What to Do If You’ve Lost the Manual for a Gadget or Device

February 13, 2009

in computer hardware,Internet

by Gabe Goldberg

Unless you’re a compulsive packrat — and can prove it with multiple neatly organized file cabinets — you’ll eventually find that a gadget or appliance has separated from its operating instructions. And unless it’s something brick-simple with just On/Off buttons, or you’ve memorized its every esoteric function, you’ll be baffled and frustrated.

Even worse, many products now come with one-page pictures-only “Quick Start” instructions showing how to plug them in or insert batteries, turn them on, and not much else. Perhaps a real manual was delivered on a now-missing CD or a now-forgotten Web URL was given as a clue for help.

Don’t despair! Many manufacturers offer full manuals on their Web sites, easily located and perused online or downloaded for printing or offline reference.

Start your quest by guessing or Googling the manufacturer’s Web site. For example, Googling Oceanus — my watch manufacturer — finds the correct Web site first out of
3,400,000 hits! Clicking Support and then Manual Information takes me to a selection page for watch models. Of course, Googling “oceanus manuals” would have taken me directly to the same selection page, and including the specific watch model would have further refined search results. And as a bonus, the manual downloaded from the Web site is much more convenient to read printed on 8.5″x11″ paper than the nasty included-in-watch-box version with more than a hundred 3.5″x2″ pages!

Online manuals

Online manuals

Similarly, instructions for operating my bargain-basement digital voice recorder are instantly found by Googling “olympus VN-1000se” as is the manual for my recently acquired external hard drive, by simply Googling model number wd5000ml-00 (which also finds the Quick Install Guide, Product Specifications, and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Happily, manufacturers often put online manuals for older products sold before Web research was common. And don’t give up if you can’t find what you need — click a Support or Contact Us link and politely ask about documentation availability. Material is often available by special request — sometimes free, sometimes for a minimal fee. Don’t begrudge paying for a manual — if it lets you continue using something, it’s a bargain compared to buying a replacement!

Gabe Goldberg (tiplet@gabegold.com), a lifelong computer pro and technology communicator, has written three books and hundreds of articles for audiences including techies, baby boomers and senior citizens. He enjoys sharing tips and pointers that help people use and have fun with technology.