What to do when something doesn’t work on your computer

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Smiley Goat by Martin Cathrae, Attribution-ShareAlike Licence

Computers are great, but they are also complicated inside and they don’t always do what you expect. When that happens to you, you can be sure it’s also happened to someone else. You will not be the first person to have the problem, you can bet on it. So instead of despairing – use Google.

If you have an error message, put that into Google and search for that. If you don’t have an error but things are just going wrong you will need to put some basic information into Google to do a sensible search. Key information is the name of the software or operating system (eg: IE10, Windows 7, ios8 etc) and some words about the problem. Just start with any words that seem to fit and skim the google search results to see if the results look relevant. Lookout for other words that might be more specific that you can use to narrow your search down.

Just like when you are searching for information on your technical subject you will need to be selective in who you believe when you do find information. For example if one of the choices for help information is the software manufacturer’s website then go for that.

Lots of the time the problem is not so much a problem of the computer not working, but just you not knowing how to do the thing you want to do with the software. There are often really good help files that come with software but also community forums set up on the manufacturer’s website where you can search for help or ask questions.

And the other thing to remember is that its ok to explore the options in your software to see how it works. Just looking at the controls is often really helpful. And plus you learn the terminology which then helps you search better when you need to find out something about it.

There are times when you need to ask for help, and good places to look for these are your university’s student support services, library and IT support pages. But also more widely the community sites for different pieces of software.

Lastly don’t forget the one thing to try that often settles down your computer when it’s mucking around – shut it down – completely – count to 20 and then turn it on again. After a long hard day of computing, sometimes my computer just needs this to make it smile again. Smile

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