Having trouble with your computer? You've come to the right place. Even if you don't know a computer language (or want to), you can solve several common PC problems on your own.In this article, we offer many ways to do what you need to do in Windows 7 and Windows Vista. Often, there may not be a Help topic for Windows XP, but the process is often the same as in Windows 7 or Windows Vista. The only difference is usually where to find the link in Control Panel. Most often, its just a matter of slightly different wording in the heading or the text describing the task. Dont worry. If you search in Control Panel, youll usually find the link you need.F1 is magic: Get help on your PC If you cant figure out how to complete a particular task in your software programand youre using a PCthe most important shortcut to know is the F1 key. Just push it while the programWord, Excel, or whichever program youre usingis open and active, wait a moment, and the Help window specific to your active program will appear. See an F1 key demonstration. The F1 key works with almost all Microsoft products, so its a helpful starting point for a wide variety of problems. [HR][/HR] The basics If youre encountering a different kind of obstacle your new device wont appear on your desktop, an application you added wont run, you see an error message, or your computer is refusing to start up here are a few preliminary steps: Before adding any major hardware or software to your system, make sure you've recently backed up your Windows 7-based PC or your Windows Vista-based PC as a safeguard. By using the automatic backup functions, you can schedule regular upkeep for maximum convenience. Many issues can be resolved by simply checking to be sure that all of your plugs are connected properly. After you are sure of that, try restarting (rebooting) your system. Turn your computer off, and then back on a few seconds later. If the problem continues, follow the steps below. Write down the contact information for Microsoft Customer Service and Support, should you need to consult an expert. Take a second to print the below instructions as well, and keep them handy as you walk through the troubleshooting process. [HR][/HR] Locating the problem Microsoft provides a couple of free options to help you locate and fix the PC issue youre encountering: Online: Is your PC showing an error message? If so, write down the exact number and wording of the error message, and search for it on the Microsoft Fix it Solution Center. In many cases, the Fix it center provides a "hot fix," which is an automatedsolution you can run on your PC with just one click! Even if you dont see an error message, you may be able to find the solution in the Fix it center, either by topic or by searching. You can also check Microsoft Answers and Office Answers. Download: You can try out the new Microsoft Fix it Beta. Just download it to your machine, follow the instructions to set it up, and then it will tell you if you have any updates to run. Note: Once you run it, the system will ask you to set up an account, or you can sign in with your Windows Live ID. Also, the Fix it Center will ask you to send information about your computer. Walk through your system yourself: If youd like to understand more about the issue youre seeing, walk through the steps below to help you figure out if the problem is related to hardware, software, or the operating system (such as Windows 7, Windows XP, or Windows Vista). The following are some common indicators that can help you decide which is the right answer. We recommend you start at the top by determining if your software is working, using the Software errors section that follows. If the issue persists, proceed to the Hardware trouble section and then to the System failure section. The lists on the right side of this page may also help you narrow down the type of trouble you are experiencing. [HR][/HR] Software errors If programs refuse to install, won't appear on your desktop, can't seem to run without freezing, don't load at a decent speed or function properly, or Internet access is unavailable, here's how to troubleshoot: General issues Confirm that your PC meets the software's minimum system requirements. If it doesn't, you'll be unable to run the program without upgrading your computer's hardware. Note that PCs which barely meet or just slightly exceed these minimums may run the software more slowly and can be less reliable. Windows 7 and Windows Vista users can reference the Windows Experience Index to quickly gauge their PC's general capabilities. Check for compatibility with Windows 7 and Windows Vista. Close open programs and windows that you're not currently using. These can eat up system memory and processing power, slowing your PC or preventing additional software from running. Try running the program again. Check available hard drive space. Roughly 5 to 10 percent of your hard drive's total storage allotment should be left free to ensure optimum system performance in Windows 7 and Windows Vista, prevent crashes, and keep Windows running at top speed. Note Use Disk Cleanup to free more space: Windows 7 Windows Vista Windows XP Check for program updates and information on frequently encountered issues at the software manufacturer's website. For Microsoft products, you can also load Windows Update for Windows 7, Windows Update for Windows Vista, or visit the Microsoft Download Center. If you install an update, restart your computer, and attempt to run the program again. Uninstall or delete unwanted programs in Windows 7 or Windows Vista to cut down on clutter and remove any drain on your system's resources. Disable programs you don't use to in Windows 7 or Windows Vista by preventing them from automatically loading when Windows starts. If youre running Windows 7, restart your computer, and try the program again. Defragment your hard drive in Windows 7 or Windows Vista to improve performance. Scan for viruses and spyware. Windows Defender in Windows 7 and Windows Vista can help detect and prevent threats, along with preventing annoying pop-up notices and unauthorized home network intrusions. You can scan your PC for free. Reboot your computer and try loading the program again. If it still won't load or work correctly, you may need to uninstall the software and then reinstall it from scratch and reboot again. Advanced users can also try these advanced troubleshooting tricks in Windows 7 and Windows Vista. Consult Microsoft Help and Support and the Windows Community. If live assistance is required, first contact the software manufacturer's customer support department. For additional assistance, try Microsoft Customer Service and Support.