5 Easy Ways To Become A Computer Expert

Gnomie Joe Vaughn writes:

Hi, Chris!

First off I would like to say thank you for all of the great videos you have put out on YouTube; they have definitely helped to resolve most of my computer/Xbox issues over the past few months. I find that the topics you cover are not only interesting but diverse in the subjects that are being discussed, which is great to see. Now the reason I feel I should send you this email is to alert viewers that becoming an “expert,” or at least an average computer user, is not as difficult as some make it out to be. Over the years I have torn apart hundreds of computers — mostly rebuilding them with upgraded hardware, or sometimes starting completely from scratch (which in my opinion I have found to be the most fun). I started at an early age (somewhere around 12) and began experimenting with my old Compaq computer. I have found that having enough interest in computers itself can even lead to a lifetime career — that being the case with me. Now, on to the five tips.

  1. Start small.
    Now if you’re looking to become an “expert” at this stuff, don’t think it will come easily or quickly. You need to put in a huge amount of time and effort. I suggest starting with software first. Get a feel for the “guts” of your computer by experimenting with various applications or networking utilities throughout your operating system, such as mapping network drives, using command prompt (DOS), or even editing the registry if you feel confident enough (I wouldn’t recommend this for inexperienced users).

  2. Go further with DOS.
    DOS is the ancient operating system that everyone views as obsolete, however, DOS can be extremely useful, especially when installing a new operating system off a clean hard drive or even trying to dual boot more than one operating system. Utilities such as Fdisk, Format, and Xcopy 32 are extremely useful when trying to do just that. Getting familiar with Fdisk is essential in my opinion for initializing a dual boot. (There are other programs that do this such as partition magic, but take the fun out of the whole process in my opinion). So getting to know DOS can be a great way to learn more about the software side of things.

  3. Get to know the hardware.
    This is the best part. Getting to know your computer’s insides can be very useful if you wish to build your own computer somewhere down the road. I would start off with this: try purchasing a piece of hardware that is compatible with your computer and attempt to install it. This will eventually make you more aware of how things work in it and you will begin to realize it isn’t all that hard! I can tell you from experience that the more time you have on your hands, the faster you will become good at this stuff. Maybe you simply have an interest in computers overall, or maybe you just want to upgrade your computer; if you install hardware on a regular basis, you will begin to absorb the knowledge of all the parts of the computer.

  4. Do research!
    I cannot stress this enough. Doing research on computer topics or issues is a perfect way to learn more about them! A perfect example of this is Chris Pirillo’s videos! From my experiences I have had MANY problems with Windows — hardware issues, etc. over the years — and the Internet, and knowledgeable people, have been a huge help. And I’m sure most techies out there can relate. One word of advice, if you have a computer issue and you’re looking to become better with computers, DON’T CALL THE GEEK SQUAD! For starters, most of these people have no computer background or any degrees (proven in one of Chris’ videos) and they are, in most cases, no help whatsoever. So, what do you do? Do research for yourself and fix it!

  5. Once you get good…
    I would consider someone to be “good” with computers as soon as I see them tear one apart, and then rebuild it and make it boot into an operating system. Better yet, if you want to give yourself a skill test, here is an exercise for you: tear your computer apart, down to the very bare bones of the motherboard, then re-assemble it all back. Use Fdisk to create two partitions with one hard drive or two and successfully load a different operating system on each partition. If you can pull this off within a few hours with minimal problems, you can consider yourself an “expert” in the making.

I have given you my best five tips for getting good with computers, and eventually, maybe even becoming an expert! I hope these have helped and keep tearing apart those computers! :)

Article Written by

Chris has consistently expressed his convictions and visions outright, supplying practical information to targeted audiences: media agencies, business owners, technology consumers, software and hardware professionals, et al. He remains a passionate personality in the tech community-at-large. He's a geek.

  • NewJohnny

    Excellent tips, Gnomie. I would like to add #6: Troubleshooting. When something goes wrong, it’s like having a final exam to see what you’ve really learned.

    An example would be an XP machine stuck in a reboot loop. What’s the first thing you try? Is it software or hardware? Do you have the right tools to find out? I carry a variety of diagnostic disks (BartPE is good) and even spare hardware to test out various scenarios.

    In the example above, it’s most likely a bad driver. It could also be a damaged hard drive, corrupt filesystem, or bad memory. With older machines, this particular problem can also be due to damaged capacitors on the motherboard.

    Which leads to #7: Never overlook the obvious. If a pc doesn’t power on, check the power cable is plugged in. If the pc complains about no boot drive present, check the IDE or SATA cable. It sounds almost embarassing to admit, but checking these things first could save you a lot of time and grief.

  • Paul Higgins

    I can honestly say I am an ‘expert amateur’ and your five tips pretty much outline my learning curve. If I had to name the most important tip, it would be ‘RESEARCH!’ While I don’t like watching videos for help (it’s a personal thing- videos are for fun not work!) I have found the Lockergnome forums and their accompanying newsletters to be invaluable. And all free! They must have saved me £100′s.
    I started my education at the school where I work, when they upgraded their machines and threw the old ones in a skip. I asked if I could have some, took home three or four and built my first pc from them, with Windows 3.1
    It went so smoothly, that one year later I went to a computer fair, bought a motherboard with the processor built in. It was the one and only time I ever found a processor soldered into the board when I decided to upgrade it another year later. That was when I took the plunge, researched and bought a motherboard and processor separately,
    bought a hard drive and case with power suply and actually built a machine from scratch. When I had built it and first powered up, I admit to being terrified that it might not work- all that money down the drain! But it went extremely smoothly. When I saw it post, I installed the O?S (win95, I think- still have the original cd) and it was a working machine. I’ve never bought a pc and always built my own and now have many friends and their friends come to me for help with their pc’s. But without Lockergnome, I would still be a ‘newbie’. Thanks, Lockergnome.

  • AaronW

    Those are good tips. I’m no expert yet, but in my opinion, building a computer from scratch is THE #1 thing to get started learning about computers. In the process of choosing components, researching which ones work together, which ones don’t, putting them together, and setting up a dual boot system, I learned TONS about computers. Also, it is exciting to start up a killer gaming rig and know that you built it.

  • tyler

    Becoming a true computer expert takes 5-10 years depending on if you work in the field, time invested, and aptitude. I would recommend reading the book “Pragmatic thinking and Learning” for some good advice. Here is my advice after 7 years in the industry (I’m still not an expert):

    1. Learn basic electronics

    2. Learn to program

    3. Tear down a laptop or server and put it back together

    4. Build a linux from scratch installation and make an effort to understand every step of the process

    5. Configure your own home server with various services (file, print, web, proxy, dhcp, mail, etc)

    6. Learn TCP/IP v4 and v6

    7. Read IETF RFCs for common protocols.

    8. Read, tinker, read, tinker, read, and read some more

    9. Install, configure, and use different operating systems (Windows, Linux variants, Solaris, BSD variants, etc)