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3 - Read the Manual

Sometimes there may be mistakes in the manual or you may have overlooked something. The rate at which new hardware is being produced is faster than the accompanying documentation. Some manufacturers will have a single installation document for several models of a similar device, such as a modem, network adapter card, or hard drive. Make sure you are reading the installation directions that pertain to the device that you have. Also, if an installation diskette came with the device, there is usually a file called README or READ.ME that will contain the latest information about the device that may not have been included in the manual.

If you are having problems with a hardware or software component after upgrading to a different operating system, such as Windows 95 or Windows NT, double check to make sure that the device is supported by the new operating system. If a CD-ROM, or tape drive isn't supported, contact the manufacturer of the device to see if there is a software upgrade (called a device driver) for the device.

4 - Keep a Log

Write down everything that you do in case you need to back track. I keep a log book of every computer problem that I encounter so that I can refer to it if the same problem ever rears its ugly head again. Make sure you record not only the cause and characteristics of the problem, but the solution to the problem too. Your log should be as detailed as possible, including things like the make and model of the computer, BIOS manufacturer and version number, the type of operating system and version, the computer's memory configuration, the version of the software, manufacturer and model of the problem hardware device, other devices that were installed in the computer, and the most important items, the events that led up to the problem, any error codes or messages that were displayed, and what you did to resolve the problem.