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July 16, 2008

Troubleshooting 101

Here's my basic guide to troubleshooting. It always works best when you follow these steps in order and complete each one.

  1. Get a detailed problem report
  2. Replicate the problem
  3. Isolate and characterize the root problem
  4. Try a solution
  5. Check if the solution solves the root problem
  6. Check that the initial problem report is also solved
  7. Perform any regular testing to ensure no additional issues have been created

Start by getting a detailed problem report. If you don't know what the problem is, there is no way you can fix it. The more details you get the better chance you have of replicating and resolving the issue. Replicating the problem proves that the problem continues to exist and that you've found a use case which causes the problem, you may also find use cases which don't replicate the issue and this helps with the next step. Once you know how to recreate the issue, you now need to find out what is going wrong and what the root cause of the problem is. Often this would be tackled by varying the inputs to gauge the output response, inspecting key areas of operation that have been identified as potentially local to the issue and other general diagnostic techniques. Hopefully this narrows down the issue and a fix can be generated and applied. This fix should be extensively tested to make sure it solves the actual problem identified earlier and then tested against the specific problem use cause detailed in the initial report. Finally, regular testing should be performed to validate that no additional issues were created by the fix.


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