Identify useful information and resources you could give users after a repair has been completed

Explain the proper escalation path for unsolved issues

If you are experienced in troubleshooting and servicing computers, you may be wondering how this lesson can help you. You have your own approaches and procedures, and may not feel that the Apple troubleshooting process has anything new to offer.

Experienced technicians are very adept at recognizing symptoms that match what they have seen before and checking to confirm that the issue is the same—this goes without saying. They use their experience and intuition to determine the steps to take to resolve the issue. Such technicians are often able to address a particular situation and solve it very quickly. But when a situation is outside of their experience, they get stuck. That is when the need for a systematic approach becomes evident.

This lesson shows you how the Apple systematic approach to troubleshooting theory and component isolation can benefit you and your customers.

Goals and Processes

We'll get into the practice of being systematic by making sure we all agree on the basic goals of the process and by reminding you of some important ideas and tasks to keep in mind as you work—things that may not be obvious, but that we've found very useful.

Success and Speed: Two Troubleshooting Goals

We believe that how you go about a process is as important as its outcome—in this case, that an efficient and logical approach to troubleshooting will help you find and resolve an issue. To that end, bear in mind these two equally important goals: Fix a product properly, and fix a product quickly.

Fix a Product Properly

Fixing a product properly is the first of two major troubleshooting goals. It results from many elements working together. These elements include:

  • Following systematic troubleshooting procedures
  • Following proper procedures for taking apart and reassembling a product
  • Using up-to-date references and tools
  • Not creating new issues

This process helps you reach your goal: your customer having a product that works completely and correctly.

Fix a Product Quickly

The second major goal of the efficient troubleshooter is to fix the product quickly. This does not mean taking shortcuts or doing sloppy work. It does mean making sure that you are not wasting time. Customers want their products back as quickly as possible. The more quickly you can troubleshoot a situation, the more satisfied your customers will be.

Systematic Troubleshooting Versus Experience and Intuition

Let's assume that you are attempting to determine why an iMac is not showing any video. The last time you saw such a situation, the computer had a bad main logic board. Your experience suggests that the current iMac has a similar issue.

If you have had experience with a number of iMac computers that had no video, you may also be aware that resetting the Power Management Unit (PMU) chip can address this issue. And you may know that resetting parameter random-access memory (PRAM) is a recommended step.

Let's assume that you try resetting PRAM and that does not work. You then open up the system and reset the PMU. This has no effect either. You decide to swap out the main logic board and find that the system is now working. You have solved the issue…

Or have you? Later you find that the main logic board was perfectly okay. You have conducted an expensive repair that may have been unnecessary.

What happened here? You got the system working, but the main logic board you replaced is a good part. Your approach fixed the computer, but now you have a new mystery.

The explanation is that the video issue was due to the logic board not being seated correctly. Replacing the logic board automatically resulted in seating it properly.

This example points out the pitfalls of relying solely on experience and inspiration in resolving an issue. It is not easy or practical to automatically know all the possible resolutions to a specific troubleshooting issue. That is why Apple recommends a systematic approach.

When you can't quickly and efficiently resolve a troubleshooting issue based on intuition or experience, it is time to address the issue in a careful, systematic way. The troubleshooting steps in this lesson give you a proven method to use when more random approaches fail. When you finish this lesson, you will have a proven process to back up your ever-increasing experience.

Troubleshooting To-Do List

Be sure to use the following suggestions throughout the troubleshooting process. One or another of these might provide inspiration for an otherwise difficult issue.

Keep Notes

What starts out as a simple troubleshooting session can sometimes develop into a major task. Start taking notes from the very beginning of the troubleshooting process, even if it seems like a simple issue to fix. Write down each piece of information you gather, the results of each test you perform, and your proposed solution.

Consult Resources

In addition to experience and good troubleshooting techniques, a good troubleshooter possesses product knowledge. Consulting available resources is a vital part of obtaining knowledge about the product and about the specific issue you are troubleshooting.

Browsing through references such as AppleCare Service Source or the Knowledge Base can be particularly helpful when you find yourself stuck without an idea of what to try next in your troubleshooting research. It can stimulate new thoughts and ideas about the source of the issue.

Consider the Human Factor

When you have been working long and hard on a situation that has you stumped, it is a good idea to take a coffee break—or just a break (the coffee is optional).

Frustration can impair your ability to think logically and rationally. You may be surprised how after a short break you can think of solutions that you were too close to the situation to see.

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020