Matt wrote this blog about some great ways to get free support for your basic computer issues. This also has a nice piece included about using search engines properly
Attention Windows users: Is this you?
If so: How does FREE TECH SUPPORT sound?
Too good to be true right? Well thanks to numerous social networks and computer user forums - its now easier than ever to get free tech support when your stuck.
How do I know? Well, because Im the guy local Southern Oregon Realtors call when they get stumped.
It's quite impossible for me to keep up on all the newest changes, operating systems, software, and hardware. But I still manage to answer the constant barrage of questions I get. I can do so, because I use Google as my cheat sheet.
What most folks have yet to realize, is that Windows user issues are so common - that numerous indexes are available online describing - and in many cases solving - common and uncommon computer issues and software bugs.
That being said, the important thing for you to do is to determine which source of tech info will best match your level of technical knowledge. For example:
If you only use a computer because you absolutely have to, and are not very comfortable with them in general than you need Google and Yahoo User Groups. Why? Because these users submit the fixes which helped them, but they submit these fixes in actual English - as opposed to computer jargon.
If you have a general comfort level, but do not consider yourself a genuine techie, consider tech support forums and FAQ lists
If you consider yourself comfortable and versed in computers, and are comfortable with tech jargon, consider Microsoft.com and their "Knowledge Base" articles.
So, how does it work? Well the next time you have an issue or error - give this a shot:
Hypothetical Scenario 1: You're trying to perform a mail merge for mailing labels, and send out letters to your clients. You perform the merge, but your labels come out missing zip codes!
Go to Google, and type in: mail merge, missing zip codes
Here's what you get:
Notice how in green - you can see where the information comes from. This is how you determine which source will best match your level of computer knowledge. For example the third result from "allexperts" is probably not for most users. This is prone to have tech jargon and limited descriptions. While "eggheadcafe" is more geared toward the average users knowledge. Here's another example...
Hypothetical Scenario 2: You just installed Norton Anti-Virus, and when you restarted your computer you received an odd error message in Windows. It says: "Windows Protection Error. You need to restart you computer. System halted." What they heck does that mean??
Well believe it or not is a VERY common error for users to receive. Try typing the exact error message into goog with quotations marks like this : "Windows Protection Error. You need to restart you computer. System halted."
Here's what you get:
See the first two results from a website called Annoyances.org? This website is built specifically for users who are not techies. It offers several resultions for this error in common language and even offers step by step instructions. Pcguide.com will be for medium level users, while windowsbbs.com will be geared toward techies.
So to sum up, then general rule is - the simpler the website name sounds, the simpler its advice and instructions are likely to be. Any tech sounding name such as "experts", "techrepublic", "developers" etc are going to be much more technical.
If you're searching for even simpler instructions (the Cliff's notes of computer help) try http://answers.yahoo.com. Simply type in your question and you're off on a quest to fix the problem yourself - AND AVOID THE BILL!!!
If you still cant find your answer, then consult the pros. But remember, spending a few minutes trying to solve your own issues could save you a lot of cash - and it gives you a warm MacGuyver like feeling to know you just fixed you own computer issue.