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Look, not everyone is a computer genius. I know that. The computer guy who hates you knows that. I'm sure that when cars came out, the first generation of owners needed to have a working knowledge of the engine so they could fix it when it started flinging horse shit out of the radiator every 17 feet (I don't know how old cars work). Then as cars became more common, not everyone had the time or the skill for that, so "mechanic" became a viable job. But you still needed to know how to put air in the tires and gas in the tank, and how to get bloodstains out of the trunk.

Every tech monkey will tell you it's the same with computers. If you have a parent, grandparent, or child just getting into computers for the first time, do the world a favor and teach them these basic misconceptions before you end up getting the call to come over and clean the horse shit out of their processor (I assume processors work like old cars).

"This Computer-Boosting Software Can't Be a Scam -- I Saw It on TV!"

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You know how you keep telling your mom that those pop-up virus scanners and late night TV commercials are scams? The ones that claim that they can make your computer faster and get rid of the evil plague of viruses that inhabit all computers at all times? You know, like this one:

And you know how, as many times as you've told her that these are scams, she just keeps falling for it over and over, telling you that she knows it's a legitimate program because it found things that were wrong with her computer and then fixed them for her? And how she believes that it's against the law for commercials to bold-faced lie to their potential customers? I need you to bring her to the computer right now and have her read the following message:

That program didn't find or fix jack shit. You're wrong, and the person who's been warning you about those programs is more right than you will ever be about any subject as long as you live. Listen to the person showing you this paragraph, because I cannot stress enough how incredibly right they are and how catastrophically, embarrassingly wrong you are.

Those programs are purposely designed to be deceitful -- to trick you into thinking that it discovered hundreds or even thousands of "infected" files on your system, all while pumping actual bad files into what could very well be a perfectly clean computer. The way they make their money is by tricking you into thinking you have problems, showing you a fake report loaded with lots of red text and X's ...

Via Arstechnica.com
"But I just bought the computer! How could- oooooohhh."

... and then charging you $40 ("Activate Your Software" in the above image) to "fix" the "problems."

One thing you are correct about, Mom, is that it is as illegal as a child fuck to practice deceptive advertising in this manner. And these sorts of companies have already built reputations as con artists and pieces of shit, and courts have already had to step in and shut down their advertisements, if only temporarily.

They will use any means necessary to get your money and personal information. The only reason they haven't broken into your house and directly stolen your purse is because they aren't just criminals ... they're lazy fuckheads who can't even bother getting their fat asses out of their own chairs in order to steal. No, your computer probably didn't have viruses. It had a dishonest program on it, choking the life out of your system. And you paid money for it.

Good rule of thumb: If the program starts with "My," it's probably a piece of shit scam.

"But," you'll interject ...

"My Computer Is Slow. It Has to Be a Virus!"


The problem here is that people use the word "virus" to mean "bad program doing weird things to my computer," but there are some important distinctions to make, because they have different solutions. If you do have a nasty virus -- an actual virus -- there's an excellent chance you'll need to get help from a professional. But what you probably have is much easier to fix.

If I've fixed 500 computers in my life, I can count on one hand how many of them had an actual "virus." The rest were all malware, an overload of spyware, or a Trojan horse, all of which are much easier to remove.

Usually with a sort of chopping motion.

And yes, even you can do it, Grandma! I know I just made you afraid of free "fix my computer" software, but there are some that not only are safe to download, but are really must-haves: Spybot and Malwarebytes. Download, follow the instructions, and they'll give your computer a much-needed bullshit enema. There's a good chance your "virus" will flush right out, without having to bother any of your more tech-savvy friends.

"But I'm computer illiterate. What if I mess someth-"

Just run the goddamn fucking programs! It cannot be easier than how I've just made it for you. It's time to stop annoying your children or grandchildren and start learning this shit for yourself. I'm asking you to click a few buttons ... the same thing that some of you pay a "computer guy" hundreds of dollars to do. Once you click those, it really is as easy as just walking away while the scanners do their thing. When you come back later, you'll see another button that says something like "Fix this bullshit." Click that bitch, and you're done. Then the next time your younger "computer genius" relative comes over, you can say, "I learned how to fix the computer myself. I finally realized that you're just a dumbass who knows how to use Google. Your computer skills ain't shit, asshole. Get out of my house, you worthless fraud. You bring our family nothing but shame."

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"Just ... don't even look at me. You make me sick."

Now, if you are unlucky enough to get an actual virus (which can do anything from hijacking your whole system to turning it into a useless brick), those can take some research and a little more than average skill, because some viruses can be particularly nasty. If that's the case, you may be forced to call your relative again and sweet talk your way past their previous memories of you being a condescending prick to them. And even then, you may be saying ...

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"It Can't Be a Virus -- I Have an Antivirus Program!"

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There are several problems I've run into concerning antivirus programs over the years. The first is more of a user problem: They think that just because they have an antivirus, they cannot get a virus. I understand why some people would think this, especially newer users. Hell, the name of the program itself implies that it stops all threats. Every last one of them makes itself out to sound like a goddamn laser-guided military defense system, so why wouldn't people give it their trust?

The truth is that, yes, they are very good at protecting against viruses that already exist and are in their updated databases. But it is physically impossible to protect against all of them because there are viruses that exist right now that didn't exist when you started reading this article. They cannot just scan a download, spot a virus like a hidden gun in an airport X-ray machine, and pull it out of that program's butthole, making a champagne cork popping sound. Nor can it just "read the code," as one of my friends once put it, identify how it will act when installed, and then modify that code to remove the threat.

