When you have a support question that involves Microsoft Windows, where should you go first? If your normal starting point is to send a search query to Google or Bing, you’re wasting time. You’re also forcing yourself to sift through pages of irrelevant and possibly low-quality results.
In recent years, Microsoft has been on a quiet mission to reorganize its online technical documentation. I’ve put together this cheat sheet you can use to get accurate information in a hurry.
Microsoft has been steadily moving its technical documentation to a new location. As of early 2017, Docs is now home to the technical documentation for Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016, joining Microsoft Azure, Office, and other products that moved there earlier. The new site (Figure A) is well organized, with great search capabilities, and it uses a responsive design that makes it readable on devices of all sizes–phones, tablets, and PCs. You can download documentation in PDF form for offline reading, too.
All of the source files are located at GitHub, so if you see a typo or a technical error, you can sign in and fix it yourself by clicking the Edit button and opening the page directly from the repository, as shown in Figure B. You can also leave in-line comments.
The Windows hub has separate sections for developers, hardware devs, and IT pros. Here are some Docs pages I recommend bookmarking:.
For many years, TechNet has been the place to find technical information about Microsoft products written primarily for IT pros. It includes news, technical articles, and downloads for all Microsoft products. I recommend bookmarking these pages:
This home page spotlights new content that’s likely to be of interest to IT pros, with a navigation bar along the top for finding documentation, downloads, and support information.
Browse through tasks and categories to find tools, step-by-step guides, and other resources for planning, deploying, managing, and supporting Windows 10 in a business setting.
You’ll find deployment and support resources here along with links to free evaluation versions and virtual labs.
Discover some of Windows’ lesser-known features and hidden tricks that will save you time, expand your options, and give you more control over the OS. This collection of tips by Ed Bott provides faster, smarter, (and safer) ways to work with Windows. Free for Tech Pro Research subscribers.
Although this is a part of TechNet, it’s so important that I’ve broken it out in its own category. Beginning in early 2017, Microsoft moved to a new system for publishing information about security vulnerabilities and updates. The main site is located here.
I recommend bookmarking these three locations within that group:.
- Microsoft Security Response Center
- Security Tools & Downloads for IT Pros
- Security Support and Troubleshooting
Help (including the Microsoft Knowledge Base)
Microsoft’s support site contains links to a dozen topic areas where you can find help. In general, the help under the Windows category is designed for consumers and nontechnical end users, not for IT pros. But this page is still worth bookmarking, because it’s your gateway to the massive Microsoft Knowledge Base.
Type a KB number or title into the search box and you’ll go straight to a set of results that include the article corresponding with that number, as well as any related pages. (Note that this is a new syntax for these links, which used to be located in the /kb folder of that subdomain.) If you have the article number and you’d rather not search, just append the number (without the letters KB) to the end of the URL, like this:
Microsoft runs two sets of community forums for peer-to-peer support conversations. The Microsoft Community site is intended for consumers and nontechnical users. For technical questions of interest to IT pros, the TechNet forums should be your first stop.
Topics available here include a much broader range of Microsoft products and technologies than those covered in the Community forums, with a special emphasis on deploying and using Windows in the enterprise. To narrow the set of forums so you can browse or search for answers to a specific question, click the View All link on the left side of the page, next to the Forums heading, and then select one or more forums to include, as shown in Figure C.
You can skip that dialog box by using the search box below the Forums heading instead.
If you consistently find yourself going back to the same forums, use the Add To My Forums link to save those forums in a custom list that’s always available from the Quick Access shortcut.