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I'm going to try one more way to address this. How come you can't ask,

  • Does $x exist?

But you can ask,

  • How do I do $x?

The question,

  • Do any 4TB single-sided NVME drives exist?

Is subject to the answer being "no" and the answer "yes" will require a specific example of existence for qualification and acceptance.

However, Is that not also true of many questions in the form?

  • "How do I .."

In most instances, if you're asking an unbounded "how" you don't know that it can be done. You're assuming it can be done. Moreover, it's not tied to a product you're going to open the the answers up to demonstrating how this can be done, using usually an unspecified tool... Examples,

This isn't all the questions: it's a very enumerated list. And it doesn't include questions that omit the "how do I" and leave it implicit,

While slightly awkward in English if,

  • How do I download all Flickr sets/images?

is acceptable and open to suggestions of products that may fit that function, if they exist. Would this be acceptable,

  • How do I upgrade my laptop's NVME hard drive past 4 GB, none of the drives fit?

As it would also only be solved with at least a suggestion of a product that may fit the needs I have?

1 Answer 1


The primary distinction between a "How do I?" question and a "Shopping or software recommendation" is, I believe, in the possible answers:

"How do I? / How to" questions can be answered with:

  • Directions for doing so with tools/features already available in the OS or product being asked about.

  • "It absolutely can't be done." Negative answers aren't preferable, but sometimes necessary. They should have supporting detail on why the user feels that there is no technical reason that the task can be accomplished.

  • It can't be done in the product, but it's possible with the use of [xyz] product/tool/download.

  • While it can be done in the product, a recommendation that [xyz] product/tools/download may be better or make things easier.

  • Etc.

The preferable (and common) answer is simply an explanation of how to use the existing features of the product the accomplish the task.

Then there are product recommendation questions, which can pretty much only be (usefully) answered with:

  • Yes, [xyz] does that.
  • No, that's not physically or technically possible.

I proposed, in my answer to your other question that these were the only possible answers to your closed question.

Would this be acceptable,

How do I upgrade my laptop's NVME hard drive past 4 GB, none of the drives fit?

I really don't think so. "[N]one of the drives fit" -- You're saying that the drive(s) you've tried so far (product options) don't fit. It's still implicit that you are looking for an alternative product which will fit. As far as I can see, that's still the only logical outcome of the proposed revised wording. And that still runs afoul of the "shopping/product recommendations" rule.

Side note -- You'll almost always find examples of questions that weren't closed, but probably should have been, at least on most Stack Exchange sites.

The Flickr question you mention, for instance, would be useful (and on-topic) as a "How to", but it's actually about how to do something in a web site/application. IMHO, it should have been asked on the WebApps Stack and closed here.

Side note 2 -- Sometimes questions are closed because the wording, "What's the best way to ..." leads people to believe that it is an opinion question, when these questions can be "fixed" by replacing that phrase with "How do I ...", without changing the meaning of the question.

IMHO, we should, as a community, make that simple edit to those questions rather than close them.

  • Your response seems to boil down to a "how can I" can be restricted to a product and thus exclude suggestions of other products". Which is true. But it doesn't answer the question which explicitly says most instances, if you're asking an unbounded "how". The question here is what to do in those instances. Commented Aug 18, 2022 at 4:58
  • I'm asking for a principle but one which can be applied to unrestricted "how" questions: superuser.com/questions/66948/… is a great example with 500k views. Commented Aug 18, 2022 at 4:58
  • @EvanCarroll Please don't use 13 year old questions as examples. The way we do things now is not the same as 13 years ago. In any case there is nothing wrong with that question.
    – DavidPostill Mod
    Commented Aug 18, 2022 at 5:47
  • I agree there is nothing wrong with it: that's the point. There is nothing wrong with a question that can only be answered by using a product or service unknown at the time of asking, but fundamental to any potential answer. re: Do any 4TB single-sided NVME drives exist? Commented Aug 18, 2022 at 14:27

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