Step #1

Pick a platform.

It doesn't matter which computer platform you prefer.  Windows, Mac or Linux, it may depend on what you happen to have.  Eventually, you can apply my methods to any computer or operating system but it's best to pick one initially so you don't make things any harder for yourself.  I'm not going to lie to you and tell you how simple this is.  Computers are very complex machines that require a lot of things to happen correctly and in the right sequence for them to work properly.  The cool part is, someone (Microsoft, Apple, etc.) has gone to great lengths to put everything together just right so just about any boob can take a new computer out of the box and have it up and running smoothly in less than an hour.  All we have to worry about is learning how to recover when we screw things up.  It will be much easier for you if you stick to one computer for starters.

Step #2

Back up your computer.

Find some CDs, a jump drive or external hard disk and make copies of all your important data.  Even better, clone the disk or make what's known as an "image" of your boot drive.  There's a million ways to do this, but my favorite is to us imaging software like TrueImage by Acronis or Ghost by Symantec.  TrueImage will set you back $49, but is the fastest and most reliable method of imaging your drives.

If you don't want to spend any money, Windows Vista includes a free system backup and restore utility and OS X comes with a full-featured Disk Utility right on the Tiger or Leopard install DVD.

Why do this?

Because no matter what boneheaded mistake you might make, a complete fix is less than an hour away.  By keeping a recent image of your computer's hard disk, you can restore your computer to perfect working order in less than an hour even if you accidently re-format your boot disk!  I can't tell you how liberating it is knowing there is nothing you can do to your computer that can't be undone quickly and easily.  It is a virtual bullet-proof vest.  No matter what button you click, which file you erase or which setting you mess up, you can't hurt your machine permanently.  I learned 90% of what I know by simply trying things to see what happened.  I knew my worst-case scenario was a simple restore process that would take less than an hour.  I could even take a break while the machine restored itself!

Step #3

Don't be a weenier!

If you are afraid to experiment, you might as well go back to your cubicle and call the help desk.  You will never be able to take advantage of what I'm about to teach you if you can't muster the courage to bitch-slap your PC now and then.  I can promise you'll make mistakes.  I may even guide you in the wrong direction purposely or otherwise.  So, saddle up, lock and load and don't be afraid to "gonzo" it now and then!  Believe me, no one has ever been injured from typing the wrong command at the DOS prompt!  If you follow step #2 above, the worst that can happen is you'll have to spend an hour restoring your machine.

Copyright 2008, Gooly Hawk Media LLC