Where do I find occasional computer help?
August 2, 2007 3:25 AM   Subscribe

What is a good website for computer (and related hardware) help?

I know there are several websites that allow people to post questions about software, hardware, drivers, but which one would you recommend?

I'm not very knowledgable about computers and software, but am not a total newbie either. I sporadically (once, twice a year?) have computer questions that even with Google and the likes I can't figure out myself.

(For example, the kind of questions I'd be searching help for: In this case it's about installing a "plug and play" Lexmark printer on Windows XP where I can't properly install the drivers: not from the cd rom that came with it, nor from the Lexmark website. Calling the manufacturers (printer and laptop) hasn't helped so far).
posted by Ms. Next to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
This one is pretty good.

What model is your Lexmark, and at what point in the installation sequence does something happen that you didn't expect?

Pre-emptively: if it's a low-end Lexmark inkjet, toss it and buy a low-end Canon. It will print better, be more reliable, and the Windows drivers won't suck.
posted by flabdablet at 5:34 AM on August 2, 2007

Best answer: General Windows questions and hardware related:


For Printers:

Once you decide where to ask your question, keep in mind these guidelines by ESR: you'll have a better chance of your question being answered by someone on a forum.
posted by fizzix at 6:00 AM on August 2, 2007

Response by poster: I actually did think of AskMe first, but for some reason the lack of questions like mine gave me the impression that this wasn't really the place for it?

Well, here goes then (apologies for the long story):

- The Lexmark is an E120n, a (low-end )laser printer. Not horribly expensive (about $100?), but too much to simply give up on just yet.

- If it's relevant: the laptop is a Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Pi 1505

I installed the drivers from the cd first, then plugged in the USB cable for the printer and turned it on. Result: no mention of the Lexmark under configuration -> printers. Restarting did not do the trick, neither did uninstalling and re-installing after turning off firewall and virus scanner (as a Lexmark help desk person suggested). When I plug in the USB cable to the printer, the laptop does make a sound but does not show the ‘new hardware attached’ balloon in the right corner.

Second try: I installed the drivers from this website and followed its instructions. Halfway through, it says something about the software not getting through the windows logo test (am not sure about the exact wording, as my OS is Dutch). Continued anyway. Result: printer is visible in configuration / printer screen, and says it’s ready. However, it will not print the test page (or any other page). (The printer does print its own test page though).

I’ve done this several times, uninstalling in between everytime. At one point, when plugging in the USB-cable actually did turn up a message that a Lexmark E120n was connected, and it invited me to install a driver. When pointing it to the supposedly correct directory (or any other, for that matter), it told me there was no software available there. The Windows Device Manager has the Lexmark in a list of USB controllers but with an exclamation mark, stating that no drivers have been installed.

I’ve called Lexmark about this, they told me first it was my firewall and virus scanner (“this happens all the time”), then it their conclusion was it was my OS and I should contact Microsoft (who directed me to Fijutsu Siemens). FS was way more helpful (talked me through the steps above) but not succesful, after half an hour of following their directions, their conclusion was that it’s a strange situation. Called Lexmark back, their conclusion is the printer is probably faulty then and I should take it back to the store. I will, this Saturday, but the thought of bringing it in by bus and them concluding it’s not the printer but me, is not making me very enthusiastic. I have no idea if this is a laptop, driver or printer issue, so I really don’t know where to take this.
posted by Ms. Next at 6:21 AM on August 2, 2007

Response by poster: Oops: "this website" in above story was meant to be "this website".

Thanks fizzix, will be reading that and I'll look at those websites.
posted by Ms. Next at 6:24 AM on August 2, 2007

Response by poster: Sorry, still the wrong link. This should be it. On that page, I've tried the first, second and third. The fourth one wouldn't work, as it says it's not for my OS when I run it (even though the file information does list Windows XP).
posted by Ms. Next at 6:26 AM on August 2, 2007

Best answer: Take the laptop with you when you return the printer, and don't leave the store until the printer works.
posted by flabdablet at 6:42 AM on August 2, 2007

When you print a test page, what do you get in your printer spool? (Start --> Printer and Faxes. Double click on the printer). Is the print job still there with a status?
If the print job never makes it to the printer, Windows usually gives you a message that the document failed to print.

When you mention about the yellow question mark driver, did you get that every time you tried to install the printer, or just that one time?
posted by jmd82 at 7:01 AM on August 2, 2007

Can't help you with the printer, but in the future try MajorGeeks. The link is their front page, but at the top is a link to the support forums.
posted by sneakyalien at 7:22 AM on August 2, 2007

Response by poster: flabdablet: sounds reasonable, will definitely do that. That way it will be worth going there either way.

jmd82: there's a job with a status: it says "Error. Printing"

the yellow question mark wasn't there when I installed from the cd, but then neither was the actual printer visible anywhere else. When I installed one of the drivers from their website, it was there every time, and definitely never without the question mark.
posted by Ms. Next at 7:23 AM on August 2, 2007

Best answer: I would also chalk it up to a printer issue then. It sounds like Windows is communicating just fine with the printer- you'll usually get a different message were that the case. I'll also recommend the HP laserprinters. Avoid the inkjets unless you want to do inhouse photo printing.
posted by jmd82 at 7:41 AM on August 2, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers! In a next life, it'll definitely not be any Lexmark printers for me (although this one did get good reviews, but hey, those websites also said it'd be a 'breeze' to install, so what do they know). I had meant to buy another brand, but they were out of stock and as I was kind of in a hurry... Big mistake. We live, we learn.

The fact that it's most likely a printer problem makes me more confident to embark on the journey back to the store, it's not exactly a light weight package.
posted by Ms. Next at 7:52 AM on August 2, 2007

Kim Komando has her own computer help radio show and a fairly extensive web site.
posted by wsg at 9:21 AM on August 2, 2007

As for your general question about where to get computer help, I recommend two sites which allow you to post your issue and get feedback from the masses.

Kinda like another site I know...

posted by upplepop at 1:56 PM on August 2, 2007

People whose opinions I have reason to respect reckon Samsung is the printer to buy in the low-end laser segment. Kyocera machines are cheaper to run, but less sturdy.

I would personally never buy another Lexmark product, ever. Their high-end lasers used to be a good buy. They're still reasonably solid machines, but Lexmark is more aggressive than anybody else about trying to stop you using aftermarket toner. Screw that noise.
posted by flabdablet at 5:39 PM on August 2, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the websites, they look promising and will defnitely end up in my bookmarks!

flabdablet: Samsung was actually the one I went to the store for, but the only model in my price range they had was sold out, and since I'd be doing a lot of printing this week for a project (sigh) I reckoned a lesser printer would be better than none at all. The rest is history.
posted by Ms. Next at 1:36 AM on August 3, 2007

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