Web can help with specific computer problems

Question: What are your top recommended sites for basic computer help? Sometimes I just have a simple question. Where to go to get answers?

Answer: Google and other search engines are your best friend here. The trick is just to find search terms that are unusual or specific enough to bring up the right answer.

"Printer not working" is not so good. The exact text of an error message is a lot more likely to help. It's a rare thing for somebody to have a brand new problem, and in all likelihood your problem has been discussed at length, somewhere out there.

If the Web doesn't do it, try newsgroups too with searches like, where you may find more specialized information.

Another good place can be your equipment manufacturer's Web site, if and only if the problem is really associated with the product itself. Most problems I hear about are related to Microsoft. For that, you can try Microsoft's site at

Q: I had Microsoft Office 2003 on my laptop and upgraded to the professional edition. I bought a new computer that had a temporary version of Office, but it expired. I believe I'm entitled to use the upgrade CD because I owned the version of Office on my laptop, but I no longer have the CD. Is there anything I can do to get the CD without paying a huge new purchase price for Office?

A: A reader who's been through this might have a better idea, but in the past I've been able to do this by just transferring some part of the Office suite from the old computer to the new computer.

You might be able to accomplish this through the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard, which will help you move both programs and the system files you need to operate them - there's a good tutorial at the Windows Support Center, here:

Whether that works or not depends on whether the Office you had was a retail version or what's called OEM, a version made for sale with a new computer. I can't guarantee this'll work without the installation disks, but it's worth a try.

Here's a good guide to the maze of possible Office upgrades from Pearson Software Consulting: www.cpearson.comexcel/EULAFAQ.htm

Q: I am 78 years old and use my PC mostly for putting my photo albums, many from the 1940s, on CDs to preserve them. I am not well-versed in other functions of the computer. I was doing OK until the line in Windows Picture Tasks, "Copy to CD," disappeared. My projects are at a standstill! None of my friends can help.

A: That can happen if the CD drive isn't presenting itself to the system as ready to record data, for any reason ranging from a broken drive to a disabled recording function. Here's a step by step guide from

Tim Henderson is database editor for the Miami Herald's computer-assisted reporting team. Send questions to