Once you've figured out the model of your particular Mac, the next thing to do, if you're fortunate enough to have access to the net, is to enter some keywords in Google and see what turns up.
Going back to the case of the Mugsie member who brought over her G4 powermac , I recognized right away that it was a "Quicksilver." The machine would not boot up when I pressed the power button but the button itself was lit. So on a hunch I guessed that it was a PMU (Power Management Unit?) issue and I removed the internal battery and pressed and held the CUDA button located next to the PRAM battery on the motherboard for 10 seconds. The machine booted up after I did that.
Afterwards I went online on my powerbook and typed in Google's seach box, "Quicksilver not booting up" and lo and behold, the top search returned a suggestion to do just what I did --a reset of the CUDA button. (I forget what CUDA means but if you truly need to know, head over to whatis.com and I'm sure it's there with copious amounts of explanation.>
Numerous sites abound where Mac users post their machines ails and how they got help to fix it. Chances are your issues are never unique so it is often times a question of knowing what model computer you have then taking notes of what dialog boxes turn up when the machine misbehaves.
Taking notes of when it occurs and figuring out what certain terms are e.g. "a kernel panic" is and so on will give potential good Samaritans whom you contact on forums a fighting chance to diagnose your problem.Here's a screen shot of what this looks like.
It is also a good idea before you do post your "problem" to search the forums extensively first. And if there is a post which is related and is still active, e.g. Quicksilver not booting up, go ahead and use 'reply' and don't forget to include all the details about your Mac.
Typically you want to make sure you include this info:
The more info you include about your hardware and even your software, the better. When mentioning software or applications, be prepared to cite specifically which version of 10.3 since there are always updates. Version 10.3.4 can make all the difference in the world from version 10.3.9.
Some forums have a ton of posts and others like Mugsie's very own hardly have any. When I set up the forum for our club, I had hopes that members would use it and sort of be a place where we could help out each other or just chat.
I'm still waiting on those very words from "Field of Dreams," "If you build it, they will come... " to ring true.