Troubleshooting: Internet researching to fixing unusual problems.

The most important part of searching the Internet for solutions to problems lies in choosing your search terms. To be effective you'll have to balance specifics with brevity. Too many specifics and your search results will return nothing, or at least, nothing of value. Too few search words and you'll have a wealth of useless information. Here's a good guide to start:

  • Include the full text of any error message. For example: 404 Error File not found.
  • Include the full name of the program including its version, e.g. Microsoft Internet Explorer 8.
  • If no error occurs choose a short phrase to describe the problem: Locks up, doesn't download e-mail, screen turns black, does not run, etc.
  • Do not use long descriptions: When I turn my computer on it takes five minutes just to boot up, while its booting the screen pauses periodically while it's loading.
  • Do not use non-specific descriptions: My computer doesn't work right; My word processor is broken, I can't view a web page.


The next step is to enter your error message into a search engine. Once you have results listed it's a good idea to look at at least half a dozen of them for potential matches. Holding Control while selecting links opens the links in a new window, without taking you away from the search results. This allows you to quickly open several results at the same time, reducing your wait time. If looking through several search results yields nothing that is a true match then try different descriptions of the problem or a different search engine. Here are a few to consider:

Many articles will guide you through steps that involve editing the registry. To learn more about how to do this, and how to save yourself from registry mistakes, read this article.

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