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 (discussions.apple.com) and Microsoft (answers.microsoft.com). You can also turn to computer user groups.
Third: Bookmark good third-party trouble-shooting sites. See MVPs.org for Windows issues, or Macworld’s Mac OS X Hints (hints.macworld.com) for Mac advice. And for trouble with home-theater gear, visit AVS Forum (avs-forum.com).
Fourth: I know it’s annoying, but sometimes you just have to reboot the darn thing.