27/10/2011 05:20 BST | Updated 26/12/2011 05:12 GMT

Please Don't tell me Your Computer's Gone Funny!

When I tell people I like working with computers and that I've been using them every day for 30 years, they seem to want to cling to me, much like a shipwrecked sailor clings onto a rock during a storm. Effortlessly, I become their "new best-friend".

I wish I got a pound for every time someone turns to me with a desperate voice "My computer's just gone...funny". Seriously, I'd be living in a penthouse apartment in Monte Carlo now.

I start imagining...has it spontaneously turned into toasted marshmallows? When you open up a spreadsheet, is there an animated photo of John Cleese doing his Silly Walk slap-bang in the middle of the screen? And then, I look at their face and it's clear they're not dealing with anything remotely humourous or entertaining.

Regular as clockwork, I reply: "What do you mean by 'funny', exactly?" and guide them towards describing the problem more accurately, so I can help them.

I'll let you into a secret - even after 30 years of working with IT I still get stuck with things. I still speak to the screen through gritted teeth mumbling "Why've you done that? WHY!?" and then walk off to get a strong coffee, still complaining as I go.

The way I solve IT problems really quickly is to spend a few minutes analysing what's happened and working out how to describe the issue accurately as possible, then use Google. 99.9% of the time, some other poor person already faced exactly the same dilemma and someone else has answered it.

Here's my three tips for solving IT problems the easy way:

Pay attention to the wording of any error messages.

If you can get a five or six word phrase and you type that into Google with some quotation marks round it, there's a very good chance you will find the answer already described on a website.

Better questions get better answers.

Try to turn the problem into a question. So rather than saying the bullets have "gone funny" in your word document, think, "how do I change the bullet point style in Word?" and then search for that.

Take a break if you're feeling really stressed before researching the answer.

Sometimes it takes a bit of time to solve a problem. You might need to restart your PC or reinstall some software. If you make sure you've got a bit of time to look into the problem it's much easier to follow my first two tips.

So next time you hit a snag, don't rush headling towards the nearest nerd in your life, try these tips and see how you get on. The more times you solve your IT problems yourself, the quicker your confidence builds.

I'll leave you with something that is funny about computers:

"A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history-with the possible exceptions of handguns and tequila." (Mitch Radcliffe)