Three Ways to Deal with Sudden Computer Glitches

Last Updated Oct 28, 2009 2:40 PM EDT

We've all been there. A Word document that suddenly goes blank. A printer that worked yesterday but won't print today. A scary-ass pop-up window informing you of multiple security breaches.

Before you run screaming into the night, throw your computer into the river, or call that friend or family member who always bails you out of these messes (Dave and I have firsthand experience at being that person), try these three emergency-rescue tips:

  1. Don't panic! User often overreact to relatively small glitches. Before you start uninstalling programs, tinkering with the Registry, fiddling with settings, and so on, take a step away from the keyboard. Stop and think about what you were just doing and what might have caused the problem. Take a breath, relax, and remember that it's just a computer. Then...
  2. Try Ctrl-Z. The keyboard shortcut for Undo has gotten me out of more messes than I can recall. For example, the aforementioned suddenly-blank Word document is usually the result of accidentally selecting all your text, then hitting the space bar or another key. Presto: an empty page. One tap of Ctrl-Z is all it takes to undo that disastrous action. If that doesn't work...
  3. Go to Google. I'd estimate that 8 times out of 10, I can find a solution to my problem just by typing the issue into Google. Heck, sometimes I get what I need in the search-result summary, without even having to click through. Remember (and this goes back to #1), if you've encountered a problem, chances are excellent someone else has already experienced it -- and posted a fix.
While we're on the subject of tech support:
Image via iStockPhoto.
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    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.