In the early days of my Linux journey, I needed a lot of help. Whether I chose a laptop with a Broadcom Wi-Fi card or accidentally removed a disk/partition, I would constantly end up searching for a solution. What I never understood was that, if Linux was all about control, why did I feel so out of control of my system? If you feel similarly, then we’re here to help you learn how to be your own Linux tech support wiz and solve (or at least start to solve) your own tech problems on Linux.
A Quick Disclaimer
I know that for the more advanced Linux users out there, this will all be well known. However, I would urge you to remember back to the first time you ever hit a snag in Linux. It probably wasn’t that easy to solve, and I’m sure you found a more experienced user to take you under their wing. Instead of scoffing at the simplicity, offer support to newer users who are trying to get themselves oriented.
Getting Comfortable with the Terminal
While Linux Desktop Environments are really great, many of them don’t have the tooling built in to really look at your system under the hood. This leads a lot of Linux users to the Terminal. Never fear, because once you’re comfortable, the Terminal will become your friend, and you’ll wonder what you ever did without it.
Most Linux programs and commands have a
--help option built in. It’s rare you will encounter one without
--help or something very similar. If you’re trying to figure out what arguments a command needs in order to run it the way you want, try:
Read the (Man)ual
One of the first things I do when I’m working with a new tool is look at the
man, or manual pages, for that program. They’re almost always helpful in giving you really helpful information about the program and will usually give you a bunch of in-depth information about the different options available. Here’s an example command below:
The following image shows the output.
You can see the in-depth description of
apt, which is really helpful to figure out exactly what you’re doing. The man page for
apt also groups command options, such as the options for
purge, which all have to do with the installation or removal of packages.
One of the great tools built into Linux is
apropos, which allows you to search all available commands to find a string you input. You can run the command below:
The following image shows the output.
apropos is an excellent way to pull in a bunch of commands you can use for a particular purpose and get a brief summary of that command.
Another useful command line tool is
htop. As stated in our article on four of the best system monitors to check system resources in Linux,
htop is a great, lightweight tool that will help you figure out what’s using the most CPU power or RAM on your system. This is great to find runaway processes that are slowing down your system or things that are lurking in the background that you may not remember installing and running. Most major distros have htop in their repositories:
Then, simply run the command from the terminal:
You’ll get an output that looks something like the following image.
If there were something eating up a large amount of system resources, you’d be able to see it there and use one of the kill commands to end that process.
Generally, if you have a question, somebody else has had that question as well. Whether it’s an installation error, a Kernel Panic, or something in between, a quick Internet search will often give you the answers you’re looking for.
A couple of really great places to find information to your issues follow.
The Arch Wiki
Whether or not you’re an Arch Linux user, I’d be willing to bet that the Arch Wiki would be useful to you. They have done such an excellent job of putting together information that benefits Linux users across distro lines that I recommend the Arch Wiki to people looking to learn more about almost anything.
Most specifically, the Unix & Linux StackExchange and AskUbuntu. These are great places that you’ll often see pop up when you search for something. There are all kinds of one-off questions and answers on StackExchange that will give you great troubleshooting steps to look into.
Most Linux distros also have their own forums to help their users. Just do a quick search, and you will be able to find it for your distro.
There’s a rather droll saying: read the Manual. Basically, it’s a way that more experienced users tell new users to read the documentation and solve the issue on their own first. You can either check in the “/usr/share/doc/” directory for some common tools or go to the project’s website.
As you can see, troubleshooting is all about having information. If you’re going to post on a forum for help, make sure you have logs and pictures available to you. It’s important to be able to provide other users as much information as possible. Also, if it’s a hardware question, make sure to include the specific device(s) you’re working with, as that will make it easier for someone who’s worked with that hardware to help you.
Now that you know how to be your own Linux tech support, make sure to check out some of our more common troubleshooting articles, like how to set up Bluetooth in Linux, fix the no route to host error, or the touchpad not working issue.