Use Knowledge Bases for answers

In recent columns we have discussed how to get help with computer problems. This week we will look at "Knowledge Bases." We use these when we can't get answers to our questions in the usual places - the help menus or from books.

"Knowledge Bases" were developed by software and hardware producers to lessen the time consuming and expensive telephone calls that they receive because of problems with their products. Mostly they are a compilation of calls that they have handled at their help desks. They are made available on the web hoping that they will help others. Many of these knowledge bases can be reached by going to manufacturer's web sites and looking for "help" or "support."

One popular knowledge base is from Microsoft and can be reached at "" on the World Wide Web. It is quite extensive and covers all the Microsoft products. As a test, I entered "Windows 98" as the product and searched for help with why Windows locks up so often. First I entered "my question is: lockup". The knowledge base returned only three help articles. I didn't think this was correct so I entered the word "hang." Now I received 200 articles. This looked better.

This highlights a problem with any search. Sometimes you have to guess at the correct search term to get good results. Here I knew that another term for "lockup" was "hang" so I tried that and got better results.

Each of the results had a brief synopsis and a reference article number, for instance, Q186925. Clicking brought up the article and I could see if it represented my problem and then look at the solutions listed.

In many cases this is all you need. Print out a copy and follow the instructions.

Dell Computer has a knowledge base that is reached at ""
If you enter the service number of your computer, it brings up information for your machine. They have both "Ask Dudley" and a knowledge base. I asked Dudley "why does Windows 98 hung up so often?" and got four replies. Not as comprehensive as Microsoft, but helpful.

Then I clicked on "knowledge base" and 335 articles came up covering a wide range of topics. These are helpful with specific problems with Dell computers.

Possibly the knowledge bases are a little "nerdy" and are used more by the adventuresome, but many times they offer the solution to more complex computer problems. They also can save you the twenty minutes on hold while waiting to speak with a technical service representative.

Next column we will continue with the discussion of "help" and talk about using the Newsgroups. I go to the newsgroups when I have a really complex problem and want to solicit approaches from other computer users. The newsgroups are designed for this purpose.

In the meantime, visit with us at "Coffee and Computers" any Friday morning at the Tustin Area Senior Center and bring your computer questions. We will skip Friday, August 11th, because the Senior Center will be closed for cleaning.

Remember, keep the neurons happy, the synapses snapping and enjoy computing.


Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

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