Amazingly enough, if you have an error code or message, or you can describe the issue in 3 to 6 words, you can often find the answer through Google. I even use Google when I know that it is an answer that I will likely find at Microsoft -- Google is easier. If you are not doing this already, it is time to start.
Take for example when my firewall tells me I have a new program trying to access the Internet (You do have a software firewall, right?!). Recently compaq connections.exe came up -- I entered it in Google and found many results. Within the first three, I had found enough information to feel comfortable about the action to take. This part is important -- do not believe the first entry you read; look for another result to confirm the first. In this particular example, I learned this was one of many HP-ware programs on my PC that I really did not need. (HP, like most hardware manufacturers, add little programs to call home for checking for new drivers or so that you use their photo service or game portal.)
I use this same technique when I am trying to remember the syntax when I am programming too. Since I do not do a lot of programming these days, I know what I want to do, but often do not remember the exact syntax. Going back to Google, I can usually find the answer faster than pulling a book off of my bookshelf.
At work today, I was reading survey results on how technical engineers and designers (primarily electrical engineer types) find technical how-to information. Fifty-nine percent said through a search engine first, and the vendors website second. (Another 21% said the vendor website first.) In the same survey, 60% of them used Google as their first choice for search engines. My point is that for solving technical problems, technical people use Google (or another search engine) most often.
If you are not doing this today, I think you should give it a try next time, before you call your friend, family IT guy, or the help desk at work.
Now that I have written all this, I have a few more related thoughts... First, as you can see from many of my posts over the last few weeks, it is not fool proof. With some tough problems, even the more technical guys such as myself either cannot find the right answer (i.e. my connectivity issues as of late) or understand the answer (i.e. Technorati ping for this blog).
So with those caveats, here is a couple other good uses for Google:
- Confirm a definition. Enter Define
- Find a friends address. Enter their phone number: xxx-xxx-xxxx
- Find function help for Excel. Just like I share in relationship to finding code syntax.