Microsoft's Fix It makes self-help a lot easier

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If you're an IT person responsible for making sure PCs work for a legion of end users who make jokes about not being able to find the "any" key or ask how to get to the files in the Word account they use on their home machines, this isn't going to help you.

Microsoft finally did something useful to make it easier to find the fairly decent self-help tools that have been available for a while, but which are really hard to find because the Bing(tm) search at Microsoft.com doesn't seem to understand any question you ask it about a Microsoft product.

Microsoft Fix It mini-apps are self help tools designed to fix annoying problems with configuration, driver or system-file corruption or a million other micro-glitches that do things like convince Excel it can't recognize the file it just created and currently has open, or make Outlook decide it's never met you before and has no idea why you'd expect it to retrieve your email.

A couple of years ago Microsoft started taking all the small utilities, scripts and configuration files it had floating around in various departments, where support techs and developers had figured out ways to automate repairs for common mistakes, and posted them in the fabulously rich, famously inscrutable Microsoft Support Knowledgebase.

Most were embedded in Knowledgebase articles, or linked to in non-intuitive ways through abstract-referential Microsoftian word-association logic that those who had not undergone the full Redmond brainwash were unable to track.

The result was that users like me, who were almost smart enough to fix our own machines but not smart enough to realize we're still well into the Idiot range on the IdiotProofing scale, could actually complete a repair if we found the right tool.

But finding the right tool took longer than it would take to fix everything by hand.

Even the user-friendly front page to the Fix It Solution Center didn't always make finding the right Fix-It tool easier.

It would run through troubleshooting processes that might have shot at trouble but never hit it, or gave us long lists of choices that never seemed to apply to the actual problem.

In my case, I'm sure that's because I'm a different type of idiot than the one Microsoft designed the idiotproof site for. I don't know if other kinds of idiots had an easier time finding solutions.

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