How to report a problem to IT support

There are several methods for reporting a problem

If possible please use methods 1, 2 or 3.
  1. By email to the address
    1. Please give the email a relevant subject, it makes them easer to track and the problem is more likly to be fixed.
    2. For problems with web pages use the "Comments, Corrections, Changes" at the bottom of each computer support group page.
    3. See the Consumables Web page for printer toner, ink and paper.
  2. Use the Support web form
  3. Use the problem command on the Departments Unix systems.
  4. It is also possible to contact individual members of staff directly.
  5. Moan about it amongst yourselves and hope we pick up the bad vibes and realise something is wrong.
  6. Same as the above but wait three months and then complain to your supervisor.

Although popular methods 5 and 6 are not very effective.

Please remember that staff maybe working on other tasks when you contact them, and these tasks may take priority over resolving your problem.

Also remember staff have a life outside Birkbeck and unlike computers they need time to eat and sleep. If you report a problem after 5 pm then we may not investigate it till the next working day.

What information to provide

Please provide as much information as possible.

Contact information:

  • Your Name, Course Room, Phone number, Computre ID and email address
  • Background information
  • What computer were you using?
  • Does it effect any other computers or equipment?
  • What programs were you using?

Problem information

  • What happened?
    • What time did it happen?
    • Has it ever worked before?
    • If so when was the last time it worked?
  • Has it happened before? If so when?
  • What preceded the problem?
  • Is the problem repeatable?
  • Have you tried it with exactly the same data as the last time it worked?
    • If yes are you sure the data is exactly the same not just similar?
  • Where there any error messages?
  • If so what were the error messages?
  • Please provide the full text of the error message
  • If the problem is with a program please provide the following:
    • What is the program name?
    • Where are the input, output and control files you used?
    • What are the file names?
    • what procedure were you using to run the program?
  • Were you accessing the system from a different computer when it happened?
  • If so which computer were you using?
  • Did your terminal or window freeze?
  • If so can you telnet to the problem system from a different computer?

Examples of bad problem reports

  1. there is a problem with xxx
  2. "tar is down"
  3. "HELP"

The following links provide useful information on how to report an problem or ask for assistance

Using the problem command

On the UNIX/Linux systems there is a local script (/local/bin/problem) which can be used to report problems. The problem command attempts to collect information about the system which could be useful to the support group in diagnosing the problem.

If your terminal or window is still working then type problem otherwise try using a different computer to telnet to the problem system then use the problem command.

Recurring problems

Please report a problem every time it occurs, Even it has happened before. The cause of some problems may not be apparent until a number of reports have been examined.


The following terms have different meanings but are often confused in problem reports
means that the operating system (e.g.IRIX) and all programs have died and the computer has either rebooted or is waiting for human intervention (e.g. pressing the reset ) before restarting.
means that one or more programs died but the rest of the system is still working.
terminal, window, screen or program is one that not responsive but other parts of the system may still be working. For example The graphics screen of a workstation may have frozen but you can still telnet to the workstation and run programs.

For an example of a web based form for problem reporting used at a different site click here. Don't use this form to report problems at Birkbeck.

CCSG Comments, Corrections, Changes Department Home page

$Revision: 1.12 $ $Date: 2012/09/30 13:44:38 $