Have You Tried Rebooting It?

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It’s stereotyped as the favorite question of IT help desk people: “Have you turned it off and back on?”  On the surface, it seems like a ridiculous question. How on earth could rebooting a device possibly fix anything?  And yet, it does. I’ll explain, and hopefully the next time an IT person asks you this question, you’ll be less inclined to roll your eyes.

Imagine you have a puppy.  The puppy is running all around your house, doing puppy things.  It tries to run outside, but runs smack into a glass door. Maybe the puppy sits and cries by the door, or maybe it paws at the door.  In either case, your cute little puppy is being dumb because there’s an opening just a couple feet away that it hasn’t noticed. So you pick the puppy up, back up a couple of feet, and hey, presto!  The puppy sees the opening this time and runs through it instead of into the glass.

Dog.exe has encountered a problem.

Your computer is that puppy, and the glass door is an error.  Obviously this metaphor is greatly simplified, but it is nevertheless useful in understanding the “what’s” and “why’s.”  When your computer runs into an error, rebooting it allows it to start fresh and try again. And it’s not just the computer!  Programs like your email and internet browser are prone to similar fits of stupidity. So when something on your computer is misbehaving, reboot it!  That little nudge might be all it needs.

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