How many times have we heard that phrase so beloved of the IT Crowd? Whenever we phone Sky or BT to report a problem with our hi-tech devices or our broadband connection the first thing we are told is to switch the device off and back on again. And a lot of the time this simple solution actually works. I have had to use this fix for my iPhone, iPod, Sky box and Mac in the last few months and when my Windows PC started playing up the other day it was the first thing I did. But no luck.
These were the messages I got. It meant that I could not use a USB memory stick to transfer files between computers and my USB external hard drive could not be accessed.
I went onto the web and Microsoft was the obvious first port of call. I downloaded a "fix" from them but no luck. I wondered if the computer had somehow been damaged by a virus so I downloaded an anti virus program that gave it the all clear. I restored the computer to a date a few weeks back but once again this had no effect and the error messages continued. I searched the Internet for others experiencing the same problem and found several forums in which the identical fault was discussed and a hundred different solutions suggested. I tried some of the these but steered clear of the ones that involved getting into the computer's BIOS.
And then today I finally came across a site called Online Tech Tips which described exactly the same fault. The solution? Switch if off and on again. (But you already tried that I hear you say). The difference was that the writer suggested powering the computer down as normal and then turning off the power supply. It seems that some of the technology in the computer is still powered up even when it is switched off and you can only fully reboot it by removing its power supply (I pulled the plug out to make doubly sure). Hey presto five minutes later the computer was operating as normal. All the USB ports operated correctly and all the files were back to how they should be.
I know from all the sites I visited that a lot of people have spent many days trying to fix this Windows problem and some have spent a fortune on help line calls tearing their hair out in frustration at the lack of progress. So if you have a computer problem in future, before taking drastic measures, switch it off and back on again but please - remember to take the plug out.