Specialised search tools for hard-to-find information
By Jay Dougherty Apr 9, 2010, 16:14 GMT
Washington - If you're like most people, you probably think of Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft when you want to search the web. But the major search engines don't catalogue everything, nor do they do the best job at finding specific types of information. What if you're looking for a technical manual, for instance, or a driver for an old printer? Or how about if you want to locate some old software? Specialised search tools are what you need. Read on to learn more.
Q: I have an old notebook computer that I purchased at an auction, and I'm looking for a user's manual. The manufacturer does not seem to have one on its site. Is there someplace on the web where I might go?
A: Quite possibly the new PDFgeni site is just what you need (http://www.pdfgeni.com). PDFgeni is a search engine with a twist: it catalogues only PDF files. Since most user manuals are published as PDFs, it's a great resource for locating hard-to-find tech manuals or any other document that might be stored somewhere on the Internet as a PDF file.
Although I'm not sure which notebook computer you have, I did a quick search for an old model around here: the Dell Inspiron 6000. The unit's owner's manual turned up as link number two. Even if the manual is on the manufacturer's web site, PDFgeni makes finding it a lot quicker and easier than drilling down through links on some support page.
So this site is well worth a place on your bookmark list. Whether you need a user manual for your cell phone or a copy of a manufacturer's rebate form, if it's on the web in PDF form somewhere, you're likely to find it on PDFgeni.
Q: I'm looking for a driver for an old HP printer. Is there a resource on the web that collects drivers?
A: There are plenty of sites online that claim to make the process of finding obscure drivers easy. Some of these sites require that you pay to use them, and most of them end up being exercises in frustration. People have reported success with a few, however, including Driver Guide (http://www.driverguide.com) and Drivers Headquarters (http://www.drivershq.com). The latter offers a downloadable program that scans your computer and makes driver recommendations.
HP itself does provide drivers for most of its printer models, past and present, on its Support and Drivers site (http://bit.ly/nVswV). And although it's not clear which operating system you're using, keep in mind that newer versions of Windows - particularly Windows 7 - can detect and automatically install drivers for many peripherals.
Also, in the case of printers, if you cannot find a driver for your specific model, keep in mind that installing a driver for a similar model can also work.
Q: In my Windows Control Panel there is some PCI device with a yellow exclamation point beside it. I'm not sure what it is and therefore not sure which driver I need. How can I find out?
A: The secret to finding obscure components in your Windows computer that are missing drivers is to open the Device Manager and double-click the device that's missing the driver. In the resulting Properties dialog box, click the Details tab and select Hardware IDs from the drop-down list box. You should see a more descriptive indication of what the device is.
If you're still stumped and it's a PCI device, you can turn to the PCI Database (http://pcidatabase.com) to help identify the device and perhaps locate a driver. Another good resource for USB devices is Qbik (http://qbik.ch/usb/devices), which will help you identify the device and, once found, even direct you in some cases to the vendor's web site, where you can download a driver.
Q: I've reinstalled my operating system with the intention of making it quick and lean. I only want to install light versions of applications and programs that don't use a lot of resources, so I'm looking for older programs that aren't made any more. Is there someplace on the web where I can get older software?
A: The site OldVersion.com (http://www.oldversion.com) was set up to house and make available older versions of software that are no longer in development or distribution. The site has grown over the years to include older versions of popular programs in most software categories. In fact, you could easily use this site to set up an entire computer with high-quality, free software.
You'll find older versions of instant messengers, office applications, graphics and multimedia programs, utilities, and internet browsers and tools. Currently the site provides only software that runs on Windows-based computers.
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