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Hardware Helpers

Illustration by Jim Ludke
Illustration: Jim Ludtke
You never know when you'll need a solution to a computer glitch, a definition of some new technology, or a toll-free number to call because your dishwasher is imitating a geyser. Skip the search site and find what you need at these sources.

Hardware and software support information: runs forums for operating systems, hardware, games, and drivers. Or try the Windows tips search engine at Brian Livingston's Brian's Buzz site.

Technical terminology:'s Webopedia lets you enter a term like Wi-Fi and get a good, quick description of the technology's history, purpose, and details, plus links.

Self help: The computer page at EHow (registration required) may seem basic to PC veterans, but everyone will appreciate its checklists for cleaning a PC's interior, evaluating a used system, and performing other tasks.

PDAs: Handheld users will find solutions to their problems at The site covers various popular Palm and Pocket PC models, plus the BlackBerry, and provides links to appropriate vendor pages. also serves up software, reviews, and other helpful links.

Alpha geeks and IT pros: TechTarget's search site lets visitors scour specialized tech sites that offer extremely useful tips, articles, and lots of facts about databases, security, storage, mobile computing, Linux, networking, and other topics. O'Reilly's Safari Bookshelf (14-day free trial, fee required thereafter) is easy to search and is packed with resources for IT types.

Product recalls: For all the facts you need about faulty consumer products, keep close at hand. A joint effort of six government agencies, this site lets you search its recall database by product or vendor, or simply browse its categories, which include food, medicine, appliances, furniture, and kids' gear. has car info, too, but you may find that faster by visiting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's comprehensive list of automobile recalls.

Appliances: When home electronics attack (or begin to make threatening noises) check out This site helps you troubleshoot the problem and determine whether you need to call for repair. Along with its tips, the site also provides an estimate of probable repair costs, and it even dispels some myths about misbehaving machines. When the agitator on my washing machine lost its mojo recently, the site pointed me to a schematic diagram and recommended, a site that sold the necessary parts for a grand total of $41. You'll find other fix-it-yourself tips and instructions at the Do It Yourself Network, which steps you through a wide variety of household projects and suggests solutions to typical problems.

Tutorials: For terrific how-tos on computers, appliances, and almost every other device under the sun, browse to HowStuffWorks. Point PC newbies to the site's computer section when they ask you to explain some technology or importune you for free tech support.

Toll-free numbers: If you're in trouble and only a repair professional will do, quit digging through your kitchen junk drawer looking for a warranty card and use the Internet 800 Directory or AT&T's AnyWho Online Directory instead.

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