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Help on finding help on computing problems

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Help file

Writing this Q&A since 2004 has given me opportunities to research “computing conundrums and errant electronics” (as its tag­line read for years). So for my final Help File, here are some tips I’ve picked up:

First: Search precisely. A query like “stupid e-mail program crashes” may sum up how you feel but probably won’t yield a useful answer. Search on the most specific terms possible, such as the exact text of an error message, and add details such as the model number of a TV.

Second: Seek help from other users. Many companies not only maintain a database of tech-support articles but also forums that let people trade tips, such as Apple ( and Microsoft ( You can also turn to computer user groups.

Third: Bookmark good third-party trouble-shooting sites. See for Windows issues, or Macworld’s Mac OS X Hints ( for Mac advice. And for trouble with home-theater gear, visit AVS Forum (

Fourth: I know it’s annoying, but sometimes you just have to reboot the darn thing.

— Rob Pegoraro

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