Bohunky0's Tech Support Help Web
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YOUR FIRST STEP: Try to get it from the horse's mouth. Most vendors provide at least some basic FAQ pages on their corporate Web sites, and many offer extensive, searchable "knowledge bases." Before you look for that 800 number, it's not a bad idea to check out these pages first. Other folks have probably had the same problem you're experiencing, and you might be able to find the solution with a quick search.
Examples of such pages include the Dell Knowledge Base, the Microsoft Product Support page, Hewlett-Packard Support, and IBM Support and Downloads.
If that doesn't work, and your problem isn't urgent (smoke isn't pouring from your monitor, your boss isn't screaming about a 5 p.m. deadline as your hard drive remains comatose), you might try one of these Web sites for help.
Protonic.com. You can submit your question directly and get a response via e-mail, or choose to post your problem in the public forums. Either process is completely free, although to submit an e-mail question you'll be asked to register (at no cost, simply by providing your name, e-mail address, username, and password). The service isn't limited to one particular platform--you can ask Windows, Mac, or Linux questions--and the site's informational page notes, "We can help you with anything from step-by-step software installation help to explanations of computing terms." Sounds like a deal to me.
Tech Support Guy. Support here is primarily through message boards, although there's a fee-based, live-person option. As with Protonic, you'll be asked to register (for free) before you post a problem, but you can browse through threads as a lurker. I was impressed by how quickly many of the questions were answered; for example, one post submitted at 10:04 p.m. about an invalid Windows system disk error received a detailed reply from a moderator just 12 minutes later (probably about how long it took to type it). Now that's good customer service.
PC Mechanic. This site is a gold mine of information and reference materials, including tutorials, how-to manuals, and product guides. It's particularly strong with hardware and operating systems issues. You can post your problems on discussion boards, search through troubleshooting FAQs, and learn to be your own PC expert by checking out the site's numerous content channels. Plus, the site's news, reviews, and commentary make for engaging reading, even if you're not trying to rescue a moribund computer.
Webopedia. This isn't really a tech support site, but it's worth listing here because many customer-support calls originate from users who have no idea what a particular computer term means. If you're baffled by a word, phrase, or error message, search for it here and see if things get cleared up. For example, if your manual tells you to type in an IP address and you have no idea what that means, look it up here. In addition to a solid definition, Webopedia also provides links to outside resources--in this case, an IP addressing tutorial and instructions for changing an IP address in Windows 95, among others--which can help clarify things further.
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So put down your phone and pick up your mouse. The answer to your problems might be no more than a free click away.
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