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7 Useful Software Debugging and Troubleshooting Tips for Beginners

Troubleshooting and debugging can be overwhelming. Programmers may struggle with the concepts when first starting out. It’s helpful to have some basic understanding of the concepts and strategies to use.

Troubleshooting software is finding the problems that are occurring in a system. Discovering where a problem is occurring is the first step in finding a solution. This is a broader concept than debugging.

Debugging is actually a type of software troubleshooting. It involves fixing issues within code. And it includes taking steps to find a solution and solve the problem at the same time. 

Either technique can be challenging. It’s important to trust the process and be patient. Here are some tips for beginners starting out in debugging and troubleshooting. 

1. Look for Simple Solutions

Oftentimes, the answer is simpler than you might expect. Don’t waste your time trying to find a complicated solution to a basic problem. Make sure to try the easy fixes first. 

Have you restarted the program? Software often has issues simply from not starting up correctly. Rebooting the software or your system may solve the problem quickly. 

You can also take it a step further and uninstall and reinstall your program. A small component of the software has been damaged or removed. There also may be a new version of the software without the bug you’re experiencing. 

If you are experiencing a coding issue, look for simple errors. Did you forget a bracket? Checking for simple syntax errors can solve your problem quickly.

2. Utilize Available Tools

Don’t make troubleshooting more difficult for yourself. Troubleshooting and debugging is made easier by the tools available to you. You might find the solution quickly and save yourself a lot of headaches.

Look for a debugger for the language you are coding in. This can offer a quick solution. It will test your code step by step. It can often pinpoint the exact point of the problem so you can fix it. 

CI/CD is helpful in continuously monitoring and testing new codes. It can help you find problems and constantly see how changes you make in code affect the program. CI/CD is helpful in automating development steps so you can focus on writing code.

Check for software patches when troubleshooting software. The vendor may have created a small patch to fix a bug. It’s also a good idea to run your virus and malware scan. Sometimes it’s simply malware attacking your program, causing it to fail.

3. Talk It Out or Jot It Down

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Talk through the problem and possible solutions. It might be helpful to find someone to bounce ideas off. Or grab a piece of paper and map out your trial and errors.  You will often have an “a-ha” moment by taking a step back and evaluating your process. 

Be clear and concise about the problem you’re trying to solve. Explain what you’re experiencing with your software or the part of code you are having trouble with. Talk through the steps you have already taken to fix the problem. Sometimes, simply breaking it down will make the problem and the solution obvious.

4. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Don’t be afraid to use the past experience of others. It’s ok to rely on good sources for help. You may have the urge to solve the problem on your own. But you can learn a lot and benefit from the expertise of others. 

The specific software company’s website is a good place to start with program issues. There may be a known issue with an easy fix. There are often discussion boards so you can seek others with the same issue. Look for moderator posts for great troubleshooting advice.

Coding is complex, and you’re always learning. And there is nothing wrong with using someone else’s proven code to base yours on. Look for a code in the same language you are working in and test it. Then make small adjustments and additions to fit your needs. 

5. Use Trial and Error 

Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to solve the problem all at once. If you have more than one error, break them down into small tasks. You may find a solution more quickly with less stress.

Run your code every time you make a change to a line or add a piece. Don’t wait until you make too many changes. You may solve the problem and have no idea how you got there. Or you might end up with additional errors with no clue how to reverse them.

It might be more manageable to break code into groups or chunks. Investigate and test a few lines at a time. It will be less overwhelming than staring at thousands of lines. You can even use what’s referred to as “the teddy bear method” to help you figure out what’s going on.

6. Pay Attention to Error Messages

Error messages are extremely helpful. Make sure you use them to your advantage. The message may be your best clue in locating the problem and a solution.

Software error messages communicate the error pretty well. And you are probably not the first to see it. Google search your specific message and chances are someone has searched for it before. If you’re lucky, you will quickly locate a proven fix.

Coding error messages can help you locate the line of code where the program failed. Or at least it will bring you relatively close. Look closely at those lines of code for simple errors.

7. Be Patient and Take Breaks

It’s easy to get frustrated when approaching the same issue with no solution. Don’t forget to take breaks. It may take walking away and coming back to come up with new ideas. 

Grab a snack or go for a walk. Do any activity that will destress you and recharge you mentally. You can come back with fresh eyes and a more alert mindset. The new approach might be all it takes to find a solution.

Conclusion

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Troubleshooting can be frustrating. But with practice, it can become a valuable skill. Be patient and look at a problem from all angles to find a solution.

It will take some time and experience to find the strategies that work best for you. Utilize your resources and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be persistent and keep an open mind. And you’ll be well on your way to be a productive programmer.

Gabe Nelson

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Gabe Nelson

Gabe Nelson

Gabe Nelson is a content specialist of over 7 years of experience. Just out of high school he set off crab fishing on the Bering Sea in Alaska. From there he went back home to finish his college degree at the University of Montana. He has a passion and keen understanding when it comes to 3D printing inside and out. He has written hundreds of content pieces in numerous niches. Currently, he lives in Missouri with his wife and kids enjoying the peaceful town of St. Joseph.

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