If you’re having one of those days and feel like throwing your computer (along with Windows XP) out the window, take a deep breath and look at this list of tips to help you deal with common computer problems to get back on track:

  1. If there’s no mouse cursor on the screen or the cursor won’t move no matter how much you move the mouse, shut the computer down, make sure the mouse is plugged in, and restart the computer. If that doesn’t work, flip the mouse over and use your fingernail to scrape off built-up gunk, pull the ball out if there is one, and clean the inside with a cotton swab and a touch of isopropyl alcohol. If the cursor still won’t move, throw the stupid thing away. Mice are cheap. Sheesh.

  2. If you suddenly can’t get at your e-mail or get on the web even though you could get to it yesterday and you haven’t changed anything at all, chill. Chances are good that your Internet Service Provider (the place your computer dials into) is having problems. Come back in a few hours. DON’T CHANGE YOUR SETTINGS.

  3. If you can’t find a file that was sitting around yesterday, chances are good it’s either in the Recycle Bin or you dragged it somewhere weird. Double-click the Recycle Bin icon. If your file is there, double-click it and then click Restore. If your file isn’t there, choose Start→Search, click the kind of file you’re looking for, and ask Rover (yes, that’s his name) to go look for it.

  4. If you spend the money to buy an expensive piece of hardware — a new video card, a second hard drive, a fancy force-feedback mouse, or a different cable modem — spend a little bit more money and have the retailer install it. Life’s too short.

  5. If the stupid computer won’t work right, turn it off. Go read a book or watch a movie. Get some sleep. Come back when you’re not so tied up in knots. Few pursuits in the history of humanity are as frustrating as trying to get a recalcitrant computer to behave itself.

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