Sunday, May 3, 2009

Guide To Finding Free Help To Common Problems On The Internet

Most problems in Microsoft Windows more than likely have already happened to somebody else at some point and hopefully have been fixed.

So why pay your local computer shop/company when the answer to your question or problem may already be out there for free it just knowing where to look and this is the first place an IT professional will look as well.

Microsoft Knowledge Base

One of the first places to look for Microsoft related product problems i.e. Windows XP/98/2000, Office 200/XP/2003 is the Microsoft Knowledge Base.

This is like Microsoft’s database of known Microsoft related problems (use the link below to try it out)

This lets you pick you product and then type your error message/problem and will then show results they feel match you problem.

Changing you search entry will display different results, learning how to phrase searches to get what you want is a great skill in finding your desired answers.

Lets say for instance you error message is Word 2003 and is saying that the document you are trying to open is corrupt.

Firstly select Word 2003 from the Search Product drop down list.

Then type the word “corrupt” without the hyphens in the for box and then hit the search button.

One of the results given is this one

And more than likely would have fixed your issue.

The Microsoft Knowledge Base has fixed many a problem for myself and friends without the help of an IT Professional.

Google Groups

One of the next best places to find answers to problems and is always worth a try is Google Groups (use the link below to try it out)

using similar search techniques as used on the Microsoft Knowledge base you can enter an error message.

Using the same problem as above as an example type the following “
word 2003 open document corrupt” without the hyphens in the empty box next to the Search Groups button and then click the Search Groups button.

You will see many results returned, click on the ones that seem the most relevant.

You will see that they are laid out in the style of the person who has asked the question at the top and then scrolling down you will see people that have made suggestions to his/her problem.

Again practice changing your search text as learning how to phrase searches to get what you want is a great skill in finding your desired answers.

Try not to be too specific with your search i.e.

Using the example again do NOT type:

When I open a document in Microsoft word 2003 on my computer I get the error message my file is corrupt

Try to shorten searches and try the following search instead:

word 2003 open document corrupt

Google Groups is immense in the information it holds so don’t just limit it to Microsoft related problems as you will find information for all manor of computer related problems i.e. printers, scanners, WI-FI, networking issues, and also non computer problems i.e. cars, health, home appliances etc.


Free Forums

Another great place is to post your own questions on a local forum, there are many free forums on the internet I have placed a link below to a particular favourite of mine.

For general computer and networking questions try here:

For general internet/broadband questions try here:

For a list of all forums try here:

You have to join this site but it is free

Again let someone answer your questions for you for free, but a top tip is to include as much info as possible about your question, be polite and always reply back with a thanks if a person has taken time to answer you question and don’t post too many questions all in one go.

Manufacturers Site

A lot of manufacturers of computer equipment have there own support sites where drivers and FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) about your product may reside a few are listed below.

Hewlett Packard:





Most big manufacturers will have a site for support to find them try searching on i.e. “epson downloads support” without the hyphens.


It is important to keep your items of computer hardware running with the most up to date drivers, Drivers are a piece of software that tells your computer how to talk to the specific piece of hardware i.e. printer, scanner etc.

Most drivers for products can be downloaded from the manufacturers site see above.

But if you are desperate and canot find a driver lets say for an old piece of hardware by a company no longer in business you could try the following sites (please note these sites usually charge)


Quick Jargon/ Acronyms Buster

ADSL - Asymmetric Digital Subscribers Line

AGP - Accelerated Graphics Port

ATAPI - Advanced Technology Attachment Packet Interface

AVI - Audio Video Interleaved


CODEC - COmpressor / DECompressor

CPU - Central Processing Unit

DNS – Domain Name Services

EIDE - Enhanced Integrated Drive Electronics

FTP - File Transfer Protocol

GHZ – Gigahertz

GB – Gigabyte (1,073,741,824 Bytes)

HTTP – Hyper Text Transfer Protocol

HTML – Hyper Text Mark-up Language

ISP - Internet Service Provider

JPEG - Joint Photographic Experts Group

LAN - Local Area Network

PVR - Personal Video Recorder

MPEG - Motion Picture Experts Group

MP3 - MPeg-1 audio layer 3

NTFS - New Technology File System

OEM - Original Equipment Manufacturer

PCI - Peripheral Component Interconnect

PCMCIA - Personal Computer Memory Card International Association

PDF - Portable Document Format

POP - Post Office Protocol

RAM - Random Access Memory

ROM - Read Only Memory

SATA - Serial Advanced Technology Attachment

SMTP - Simple Mail Transfer Protocol

TCP/IP - Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol

URL - Uniform Resource Locator

USB - Universal Serial Bus

VPN - Virtual Private Network

WAN - Wide Area Network

WI-FI - Wireless Fidelity

WWW - World Wide Web

30 Links To Free Software Section

Free Virus Protection:

Free Spyware Removal:

Free Firewall Protection:
Windows XP has its own Firewall if you wish to use it.

