December 1999--If computers are
supposed to be so great, why do we have so many problems with them?
If I knew the answer to that, I figure I'd be sailing around the
world on a huge yacht and not sweating all my computer problems.
Computers are complex beasts, full of all sorts of
different hardware and software--and given the diversity of things
we hang off them, it's amazing that they even work at all. That
doesn't make a problem easier to deal with, but perhaps we're
luckier than we know.
Are there common problems that we all share with
simple solutions? We certainly share a lot of the same problems, but
are there any easy answers? Let's take on a few and see how easy the
1. Q. My computer crashes. Why?
A. If I knew the answer to that one, I'd be
on my aforementioned yatch. It seems that there are more things than
I can count that can cause a computer to crash, but when it happens
there are some tools to help narrow it down.
- If you're running Windows 98, run the System
File Checker tool and see if it can detect any altered files. Go
to Start/run/sfc to get it going.
- Illegal operation or general protection fault
messages. Some of these can be random and don't seem to indicate a
serious problem, but if they continue, drop by the
Microsoft Tech support database (also known as The Knowledge
Base), select your product, and enter a description of the
problem. Often, this will help.
- Visit the
Microsoft Troubleshooter. This area has expanded to include
troubleshooters for many products and can lead you through some
steps that will help you identify the problem.
- Make sure that you're running the latest bug
fixes and patches. Visit the
Windows Update Web site and get the latest updates for
This won't cure all problems, but it's a good
place to get started.
2. Q. I can't get my email set up to save myself.
A. Each Internet service provider (ISP) has
a specific set of requirements for email. That information should be
available on each ISP's Web site. Forget about trying to guess--you
could try for a million years and never get it. If setup
instructions aren't available, give tech support a call.
3. Q. What is the deal with downloading? How do I
A. Downloading remains one of the mysteries
of the online world. Nevertheless, if you can believe it, it's much
easier than it used to be. That doesn't mean that it's easy now, but
it could be worse. Check out
"What Have I Gotten Myself Into?" to get your downloads under
Until next month, best in computing.