Time and effort spent finding answers to tech questions, figuring out how to do something new on your device, or how to troubleshoot a computer problem are fantastic ways to learn and to become more self-sufficient and tech savvy. You'll be surprised at how far you will advance in your knowledge, skills, and confidence in a short time when you pursue the DIY route. Wouldn’t it be cool if the grandkids came to you for tech help someday? Here are some tips and resources to help you along the way.
Cover the Basics
There are many things that you can easily do without ever having to call for help or even having to try to find information online. Depending on the problem, here are some quick, common sense things to start with for troubleshooting a general computer problem.
Computer or monitor not coming on?
- Check all connections to make sure everything is plugged in securely.
- Check that the monitor is turned on.
- Make sure that the power strip is turned on. (My dog inadvertently turned off my power strip once. I thought something catastrophic had happened. It took me several panicked minutes to figure out this easy solution.)
- Shutdown your computer and restart.
- Shutdown your computer, unplug it, plug it back in and restart.
- Check to see that the speakers are plugged in and turned on.
- Make sure that the sound settings are not set to mute.
Mouse not working?
- Unplug it and plug it in again.
- Unplug it, shutdown the computer, plug it in and restart the computer.
- Check to see if it needs to be cleaned. This is often the easy fix that’s needed!
There are many DIY resources that cover the basics for all different types of software and hardware issues. Find and bookmark a few to use for quick reference when you have a tech problem.
- Computer Hope lists commonly asked computer questions and answers and basic troubleshooting steps for operating systems, software programs, and computer hardware.
- Geek Squad has a long list of DIY resources.
- Fixyourownprinter.com provides answers to common HP, Canon and Epson printer problems and, if you can't find the answer, you can ask a question.
People go to Google to look up everything and it's a great place to go to for do-it-yourself technology help. Repeat this motto, "Google is my tech support." Here are some tips for googling your technology issues and finding DIY tech help.
- If you get an error message, copy and paste it into the search box to find any results that match. Refine your search by adding specific details as needed to get results that most closely match your situation.
- When entering your search words into the search box, pay attention to Google's automatically suggested searches and use them to help you search for answers to your specific problem.
- Search for "troubleshooting" or "how-to" guides for your computer, device, program, etc.
- Find a free tech support forum where you can go to search for answers and ask questions. Search for "tech support forum", "computer support forum", or something more specific like "iPad support forum" or "PC support forum" to look for online communities that are engaged in helping one another, passing on good information, and solving problems. (See more about forums below.)
- After running your Google search, don't forget to click on Video at the top of the Google search page to see if there are any helpful Youtube videos to watch.
Since I just mentioned Youtube videos above let's delve into this resource a little deeper for DIY tech support.
- As with the Google search box, pay special attention to the automatically suggested searches as you enter your words. Scan through the list and select the one that best describes your technology issue.
- Filtering your search results can help too:
- Select Filter to view and choose the filters you want. Among many options, you can use the filters to view the most recent videos or to see only the videos that are under 4 minutes.
- Use Filter to find and subscribe to Youtube Channels to keep up with the latest news, information, how-to, and problem-solving information that suits your needs. Use the search box to look up the type of device, computer or software that you have or enter a more general search phrase such as "DIY technology" and then use Filter to narrow your search Type to Channels. Make sure that the Channel that you are interested in is being updated regularly. Select the Subscribe button to add it to your personal subscriptions - you need to have a Google account to do this.
- Youtube videos often have transcripts available. For a DIY video this is especially helpful for being able to view or print out text instructions to follow at your own pace. To access transcripts select More → Transcript.
Company websites often provide many types of online resources that can help you figure out and solve your technology problems and you would probably never find these resources by searching with Google. Here are some tips for finding what you need and getting the most out of a company's website for tech help.
- Locate the search box, if they have one, and enter your question to look for any relevant results.
- Locate any available links for Forum, Help Center, Support, FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions), and Documentation to look for information relevant to your technology problem. (Use the keyboard shortcut Control+F on a PC and Command+F on a Mac to search for and locate these links quickly on the web page.)
- If available, submit a support ticket to have a tech support member review your information and send you instructions, links to helpful documentation, and more.
- Some companies offer a chat service for tech support. This is a good way to troubleshoot your problem in real-time with an expert and at the end of the conversation you can copy and paste the transcript to save for later reference. Using chat is often the fastest way to get a response.
A forum is a bulletin board where people post questions and answers for one another. For technology support you'll find a wide range of choices in online forums where people are engaged in helping one another, passing on good information, and solving problems. You will need to set up an account with some forums to use them. Many forums do let you search the posts for answers without having an account.
Tips for using tech support forums:
- Search the forum first to see if your question has already been answered.
- Forums have sub-forums or topic-specific forums so look for the one that is most relevant to your problem and post there. If you can't find an appropriate forum then post to a forum for General discussions.
- If you have questions about using the forum then look for an FAQ or look for a forum for that is set up for newcomers (newbies).
- When posting a question, provide specific information on your problem including things such as which version of software you have, the model information on your computer or mobile device, any steps that you have tried to solve the problem, etc.
- Avoid posting personally identifying information.
Tech support forums:
- Computing.net offers free support forums for hardware (e.g. iPad, Android), software (e.g. Security and Virus, Drivers) and operating systems (e.g. Windows 10, Mac).
- Cybertechhelp.com offers discussion forums for computer tech support.
- TechGuy is an award-winning tech support forum that has been around for over 20 years providing free computer help thanks to the support of sponsors and donations.
- Suggest-A-Fix.com is a PC support forum for Security, Operating Systems, General Computing, Internet, and more.
- MacOSX is a forum for Mac and iOS support with a designated forum for people switching from a Windows computer to a Mac.
- VirtualDr.com has forums for Windows Operating Systems, Software, Hardware, and more.
- CNET's forums offer a wide range of tech support and computer tech troubleshooting advice.
There are many general and technology specific how-to websites that can provide fast answers to common technology problems and how-do-I questions.
- wikiHow covers computers and electronics.
- How-To Geek includes help, tutorials, tips and how-to guides for Windows and Linux.
- eHow offers technology instructions.
- About.com has a vast knowledge base on technology topics to search and explore.
There are many other excellent resources that are available besides those listed above, but hopefully this has given you some good ideas and helpful places to start doing more techie stuff for yourself. Keep up and keep learning!