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How to Seek Advice for Troubleshooting Electronic Circuits

The following tips shall increase your chances of receiving useful answers when you ask for help on troubleshooting electronic circuits on an internet forum.

Choose the right forum: I have provided some Recommendations for Troubleshooting Resources where I also suggest some forums where you can seek help (in the 5th paragraph). You should take a few minutes to look at the threads in these forums to decide whether your question would fit in there. If several forums seem to be appropriate, then you should select the forum that has the most visitors.

Choose the right heading: Please think carefully how you can most precisely describe your problem in a few words. If you just write "Please Help Me" as a heading, then many people will not bother to look at your thread. Often the people who respond to a thread with such a useless heading are new and inexperienced forum members, who are willing to help others but are not very competent. But if your heading describes the problem precisely, you will attract the attention of the real experts who are interested in this kind of problem.

Provide a schematic: Sometimes people asking for advice about a circuit try to describe the circuit in words. This is nearly always a source of confusion, even if the circuit is simple. And even if you think you can describe your circuit precisely, most people do not have the patience to read through the textual description of a circuit. The optimum scenario is that you have designed your circuit with the help of some schematic capture program, then you can just export the schematic. If you are not familiar with such a program, try to sketch your circuit with an arbitrary drawing program. If this is not possible, sketch your circuit on a piece of paper and scan it. It does not have to look beautiful, but make sure it is readable and all components have a label assigned. If you have trouble adding a picture to your post, just say so in your post, this kind of problem can usually be solved very easily.

Give a detailed description of your problem: Describe everything that might be of importance to solve the problem. Is the problem permanent or does it only occur intermittently (these are the hardest to solve) ? What equipment do you have available for troubleshooting ? Also make sure that your description is consistent with the schematic, use the same names for the components as in the schematic.

Provide a data sheet: If your circuit contains any ICs, spend a few minutes to google for their data sheets and add them to your post (or provide a link to it). Quite often the solution to a circuit problem can be found hidden in the data sheet of one of the involved ICs. If you cannot find the relevant data sheets, do not worry. Most of the people who are good at designing and troubleshooting circuits also know how to find them quickly and will provide them for you. But if you could find them yourself, it would show to the readers of your post that you put some effort into solving your problem, and that you do not just wait for others to do your work.

Do not loose your patience: Please do not forget that the other people in the forum help you voluntarily, it is not their job to do so. So you have no right to complain if you receive no answer. If you get impatient too soon and ask after an hour or so why there is no answer to your question, people may get angry at you. However, if after one day there is still no answer, you could maybe make one more post in your thread to repeat your request for help.

Do not overreact if someone criticizes your work: Sometimes you are lucky, and you just have to make a minor change to make your circuit work. At other times, especially when you have no experience with the type of circuit that you try to design, you make fundamental errors that result in a circuit that is very far away from working. If you ask for help what to do with such a circuit, some people may react quite rude and even insult you. If this is the case, please do not overreact, stay calm. If people question your competency in their answer, just ignore this and stay focused on the problems of the circuit. If people tell you frankly that your design is so bad that it cannot be saved, try to make the best of the situation. Ask them where you can find further information that can help you to avoid such errors in the future.

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