When I have the time, I find that I actually enjoy helping people with computer problems. It’s something that comes naturally to me, and often people are one stop short of terrified of the errors they’re seeing. But here is some advice on asking for help:
- Please provide context. What program were you in and what were you doing? When you say, “I press the button and it says something is not found,” no one has any clue at all what you’re talking about. It would be like calling your car mechanic and saying, “When I move the thing, it rattles.”
- In general, “My ___ isn’t working” is about as unhelpful as you can get, except for “an error popped up.” Why isn’t it working? What did the error say? The more specific you can be, the better the odds that I’ll be able to help.
- We usually need to know things like what operating system you’re running (Mac? Windows 95? Windows XP? Vista?). Knowing the version of the program you’re running helps, too.
- Computers are not like cars. Telling me you have a “2007 Compaq” conveys absolutely no useful information to me. Unless you’re having hardware problems or your computer is a decade old, I can’t think of a single time when knowing the manufacturer helped.
- If you get an error, it’s really important to relay what the error says. I can’t tell you how many times people complain that “some gobbly-gook came up” or “it showed an error” and seriously expect me to be able to help. Odds are very good that if you can’t communicate what the message said, no one can help you with it. Would you go to the pharmacist and say, “Hello, the doctor said I needed some medication” and expect that this was all they needed to know? Or walk into a library and say, “Hello, I’m looking for a book that a friend recommended. I don’t know what it was, but my friend is tall and has brown hair.”
- If you received an error message, did you try Googling it? Most of the time I’m able to answer my own question by copying-and-pasting the error message into Google. The good news is that I can often solve peoples’ problems in record time, without even understanding them, by Googling them and sending them the first thing that comes up, which happens to tell them exactly how the fix the problem. The bad news is that they could have done this themselves.
- My computer knowledge extends to in-depth knowledge about some specific computer programs, and then a general understanding of how computers work. I have absolutely no clue how you beat level 17 of the game you found online.
- If the problem isn’t happening anymore, please don’t ask for help. This one really puzzles me, but several times lately I’ve had people complain of issues, and when I asked for more information about the problem, they told me that they didn’t remember because it happened weeks ago and hasn’t happened since. Huh?
- Computer Pricing
- iPhone 4 Antenna
- MacBook Memory Constraints
- Computer Liquidation