Free Trojan Remover:

Free Spam Filters:

Free File Manager:

Free Email Clients:

Outlook Express Comes With Windows or Download Latest Internet Explorer From

Free POP Up Stopper:

Free Digital Picture Viewers:

Free Digital Picture Editor:

Free FTP Clients:

Free Bookmark/Favourites Cleaner:

Free Download Managers:

Free Cleanup Utility

Free Online Services and Utilities

The links below provide great utilities/services on the web and what is more they are free.

Online Word processor and Spreadsheet creator

Create PDF files Online

Create and Manage an Online Calendar

Webmail Address’s

Online Note Taking (Great For School/Students)

Connect to you Home PC from the Office and Visa Versa

Online Favourites/Book marking Service

Check You Internet Firewall Online

Check you POP3 Emails Online

Now For Some Entertainment, Information & Fun

Find Your Way Around and Plan Trips (Amazing but needs a decent specification PC)

Great Shopping/Price Comparison Sites (save plenty)

News, Some Serious Some Fun Some Technology

A Myriad of Videos for all Tastes (within reason)

Prepare to Spend Hours On These

Win Prizes

Fancy A Try At Your Own Website (SiteMakerFree)

Now Some Play Time

10 Easy Windows XP Tips Aimed At Saving You Time


Firstly lets list Windows shortcut keys using the “WindowsKey” (Usually found to the left of the space bar)

Windows Key + D = Brings the desktop to the front of what you are working on
Windows Key + R = Opens the Run window
Windows Key + M = Minimizes All Windows
Windows Key + Shift + M = Undo actions caused by Windows Key + M
Windows Key + TAB = Tabs through current open windows
Windows Key + F1 = Opens Windows Help
Windows Key + L = Locks Computer
Windows Key + E = Opens Windows Explorer

Give them a try and get used to using them (Saves Time)


Hold down the shift key when deleting a file to avoid it going into the recycle bin (remember you cant undelete it then)


Want to open a file in another programme when double clicking, then right click it first and select the “open with” option


Want to select a batch of files for deleting at once then hold down shift and click on the first one and then click on the last one while still holding down shift

Don’t want to select them all between the first and last file then hold down CTRL while selecting the files


Download Microsoft Power Toys (TweakUI) this gives you the ability to tweak usually hidden settings in Windows XP. Here is the link.


Access Web Pages from the Taskbar
When you're working with a document and suddenly decide that you need to look something up on the internet, you first have to load up Internet Explorer and type the relevant URL into the address bar. A considerably easier method is to add an address bar to the taskbar, and to do this you need to right-click an empty area and select Toolbars > Address. It's now possible to type addresses straight into this box, and when you press [Enter], Internet Explorer will automatically load that page for you.


Launch Applications with a Shortcut
When you're working and need to quickly launch another program, it can be annoying to have to navigate through the Start menu for the relevant shortcut, even if you have opted to pin a program to the top of the list. By creating keyboard shortcuts for applications, you are able to launch them in an instant. Navigate through the Start menu and right-click on the program shortcut you're interested in, and then select Properties. Click in the Shortcut Key box and press the key combination you'd like to use – such as [Ctrl] + [Shift] + [W] – before clicking OK.


Control what programs startup automatically with MSConfig.

Click Start Button, Select Run, and type msconfig in the run box and select O.K.
Then use the Startup Tab and untick anything you do not wish to start automatically, if you wish to reverse any changes simply put the tick back in.


Insert special characters into you work the easy way.

Click Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Then Click “Character Map”


Quick Shortcuts on desktop.

If you are tired of having to click start, Programs etc. to run your programs.

Why not create a desktop shortcut the easy way.

Click the start button and find the program you require a desktop shortcut to and then click it and hold the click and drag to your desktop.


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