This article offers suggestions for how to phrase the questions that you post to help forums and newsgroups. This information is designed to help you increase your chances of receiving timely and effective answers. The discussions in this article are with the following forums and newsgroups in mind, but the basic principles can apply for any forum or newsgroup.
When you experience a problem with your computer and you need help, forums and newsgroups can be excellent resources for finding that help. If you design your question effectively, you can get good information from people who are knowledgeable about the topic and who are happy to help you.
Note This article deals with concerns or problems that are related to Microsoft Windows operating systems and Microsoft products, but there is , you can apply this article generally to any forum or newsgroup discussion.
Important Before you take any troubleshooting steps, make sure that you back up all your important data.
Collect information relevant to your question
You want to design your question effectively. The question has to catch the attention of the best person for the answer, and it should be short and to the point so that you don't overwhelm the people reviewing your post.
Follow this checklist when you write your forum posting:
In the subject line, type a brief description of your problem or question. For example: "my screen is black" or "I cannot print to my XYZ printer." A subject line that says only "I need help" will not catch the attention of someone who may be familiar with your particular situation.
In the body of the posting, describe the problem or question. Include all necessary details but no unnecessary ones. A short description is easier to understand and will save the reviewer time.
If possible, include the steps to reproduce the problem, as in the following example:
I turn on my laptop.
I hear one long beep, then two short beeps.
White text appears on a black screen, but Windows doesn’t start.
Include a basic description of your system, as relevant to the problem. For example, include the following:
The operating system version
The CPU or processor
The video card (also known as a graphics device, video adapter, or GPU)
The amount of system memory (RAM)
The hard disk size and model
The version of software or model of hardware that you’re using and that may be related to the problem
The version of virus scanner or malware scanner that you’re using
It may be difficult to determine some of these specifications. The following are examples of free programs that you can use to find this information:
Any software or hardware that you recently installed or removed
Any recent changes that were made to the system
The amount of time that that you have experienced the problem
The things that you have already tried to troubleshoot the problem, and the results.
Add a thank-you line. This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to overlook, and it’s important to be courteous and polite in the forums.
Log the issues by using a history document
For your own benefit, create a document in which you keep a record of the following:
A list of the problems that you experience, in chronological order
The URLs (website links) for anything that you post (to make it easy to return to the post to look for responses)
Any solutions that you find (to make it easier to resolve the problem if it occurs again)
The exact text of any error messages that you receive
Error messages may be frustrating, but they can also be useful. Make sure that you quote verbatim the phrasing of an error message. You can then search the Internet for that exact message by including the error message in quotation marks.
If you receive an error message on a blue screen, note the following details especially:
The first block of text (error code) that is displayed immediately following "*** STOP:" and that resembles 0x000001 or 0x00000d
The second line of text describing the problem, as in the following examples:
These codes may seem esoteric, but they could produce answers for you if you search the Internet for them. For more information about blue screen error, visit the following Microsoft website:
Also, keep track of the logon credentials (user name and passwords) that you used when you registered for the site. In Windows 7, you can use Credential Manager to store credentials. For more information, visit the following Microsoft webpage:
Other free password managers, such as Roboform, LastPass, and KeePass, can track your credentials and also help you fill out online forms.
You can find many excellent forums on the web for every imaginable topic by searching on "forum" plus the topic of your search. For example, to find help regarding your dishwasher, search in any search engine on "forums" plus "dishwasher" without the quotation marks, as follows:
After a successful resolution of your problem, follow up the original online discussion by posting the solution. This helps other people find solutions to their own problems. Also, if a specific posting was helpful, remember to thank the person who posted that suggestion.
Additional troubleshooting methods
Before you post your question to a forum, you may want to try to resolve the problem on your own by using standard troubleshooting methods.
Click for details
Restart the computer. This may seem obvious, but it's an effective step that is frequently successful and just as frequently forgotten.
Make sure that the computer has ample disk space. Insufficient disk space can cause many problems. For more information about how to check your disk space, visit the following Microsoft website:
Verify that your malware scanner or virus scanner is up-to-date, and then scan your system. Microsoft provides the free Microsoft Safety Scanner that you can also use to do this. For more information, visit the following Microsoft website:
Visit the website of the manufacturer of your computer or device to make sure that you have the latest drivers or firmware installed. In particular, make sure that you have the latest video drivers installed. Popular video card manufacturers include Nvidia, ATI, and Intel. On the website, look for the Support section, and then look for an option to download graphics drivers. Many manufacturers provide a useful option to automatically detect and update your video drivers.For information about how to contact the manufacturer of your hardware, visit the following Microsoft website:
Search the public forums to see whether your question has already been answered. Most forums include a search box for this purpose. See the "Suggested forums" section of this article for examples of forums that you can search.
Review the product owner's manuals. Frequently, product manuals include troubleshooting steps. If you do not have your product manual, you may be able to download a copy of the manual from the manufacturer's website. Additionally, several websites, such as retrevo.com, provide free owner's manuals. Search the Internet for "manual" plus the model name of your product. For example, search in any search engine on the following:
manual ATI Radeon HD 6450
Ask a skilled friend for help.
Warning: Flames and Trolls
Public forums are frequently not moderated. Therefore, be prepared for varying kinds of response. It’s not uncommon to encounter the following:
"Flames": Responses to your questions that seem inappropriate or rude
"Internet trolls": People who post provocative or antagonistic responses to disrupt the discussion or to goad you into making an angry or foolish reply
Also, remember that there are no guarantees about the validity of any information that you receive from a help forum. However, despite the occasional disruptive response, you can generally expect to find a supportive community of knowledgeable people who can often provide the help that you need.
Click for details The information and the solutions in this document represent the current view of Microsoft Corporation on these issues as of the date of publication. These solutions may be available through Microsoft or through a third-party provider. Microsoft does not specifically recommend any third-party provider or third-party solution that this article might describe. There might also be other third-party providers or third-party solutions that this article does not describe. Because Microsoft must respond to changing market conditions, this information should not be interpreted to be a commitment by Microsoft. Microsoft cannot guarantee or endorse the accuracy of any information or of any solution that is presented by Microsoft or by any mentioned third-party provider.
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