From the Actrix Online Informer September 2010

Getting computer help online

by Rob Zorn

The Actrix help desk (and the Actrix editor) often get help requests from customers experiencing problems with their software. We're more than happy to help if the software came from us, or if it is related to the Internet. However, we're not really able to help when that isn't the case. It's not that we don't care, of course. It's just that the appropriate people to give you support for non Internet related things are those who supplied you the software or hardware.

But don't despair. You're not alone. We've probably all experienced those moments where we've been ready to throw our computers out of the window in a single frustrated heave; Whether it's too slow, asks too many questions, or just won't cooperate.

Sometimes these instances are simply unavoidable. But more often than not, these is something you can do before your computer leaves the building through a second-story window. One of the first things to do is type your problem into Google, or your search engine of choice. If a program keeps giving you an error message, type it into Google accurately. Chances are someone else has had the problem and posted it on a forum somewhere where other kind and knowledgeable souls have provided answers.

Failing that; here are a couple of the best places online to help you identify and fix those problems. Also included below are some websites that will teach you how to get the most out of your software, and hopefully avoid problems occurring.

Computer Hope

Computer Hope is a website dedicated to helping people solve whatever problems they might be having with their computer. Whatís good about this site is the vast number of ways you can go about getting help. You can enter key words into the site's search engine and be presented with a whole list of related articles that will answer your questions.

You can also check out the discussion forums and see if anyone else has been having the same problems as you. With forums on all computer related subjects from Macs and malware to Windows and websites, chances are youíll find your answer here. And the next time your computer throws a multi-syllabi jargon at you, use the Computer Hope Dictionary.

Computer Hope also deals with all operating systems, so whether youíre running Windows, Linux, or a Mac, youíll be covered. 

CyberTech Help

Much like Computer Hope, CyberTech Help is there to answer all your computer questions. What sets CyberTech apart, however, are its tutorials and downloads. The tutorials offer users a step-by-step guide to identifying problems and finding answers on a whole range of subjects.

The downloads page offers a collection of files that are free to download. These range from media players to spyware removal programmes and are definitely worth checking out, even if youíre not experiencing any problems.

CNET forums

There are lots of tech forums out there you can join for free where computer problems are discussed and solved. Some will let you read them without signing up, but some will not let you see discussions unless you become a member.

What's good about forums is that there are real human people to interact with, so you get a range of points of view, and you can ask questions for clarification.  I've highlighted CNET because it's relatively easy to use, well-known and popular. You can read discussion for free, but you have to become a member if you want to post to the forum. There are lots of topics available, but you can also type your problem into the search box.

But while it's good to know how to get yourself out of a problem on your computer, itís just as important to know how to avoid certain problems altogether. So hereís a list of sites that teach you how to get the most out of your computer software.

Microsoft Support and Microsoft Training

These two sites are very similar in the way they offer tutorials and lessons in how to use Microsoft Office applications, such as Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. While Microsoft Support has an emphasis on troubleshooting and technical problems, Microsoft Training has a greater focus on educating users to make themselves familiar with each application and how to use it.

You can even choose to view tutorials from previous releases, such as Office 2003 or Office 2007.

Home and learn

Home and learn is a UK site especially pitched at beginners. So if you're new to computers and looking for something pretty basic this might be a good starting point. The usual suspects are covered (Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc - but not the 2007-10 versions) along with a few others such as PHP and web design. The Beginners Computing tutorials cover all sorts of  basics for XP or Vista such as setting the date, setting up toolbars and heaps more.

In pictures

In Pictures online tutorials are based on pictures, not words because "They're the easiest way to learn computer subjects." There's no complicated multimedia, just pictures that show exactly what to do. This one includes both 2003 and 2007 versions of Microsoft applications, but also has a lot more such as web layout, Open Office and even a bit of web programming.

Apple Support

If you own a Mac, this site is definitely worth checking out. It has a whole bunch of video tutorials you can watch on how to get the most out of your Mac. It also has a collection of articles on all aspects of owning and operating a Mac, including photos, movies, and music, so certainly worth a read. 

Technology sites

With computer technology constantly changing and evolving, it can be hard to keep up-to-date with the latest software and technological know-how. Technology pages on the Stuff New Zealand Herald websites are great places to help you keep up with changing technologies. They have sections ranging from gaming to gadgets and are pretty good at making technical stuff interesting for the average New Zealander. You can also read reviews of new software and the latest products, as well as important, and sometimes quirky, news in the world of technology.

Actrix Internet help

If you go to the Actrix homepage and click the Online Help button in the top menu, youíll find a host of frequently asked questions, tips, and answers to all things internet. There are also a number of tutorials you can take that help you learn more about the services Actrix provides. And of course you can always check out the archive of past Actrix Online Informer articles and forums. 

And if you still need help in real time, our help desk number is 0800 228749. Email us at


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