Where Do I Go To Get Help With Windows

Benjamin Franklin is often quoted as saying “In this world, there is nothing that is certain except death and taxes”, but had he lived in the 21st century, I’d bet my last bag of lollies he would have added “and problems with my computer”.

For every problem Microsoft seems to solve, there is another one or two that rear their ugly heads. If it wasn’t the case, I’d never have to endure another Service Pack update!

But what do you do when your Windows Vista computer doesn’t behave itself and stops doing what you want it to? You can call Microsoft for help, but if you do that, make sure you have your credit card ready, because the company charges to help these days. Some help!

You could just type your problem into Google, but a much quicker and safer way to search for a solution is to try your luck on one of the following Microsoft Web sites. You’ll find they are well worth a visit.

1.       Windows Vista Solutions Center

The first place you should look is Microsoft’s own Windows Vista Solutions Center. It lists all the popular questions users have asked. Thankfully, those questions have been divided into neat categories such as ‘Home networking’ and ‘Printing, scanning and faxing’. This site covers more generic questions, but it’s a good first port of call if you run into the problem. And yes, it’s free. Head to http://support.microsoft.com/ph/11732.

Now, if only Microsoft could solve its spelling problem and call it ‘Solutions Center’!

2.       Microsoft Answers Beta

If you didn’t have any luck at the Solutions Center, Microsoft Answers is the next place to try. Here, you can again search through a greater list of more specific questions and answers and, if you don’t find anything here, you can even ask the Microsoft community to see if anyone else has the answer. The thing to remember is that you may not get an answer in a hurry, so by all means ask a question, but keep looking for your own solution while you’re waiting.

Head to http://answers.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows/default.aspx.

Sorting Out Problems Yourself

If you can’t find a solution on the Net, then it’s time to pull out the deer-stalker cap and pipe and do a little ‘sleuthing’ yourself.

Problems that involve an external device connected to your computer will likely have an issue in one of three areas: the external device, the cabling, or the software that makes that device work.

Check all the obvious things first like power, USB cables and the like. Next, make sure you’ve installed the ‘driver software’. Some gadgets such as USB flash drives generally don’t need software when working with Windows Vista, but other devices such as printers do.

If it’s a software application problem, check online with the application vendor to see if there are any updates or bug-fixes. Most vendors have some form of support/update page. For some reason, I particularly noticed this with video-editing software.

If none of that has so fat worked, I’m going to let you in on a secret that computer-help companies would have my head for. What’s more, it’s so simple, you’ll think I’ve completely lost my marbles.

If nothing else has worked, the next thing I try is to simply reboot the computer – that means saving your files, shutting down the computer and booting it back up again. There. I’ve said it. It sounds simple, but if I had a dollar for every time this has solved a problem, I’d have retired by now.

Computer Locks Up

The worst problem of all is when your computer locks up. Thankfully, I find this doesn’t happen very often with Vista, but nevertheless, it could happen.

So What Do You Do?

The most important thing to do is not panic. Some times, applications may decide not to respond if they’re busy doing something you’ve asked them to do. It’s probably a good time to simply walk away for 10 minutes, come back and see if the computer is ‘back again’.

I know hindsight is a beautiful thing, but it really is important to regularly save your work, regardless of what application you’re running, whether it’s Photoshop or World of Warcraft.

But if the system has totally locked up and is not responding to any input (please, no kicking), then you may need to reboot the system and start over.

Some applications such as Microsoft Word will try to do an auto-recover and get back what you last did, but that depends on the application’s ability to auto-save during normal operation. And those apps will only be able to get back to the work you up until the last auto-save – anything after that will likely be lost.

However, like most things, prevention is much simpler and less painful than the sure!

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