Free Microsoft Support
As a Microsoft consultant I’m pleased that practically every resource is available freely on Microsoft’s website. They provide many useful downloads & fun “goodies”, as well as their support information.
Locating the proper Microsoft Support information however isn’t always so easy; and with the additional pressure of finding information DURING troubleshooting – you’ll have to agree it can sometimes be quite frustrating!
My colleagues and friends give me the task of locating their “illusive” support documents. I would send them the link, along with “how I found it” -- I’ve gathered all of Microsoft’s disparate support resources here all in one location; along with a few tips on locating the information you desire.
SUPPORT CENTER: For general troubleshooting
• Access 2000, 2002, & 2003
• Excel 2000, 2002, & 2003
• Exchange Server 5.5, 2000 & 2003
• FrontPage 2000, 2002, & 2003
• FrontPage Server Extensions 2000 & 2002
• InfoPath 2003
• Internet Explorer 6.0
• Office 2000, XP, 2003
• OneNote 2003
• Outlook 2000, 2002, & 2003
• Outlook Express 6.0
• PowerPoint 2000, 2002, & 2003
• Project 2000, 2002, & 2003
• Publisher 2000, 2002, & 2003
• SharePoint Portal Server 2001, 2003 & Team Services
• SQL Server 7.0 & 2000
• Virtual PC 2004
• Visio 2000, 2002, & 2003
• Windows 98, Me, NT, 2000, XP, XPSP2, & XP x64
• Windows Server NT, 2000, & 2003
• Word 2000, 2002, & 2003
EVENTS AND ERRORS MESSAGE CENTER: For specific problems (enter the error code or message here.)
• DLL Help Database – helps identify DLL version conflicts
• The MDAC Component Checker tool is designed to help you determine installed version information and diagnose installation issues with the Microsoft Data Access Components (MDAC).
• The Windows Memory Diagnostic tests the Random Access Memory (RAM) on your computer for errors.
SEARCH THE KNOWLEDGE BASE: With the Standard Knowledge Base Search, it can be difficult to locate the article your need, so I recommend using the Advanced Knowledge Base Search – this can help you quickly isolate your question to a specific product and published date.
1) Pick your Product – The Advanced Knowledge Base Search allows you to easily choose the product you’re troubleshooting. (Which is easier than remembering "kbWinOS2000” is the keyword for Windows 2000.)
2) “Guess” keywords that describe your problem – Error messages can go through a great deal of editing. We had an Outlook problem of the username field coming up blank (not saved) on some computers. We tried searching for everything (blank field, empty field etc.) – ultimately we discovered that the proper "Microsoft" word for a “blank field” is “unpopulated!”
Microsoft only prints a fraction of their keywords list, as well as keywords used for programmers. Some keywords are too specific (as with these Windows 2000 keywords.) I hope Microsoft expands the list of keywords available to the public.
NOTE1: Remember to think like the game show Jeopardy. You’re looking for an “answer” not your “question”; so ask your question in the form of an answer. Articles will probably not have a question like “How do I change the system clock?” it will more likely have the answer “To change the system clock”
NOTE2: Wildercards (*), “Quotes”, AND, OR, NOT commands can be used just like any other search engine.
NOTE3: Read Microsoft's How to ask a question.
3) Pick an “Article Type” Keyword (optional) – Helps pinpoint the specific type of support you need.
BUG – Known problem (may have a FIX)
DOC – If your printed docs are wrong
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
FILE – Downloadable support files
filename.ext – Search for a specific file
FIX – Shows fixes for known “BUGs”
HOWTO – “How To” Articles
INFO – Product info & specs
PRB – End-user Perceived Problems
QFE – Quick Fix Engineering Patch
SAMPLE – Samples program code
4) Modified Date – You can refine your search results to see the most recent articles, or broaden your results if you do not know a when the article was written/modification.
5) Categories – Unless you know which specific category to search, start by selecting all of the categories, as well as the “Community Solutions Content” which include solutions from knowledgeable non-Microsoft employees.
How To Articles displays KB articles describing a feature or how to perform a task.
Downloads displays KB articles contain content that links to a Download. It also includes hotfix or security bulletin information.
Troubleshooting displays KB articles describing how to fix a problem or that have information about a virus.
MSDN Content provides in-depth technical content, including references, technical articles, downloads, and code samples, for all developer-related Microsoft products and technologies.
TechNet Content provides content that is geared toward information technology professionals. It provides information about technology issues, security and virus information, information technology solutions, and community resources.
Community Solutions Content displays articles written by customers and also by Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs)
6) Rinse, Lather & Repeat – It’s doubtful that you’ll find your answer on the first search. So go back to Step # 2 and try fewer keywords, more keywords, or “entire phrases within quotation marks.”
There simply is no single method to “divine” an answer within Microsoft’s Knowledge Base – but trust me your answer is indeed in there. . .”somewhere” 🙂
NEWSGROUPS: This information is “informally” organized, but there are indeed many support gems hiding here.
• Internet Explorer
• Office – General Office questions. Also covers: Access, Excel, FrontPage, PowerPoint, & Word
• Outlook & Exchange Server
• SharePoint Portal Server
• SQL Server
• TechNet General Discussions
• Windows 9x, NT, 2000, & XP
• Windows Server NT, 2000, & 2003
MICROSOFT BLOGS: Not always a source of immediate help, but these blogs are a must read. Be sure to note the additional employees links on each of the team blogs.
• DHCP Team
• Exchange Clustering
• Exchange Server Team
• FrontPage / Sharepoint
• Internet Explorer
• MOM Product Team
• SMS Server
• SQL Server
• Virtual PC
• Windows Server
ROAD TO KNOW WHERE: I've prepared additional articles detailing troubleshooting tips and free Microsoft software available for download.
• Free Microsoft Windows XP Downloads
• Free Microsoft Office Downloads
• Free Microsoft Research Downloads
• How to Properly Remove Spyware
• Troubleshooting Office Service Pack 2 (SP2)
• Troubleshooting Outlook
• Troubleshooting Word using Support.DOT