'Tis the season for everyone who just got new hardware or software to learn how to use it, and the phone lines are jammed. Online help is available, but you'd better know what you're looking for--there are a vast number and variety of questions and problems out there.
Microsoft provides a wide range of online support features at its Web site, including a searchable Knowledge Base of technical articles, free downloadable software, and a list of worldwide service phone numbers. The standard support service for Windows 95 is available at no charge for 90 days from your first support phone call.
CompaqCare Service and Support information can be accessed via Compaq's Web site or by calling the Compaq Technical Support Center at 800/652-6672. Compaq also provides online support with a series of downloadable files and FAQs.
Compaq has a special phone line for Windows 95 support (800/946-9545), but that help does not come cheap. The company charges $35 per incident, but even those willing to pay will have to be persistent. Callers this morning were greeted by a recording that stated, "Due to the high volume of Windows 95 support calls, we are unable to accept your call at this time."
Technical information about Apple products is available online through the company's Tech Info Library, and the Apple Assistance Center provides technical support by phone for customers in the United States at 800/767-2775.
Unlike Compaq, the Apple phone system does not completely shut out callers when the lines are jammed like they are today, but the repeated recording assuring that someone will be with you in "just a moment" may prove to be just as annoying.
Although online help is easier to access than phone help right now, it isn't terribly useful if you can't get your new PC to work in the first place. The truly frustrated may want to hold off a week or two on until the phone lines free up.