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To be sure, the first editions of these products (as with the first editions of most software products) left much to be desired. Search engines were often clumsy and slow, and the CDs were released only about twice a year. As these products evolved, however, their search engines became more advanced, they included more documents, and they were released more often. And, probably most important, manufacturers began to include software updates, drivers, and patches on the CD.

The Technical Support Website

The technical support CDs were great, but people started to complain (as people are wont to do) that because this information was vital to the health of their network, they should get it for free. Well, that is, in fact, what happened. The Internet proved to be the perfect medium for allowing

network support personnel access to the same information that was on the technical support CD-ROMs. Additionally, websites can be instantly updated and accessed, so they provide the most up-to-date network support information. Since websites are hosted on servers that can store much more information than CD-ROMs, websites are more powerful than their CD-ROM counterparts. Because they are easy to access and use and because they are detailed and current, websites are now the most popular method for disseminating technical support information. As examples, you can view Novell’s technical support website at http:// and Microsoft’s technical support website (Tech-Net, a monthly subscription) at servicedesks/technet/.

Hardware Troubleshooting Tools

In addition to manufacturer-provided troubleshooting tools, there are a few hardware devices we can use to troubleshoot the network. These are actual devices that you can use during the troubleshooting process. Some devices have easily recognizable functions; others are more obscure. Four of the most popular hardware tools (that the Network+ exam tests you on, by the way) are:

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