Windows Problems? Get The Answer Straight From The “Horse’s Mouth” – Windows Help Files

imageIf you have a problem with your car, it seems obvious that you’d seek out answers from your mechanic friend, and not your friend the plumber, or your friend the carpenter. In other words, you’d get the answers to your questions straight from the “horse’s mouth” – meaning, from the highest authority.

In the real world it does seem to work that way – we do go to the highest authority. In the technology world on the other hand, there seems to be a bit of a reversal in this common sense approach.

Take an issue like “my computer won’t start”, for example. Surprisingly, there are over 42 Million search results on Google for this dreaded situation.

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It’s not a scientific observation by any means, but this amazing number of search results is one indication that computer users are more prone to search out answers to technical issues, from sources other than Microsoft which, in many cases, is the highest authority for computer related issues.

It just seems practical to follow the advice on a Microsoft diagnostic page (as in the following example), which can often lead directly to a solution, rather than to search haphazardly and to trust that along the way a solution will present itself.

Screen capture from the Microsoft page.

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The diagnostic page shown above, continues with additional suggestions and recommendations.

I’ll often get questions from friends on Windows related issues, or on a specific application issue, and I’ve made it a habit to ask – “Have you checked Windows help files” or, “Have you checked the application’s help files”. It’s not unusual that I get a blank look, followed by a – huh?

This type of interaction is really a perfect opportunity to teach that Microsoft provides very substantial help files, and, that many product developers provide not only help files – but often offer troubleshooting guides, and FAQ’s, on their websites.

Piriform’s CCleaner for example (click graphic to expand).

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It’s been my experience that Microsoft help files are an underutilized resource; it shouldn’t be that way. While all Microsoft help files are not created equal, for the most part, this resource is a powerful problem solver. Likewise, specific application help files are often flush with problem resolutions.

From Microsoft – How to access Windows help.

Windows 7

On the Windows Taskbar click the Start menu (the Windows icon located on the left side).

Windows Start menu

Then select Help and Support.

Windows Start menu with Help and Support selected

The Windows Help and Support dialogue will open, providing you with additional options for solving your problem.

Windows help dialog

Windows Vista

On the Windows Taskbar click the Start menu (the Windows icon located on the left side).

Windows Start menu

Then select Help and Support.

Windows Start menu with Help and Support selected

The Windows Help and Support dialogue will open, providing you with additional options for solving your problem.

Windows help dialog

Windows Search 4.0 for Windows XP

Click in the Windows Deskbar to display the Windows Search Results window.

Windows Deskbar

Then click on the down arrow next to the Windows logo.

Windows Deskbar with down arrow selected

Point to Help, then click on Search Help to open the Help window.

Help menu with Windows Search Help selected

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2 Comments

Filed under Computer Tools, Education, Help, Microsoft, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

2 responses to “Windows Problems? Get The Answer Straight From The “Horse’s Mouth” – Windows Help Files

  1. Bill,
    Excellent article! In our zeal to be helpful, we forget that sometimes a simple tip is best for our readers. In this case, knowing that Microsoft does a great job with their Help function is foundational to users and will empower them to get answers for the rest of their lives. Keep up the good work…you’re a model for many of us.
    Best,
    Paul

    • Hi Paul,

      Yes, you’re quite right – as you pointed out on one of my comments on your site. Sometimes, techies have a tendency to over-explain. Better to be more like Sgt. Friday, “just the facts ma’am, just the facts”.

      When I write an article, I consciously try to leave what I like to call “learning room”, which can be filled in by readers’ comments. Not always successfully, I’m afraid.

      Thank you for the compliment.

      Best,

      Bill