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Help desk representatives have a tough job. They field technical support requests from users who often have limited knowledge about computers and networks, and little understanding of why their PC isn’t working the way it should. Unsurprisingly, those same users often don’t know how to communicate their problems clearly—in many cases, they simply lack the vernacular—and what are the best ways to get help.

What we’ll try to do here is to outline some of the ways that users can provide the best information to technical support reps to help them provide the best—and most efficient—support possible.

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When to report an issue

This one’s easy: report your PC issue in a timely fashion, the first time it occurs. Don’t wait for it to repeat itself. It’s entirely possible that you’ll submit your help desk ticket and then you won’t be able to replicate the issue — that’s great if it happens.

However, some issues can cause worse problems if they’re not addressed right away. One example is a spinning hard disk drive (HDD) that’s failing — maybe you get an error when saving a file, you lose one or more files, or you hear a grinding noise from the general vicinity of where your HDD is located in your PC’s case. You’d want to report this kind of issue the first time it happens, because that may be the only opportunity to save your data before the HDD dies completely.

Of course, not all issues are as time-sensitive as others. The HDD example is one where you’d want to contact the help desk immediately and with the highest level of urgency. If an issue isn’t quite so dire, for example, if your sound cuts out intermittently but otherwise your PC is performing well, then you don’t have to make it a hot ticket — it can wait a while, and you can label it as low priority. In any event, report the issue sooner rather than later, to avoid a more widespread system failure that might be harder to fix later.

How to report an issue

Your organization, or, if you’re an individual user, the hardware or software manufacturer, likely has a set routine for how to submit help desk tickets. If you’re working in a large company with a formal IT department, then you probably have a set of routines to follow. By all means, follow those routines.

Generally speaking, though, you’ll likely have some combination of choices between sending e-mail, filling out online forms, and calling a technical support hotline. Which one to use correlates well with our answer about when to report an issue: use the method that fits the urgency of the issue. In our HDD issue example, maybe a phone call would be best—you want to start the troubleshooting right away. In our sound issue example, sending e-mail or filling out an online form is likely fast enough—unless you have an upcoming meeting and need your sound working right now.

What to report

The most important thing to do when reporting your issue is to be as precise as you can be. This includes various bits of information, such as:

  • What you were doing when the issue first occurred, including any application(s) that you were running.
  • When the issue occurred, as precisely as possible. For example, don’t say it happened “sometime in the morning,” say it happened at 10:35am. That will help the technical support rep identify any system-wide issues that might have contributed to yours.
  • Screenshots or pictures of any error messages that popped up (use your smartphone if it’s handy). If you didn’t catch a pop-up before it disappeared, then try to remember as much as you can about what was in the message.
  • Any unusual noises or fumes that accompanied the issue. See if you can isolate where they’re coming from, e.g., the top or the bottom of your PC’s case.
  • As much detail as you can remember about the issue. For example, if you’ve lost a file due to an error, then report the file’s name and where was it located — including whether it was on your local storage or a network drive, and what folder it was in.
  • If the issue is affecting just your PC or your coworkers’ as well. For example, if you’ve lost your internet connection, ask around to see if you’re the only one.

Also, you’ll want to make sure that you have as much relevant information available as you can about your PC. If you’re working for a company that tracks the PCs it hands out to its employees, then you might just need to provide something like an asset tag number. If you’re calling a PC manufacturer, then the serial number or other identification code might be enough to let them know everything about your PC’s configuration—unless you’ve made changes to it. If neither of these applies, then here’s some information you’ll want to have ready:

  • Model name or number of your PC.
  • Your PC’s CPU, GPU, RAM, and storage configurations. Follow this guide on identifying your PC’s configuration in Windows 10.
  • Your operating system and its current version, if you know how to find it. In Windows 10, you can type “Winver” into the search field on your taskbar and hit Enter. In Mac OS, click the Apple icon in the upper-left corner and select “About This Mac.”
  • Any applications that you have installed on your PC that might be related to the issue. Make note if any were newly installed.
  • Any peripherals that are connected to your PC that might be related to the issue, like keyboards, mice, displays, printers, scanners, etc.

The ticket’s been opened. Now what?

Once you’ve opened your help desk ticket, you’ll be contacted by a technical support representative (or whatever that person is called in your organization or the relevant manufacturer). You’ll be asked questions to follow up on your issue and to clarify information that you’ve already provided. Follow the same rules with your responses as we’ve outlined above — be as precise and descriptive as you can. Make sure to report on any changes or additional issues that have occurred after you filed your ticket.

Of course, keep in mind that the more quickly you respond, the more quickly your issue will be resolved. So don’t delay in following up with your representative. That includes scheduling times for remote access sessions when your technical support rep can log into your machine and get hands-on (at a distance) to further diagnose the issue.

If you need to send your PC somewhere to be serviced, then make sure that you copy any files you might need before sending your PC away. You’ll want to be able to get your work done on another PC if you can, and having your most pertinent files available will be vital for that purpose.


Filing a help desk ticket is the first step to getting your PC issue fixed and you back to work. Providing as much information as you can, as clearly and completely as possible and in a timely fashion, will help expedite the process and get things back to normal as quickly as possible.

Mark Coppock

Author Mark Coppock

A technology and aspiring science fiction writer from just outside Los Angeles, CA.

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Join the discussion One Comment

  • David L Baker says:

    As the tech that goes out and fixes it, the ticket that says the EU checked this and that but didn’t is as bad as only being told that the computer is not working rather than telling WHAT part is not working.

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