The three most important things

Are you having trouble with your computer? If you can provide a good description of what the computer is not doing and when it started not doing that, you’ll save a lot of time and probably a little money. If you know nothing else about your computer, know the answers to the three questions here.

What version of Windows are you running?

The Operating System --- OS for short --- is the boss of the computer. (You thought YOU were the boss of the computer, didn’t you?) It’s the program that tells all the other programs and all the hardware how to get along. Examples of Operating Systems are Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8. There’s a big difference between how we do things on Windows XP and Windows 8, including how we fix things. That’s why it’s important to tell the person you’re asking for help what OS you’re using. If you don’t know what version of Windows your computer is running, it’s very easy to find out.

In Windows XP through Windows 7:

  • Click on Start
  • Right-click on Computer
  • Click on Properties

In Windows 8:

  • If you’re on the Start Screen, click on Desktop
  • Once you’re in Desktop mode, press WinKey + C to open the Charms Bar
  • Click on the Settings Charm
  • Click on PC Info

Now, no matter what version of Windows you’re using, you’ll get the system properties window which will tell you what version of Windows you’re running.

Want a quicker way to do that? In any modern version of Windows, press the WinKey and the Pause/Break key at the same time. You’ll go straight to that system properties window.

How much RAM do you have?

Random-Access Memory (RAM) holds information while the computer is on. It’s not permanent storage --- that’s the hard drive. The amount of RAM in your computer is important because it is largely responsible for the speed at which your computer operates. If your computer is slow and you don’t have enough RAM to meet what programs and websites require these days, that presents a different set of problems and solutions than if you have plenty and the computer is STILL slow.

How do you find out how much you have? It’s in that same system properties window as the answer to the Operating System question, so follow the instructions in the previous section!

What browser are you having trouble with?

If someone tells me they can’t get to the Internet, I ask them about their browser. A browser is the program you use to view websites. On Windows computers, the most common browsers are Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome. Did you notice that “Google” is not an answer to the question, “What browser are you having trouble with?” That’s because “Google” is not a browser. It’s a search page in your browser. You can use Google from any browser. Here’s a good, quick, clear explanation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrXPcaRlBqo.

How do you know what browser you’re using? The browser’s logo is one big clue. Internet Explorer’s is a lowercase blue “e” with a gold swoosh through it. Firefox’s is an orange fox wrapped around a blue globe. Chrome’s is a circle or a globe with blue in the middle and yellow, red and green on the outer part. A very easy way to get the name AND the version of the browser is to visit http://www.whatsmybrowser.org/ . A good way to tell your tech support person is to copy the link at the bottom of that page and paste it into an email to your techie.

But wait, there’s more

There are other helpful things to know, like your email and WiFi passwords, who provides your internet, and what happened in the moments before the printer just quit working for no reason. But all that is either discoverable or irrelevant. Concentrate on the big picture and know the answers to the three questions above.


Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.

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About the Author

The Technology Shaman, Cate Eales, has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible, and fun for over 30 years.

Cate lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric. She owns and operates Computer Care Kelowna, a mobile computer business providing on-site service for home and small business customers.

Cate is here to help you and your home or business computer get along.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with comments, suggestions, or questions.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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