Upgrading 'gotcha' can be avoided

August 31, 1998|By Dan Keating | Dan Keating,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Many computer users search for new hardware or software to make computing more exciting. But the sad truth is that the incredible number of possible combinations of hardware, operating-system settings and software programs make upgrade conflicts frighteningly common.

The good news is, most of those "gotchas" have probably happened to someone else, and you can profit from their mistakes.

Before adding hardware or major software programs or a new operating system -- preferably before shelling out money for any of those things -- you must do background checks by visiting the Web sites of your computer manufacturer, the maker of your operating system (Microsoft or Apple, for most folks) and the maker of the software or hardware you want to add.

1. Start by going to the Web site of your computer manufacturer, then to the support or service or technical help section. Search for the name of the product you want to add. Search for notes about problems.

2. Do the same search in the technical support section of the operating-system maker.

3. Go to the Web site of the product you want and search for the name of your computer manufacturer. Also read the general technical notes. If support notes don't exist, beware. It would be nice if products were so perfect that no one ever had a problem, but any product that doesn't have some help out there is more likely to be a big problem than a dream come true.

4. Finally, go to DejaNews at www.dejanews.com and search for the product name. See if people have been complaining about it in online discussion groups.

5. If you're adding a game or other graphically intense program, you should also check the Web site of the manufacturer of your video card. (If you're a serious gamer, you know who makes your video card. If not, it should be in your computer documentation.)

It's definitely worth investing this research time upfront. Most problems have simple solutions. When you have them before you start, you can scoot right past problem areas instead of getting hopelessly trapped and frustrated.

And if there's any software you really rely on ` such as personal-finance software, a Web browser or a word processor ` check the manufacturer's Web site periodically to see about known bugs or problems. Fixes are often readily available and might help you avoid problems before they strike.

Pub Date: 8/31/98

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