How to fix a computer that “won’t turn on”

“Um… my computer won’t turn on.”

This is the report I get from the other end of the phone, from a student who’s been passed the phone by a teacher.

“It won’t turn on at all?” I ask. This isn’t entirely unlikely; the machines in the lab he’s calling from are old and are from a batch with a known manufacturing flaw that leads the motherboard to pack up at random.

“Oh, er,” comes the reply, “no, it turns on, but I can’t log in.”

“OK,” I reply, quickly realising that the teacher who put him on clearly can’t be bothered with even the simplest diagnostics. “What message does it give you when you try to log in?”

“I don’t know.”

“So what happens?” I venture.

“It says my username or password is incorrect, but I’ve put it in correctly.”

That, my dear moron, is what we call a ‘message’ that appears ‘when you try to log in’. Next step is to check the log on the machine to see if there is anything preventing it from processing an otherwise correct logon. “What number computer are you using?”

“I don’t know.”

“Go and look.”

A few moments silence allow me to put my mic on mute while I bemoan the idiocy of some of our students to LadiesMan. He says he finds my rants entertaining. I hope he does, because he has to suffer them frequently.

“It’s number 12,” comes the eventual reply.

I quickly VNC into the computer and find his username typed in at the logon screen. Instinctively, I click in the username field, and immediately find the problem.

“You’ve typed a space at the end of your username.” I glance down at my keyboard. The last letter of his username is on the top row, so I can only wonder how he hit the space bar by accident.


‘Oh’ indeed.

About The Angry Technician

The Angry Technician is an experienced IT professional in the UK education sector. Normally found in various states of annoyance on his blog. All views are those of his imaginary pet dog, Howard.

4 responses to “How to fix a computer that “won’t turn on””

  1. p858snake says :

    Don’t forget teachers will always say that no matter what they student tells them when they say that the computer isn’t working. Tis a shame really.

  2. AngryTechnician says :

    It’s made worse by the fact that I’ve told all the teachers (including this one) that the ‘space after username’ phenomenon is bizarrely common, and that they should always look out for it.

  3. Nikki says :

    I deal with web users, who frequently email me saying:

    “My login DOESN’T WORK. The password you gave me is WRONG. Please change my password.”

    to which I reply

    “Have you checked that you haven’t accidentally typed your password in capital letters, or inserted random punctuation?”

    Their favourite trick is to tell me that no, of COURSE that wasn’t what they were doing. They aren’t STUPID, you know. Luckily, though, they have now found that the problem has resolved itself and their password works after all.


  4. Emanuel Crisp says :

    Space-after-username happens ALL. THE. TIME. What the hell is going on with that? For a while I suspected it was deliberate: a nice invisible way of “breaking” your computer to a) avoid working in that lesson or b) get moved elsewhere in the room. Now I’m not so sure after having seen some of the angelic pupils suffering with the problem.

    I find one of the quickest ways of getting them to resolve login problems is to ask them to click cancel on the login dialog and try again. Usually they get straight on, which supports the “innocent victim” hypothesis.

%d bloggers like this: