Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Sometimes the best resource for information about Microsoft products is, in fact, Microsoft's own support site.

Microsoft Support, sometimes known as The Knowledgebase, is one of the most overlooked resources on the internet for users of Microsoft software. There's a ton of information out here that addresses hundreds of thousands of issues from the simple, to the complex to the obscure.

One of the problems with the Microsoft's Support site is that there's so much information, it can sometimes be difficult to find exactly what you're looking for. But be patient and hone your searching skills. The support site has recently switched to using Bing as it's internal search engine, but if you're more comfortable you can use Google to search by including "site:support.microsoft.com" in your Google query.

One of the other issues that people occasionally have with the support articles is understanding the terminology and assumptions occasionally made. Even so, given the fact that much of the deeper information has been written and maintained by perhaps thousands of engineers at Microsoft over the years, even with its warts it's amazingly coherent.

Sometimes my job is simply interpreting, or finding what's already in the Microsoft Support Knowledgebase. You'll note that my answers will often include a link to a Knowledgebase article. I turn to it frequently for issues with Microsoft products.

In fact, I should turn to it more often.

Microsoft Support

I recommend it.

Article C2464 - November 18, 2005 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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10 Comments
Mary
June 16, 2009 11:04 AM

"One of the problems with the Microsoft's Support site is that there's so much information, it can sometimes be difficult to find exactly what you're looking for."

I remember searching for information on how to reformat XP Pro. So I searched the KB articles using that parameter: Reformat Windows XP Professional. First suggested KB article was "How to use Disk Management to configure basic disks in Windows XP." Second suggested was "How to manually remove Windows XP and then restore Windows 95..." Additional articles in the order of suggested relevance were:
- How to convert a FAT16 volume or a FAT32 volume to an NTFS file system...
- A removable media device is no longer recognized...
- Advanced troubleshooting for shutdown problems in Windows XP...

http: //support.microsoft.com/search/default.aspx?qid=42487&query=reformat+windows+xp+professional&catalog=LCID%3D1033&mode=r

It's not the plethora of information that causes problems and frustration, it's the fact that Microsoft can't put the relevant information at the top of its suggested reading list! No wonder people walk away from MS Support and turn to 3rd party help sites.

Catmoves
June 16, 2009 5:31 PM

I agree with Mary totally. Microsoft has TMI throughout every "help" article that would likely take most of a month to read in order just to be able to bring up their homepage. When yakyak gets like this, it is no wonder people try any other system rather than sacrifice their lives to blah, blah from them. (Yeah, that's why I use Leo. He gives me the shortened version of 50 or 60 Micosoft pages. Thanks again, Leo.)

Richard Booth
June 17, 2009 6:16 PM

I still dont understand why Microsoft is pushing XP SP2. Wasn't this service pack installed a long timed ago? I have SPs Installed for XP Professional installed and yet I still see articles telling people to install SP2. Am i missing the point or is this a "modified version of the old SP2? Confused here and you have a great great site. Thank you Leo

Most SP3 articles are old, since it should have been installed long ago. SP3 is the most recent.
- Leo
17-Jun-2009

Robert M.
June 19, 2009 6:45 PM

Mary: "I remember searching for information on how to reformat XP Pro."

I don't mean to be picky, but I find my searches are often hindered because I don't know or list the right search phrase to find what is possibly ready and out there.

Your search on "reformat XP Pro" makes me wonder. What do you want to reformat, a hard drive that has XP Pro installed? That's my best guess. But XP Pro is an operating system - it cannot be "reformatted" unless you're using 'reformat' to mean something other than what is commonly understood - formatting drives; hard drives, floppy drives, even writable CD/DVD drives. USB drives are preformatted - and I don't think they can be reformatted. But I digress.

I am guilty of not specifyin the right or best search phrase. So don't take this as a personal attack. Even though it, invariably and not malevolently intended, is pointed toward your comment with what I hope you take as constructive criticism.

Mary
June 23, 2009 10:10 AM

@ Robert M.
No offense taken concerning your comments. Yes, my objective was to reformat a hard drive and reinstall XP Pro. Most search engines are able to distinguish key words and will usually highlight those key words. In my example, I would have expected MS Support to include any KB articles with the key words Reformat + Windows + XP + Pro(fessional). Such as "How to REFORMAT and reinstall WINDOWS XP PRO on an existing hard drive."

Interestingly, if you go to the MS Help and Support site and use THEIR search engine (powered by Bing) and type in the word "reformat", one of the MS suggested topics is "Reformat drive with XP." Click on that link and the first suggested article is STILL "How to manually remove Windows XP and then restore Windows 95...". So I stand by my original observation that "...Microsoft can't put the relevant information at the top of its suggested reading list!" Nowhere did I ask for information about reinstalling Windows 95, but Microsoft's search engine apparently felt that's what I was looking for because it's the # 1 KB article for THEIR suggested link to "Reformat drive with XP."

Mary
June 23, 2009 10:23 AM

As a follow-up comment, typing "reformat" in that Bing powered search engine also gives a suggested sub-topic of "reformat windows xp professional" which is pretty much what I was looking for. Click on that link and the first suggested KB article is "How to use Disk Management to configure basic disks in Windows XP." Once again, the MS search engine brings up a totally useless article. And that was my original point. As long as Microsoft makes it darn near impossible for people to find what they need, people will turn to third party sites (like Ask Leo.)

joel
August 6, 2009 10:08 PM

i cant open microsoft web page because its saying the page cannot be display and my internt is connected. I am using maxis broadband service. So how can prevent this problem..

Jim de Graff
April 11, 2010 12:24 PM

Most of my information seeking on Microsoft sites is related to how to use various controls in Visual Basic. In this I have been frequently disappointed to where MS is now the last place I go. Microsoft technical writers would explain a beach by giving a detailed description of each individual grain of sand. Simple examples are rare and control information is spread across dozens of pages resulting in a Zork-like (you are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike) browsing experience.

ollie
February 26, 2011 11:22 AM

I have windows 7, but it is in russian. Is there a step by step? I tried to do it but cant translate into russian. Please help!

GREG JACKSON
September 5, 2011 3:38 PM

The use Bing has improved the site usability. Overall. their site has proven to be of minimal help for me (imho). I will still use the site because I get lucky once in a while. Many times I find what I searched for, in fact the exact problem, only to find too many posts left unanswered. But it has improved.

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