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OK, settle down there, chief. It's not quite Minority Report just yet.

The second major problem I've found is that people have been led to believe that the best antivirus is one that you pay for. And I've found many cases where the person thought that the McAfee or Norton that came with their computer was the only option. When they find out that there are many free alternatives, they automatically think it's a scam, because nothing is free, right? And that's when irony spin kicks my dick clean off of my body and then picks it up and tries to fuck me with it.

The truth is, there are very few times when someone just randomly gets a virus or a Trojan out of the blue. It almost always comes from places like porn sites or ones that offer free programs like games, screen savers, and modification tools that turn your mouse into a kitten with hearts and rainbows shooting out of its asshole.

Just doing a basic Google Search on the program you're about to download will give you a pretty damn good heads up on whether it's legit or about to take a shit in your hard drive. For instance, you're trying to install Dick Flopwhip Penis Poker when the "Next" screen tells you that it will install a toolbar called MyWebSearch. Eh, it's just a toolbar, right? But just to be sure, you Google it:

When most (or all) of the results outside of the program's own website are nothing but people giving you instructions on how to unfuck your computer, it's probably best to just skip this one.

"I Deleted a Bunch of Stuff, but My Computer Is Still Slow"

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This is one of the most common things I hear from people with computer problems -- especially people who learned how to fix computer problems back in the 1990s and never really updated their bag of computer-fixing tricks. The system starts running slower than normal, or it's taking longer to start up than it used to, so in response, they delete a bunch of photos and music and are just baffled when it doesn't fix the problem. So then they'll uninstall a bunch of programs that they barely use, and their confusion and frustration just escalate. So their next step is to call you up and ask you to wipe it for them and start with a clean hard drive.

Please stop doing that.

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Also, that's not how you do it.

I think this is specifically people who have had computers since Windows 98 or before. Back then, PCs used a series of tricks to use the hard drive to make the system faster by basically treating the hard drive as more RAM. If the hard drive got too full, everything slowed down. So anybody who remembers those days still thinks that cleaning up the hard drive speeds up the computer. Technology, fortunately, has moved on. For my older readers, it's like when you used to have to masturbate your horse to get him going and then hang a severed horse vagina in front of his face in order to get him to sprint. But with modern horse technology, you just have to get on him and punch his neck a few times. In other words, unless you fill it to the point that it physically has no room to store even one more file, your hard drive space does not affect your computer speed in any discernible way.

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What the fuck is wrong with you?

In most of the cases -- and we're talking about a high 80s to low 90s percentage -- the slowness is caused by spyware and malware. And like we talked about earlier, the fix is so simple, anyone can do it. If you're having this problem, go do that right now.

Of course, it could just be that your computer is an old piece of shit. In which case, you could find yourself saying something like ...

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"I'll Save Some Money and Just Upgrade My Old Computer"

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I mentioned in another article that your computer getting slower with time doesn't necessarily mean anything is wrong with it. Over time, the programs and operating system that you use will require updates, and each of these updates will make those programs bulkier and harder to pull -- like potato chips do to your ass. So even if you haven't changed your personal usage of the machine, it's still going to demand bigger and better components. But here's where things get kind of confusing, and by confusing I mean "enraging to the point of inventing new forms of aggravated assault that not even the police had seen before."

So, first your nephew suggests that you "upgrade the memory," and for a few hundred dollars he agrees to graciously do that for you. But when you get it back, it's no faster than it was before. Did that little fucker just rip you off?

Maybe, but here is where you find out that sometimes upgrading does absolutely nothing. It has to do with what computer-savvy types call bottlenecks in the system. In short, it means the computer is often only as fast as its slowest part. So you can have the Geek Squad upgrade your "RAM" or "video card" or "nanovector money disintegrator" and find out that you're still slow because the old-ass processor is still there (imagine that old and busted processor as the thin end of a funnel -- no matter how much urine you piss into the cone, it can only allow so much to exit at one time).

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You disgusting little bastard.

So, you tell them to upgrade the processor, but they explain that they can't, because the "motherboard" can't handle a larger one. So, you tell them to replace the motherboard, and then they explain that this means your new RAM and video card will no longer work, because they were only compatible with the old motherboard, so you're effectively starting over. Here is where you do the math and realize that the "cheap" upgrade has turned into a Vietnam-style quagmire that's now costing you more than what you'd have paid for an entirely new computer. Moments like these are generally the time where you separate the good friends (the ones who hold your arms down so you'll stop punching yourself in the face) from the bad (the ones who film it and put it on YouTube, using their much more awesome computers).

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Friends, children ... whatever.

Here is where you may break down and buy a brand new computer. It's a good feeling -- you spent a lot of money, sure, but at least you know you've left that old mess behind.

So, you get it home and turn it on, only to realize that something is even more wrong with it. All of the controls are gone -- all of the stuff you used to click on to make it work, even the "shut down" button, are just ... gone. All of the buttons in the upper right of your window -- the "X" and "-" buttons your kids showed you how to use 15 years ago -- have vanished, and in fact so has the window itself. Even the "start" button in the lower left that let you access everything is gone. Unfortunately, you have been infected with a piece of malicious software called Windows 8, and not only did you just unintentionally pay for it, but it will cost you another couple hundred dollars to get your local computer shop to remove it. And here is when you realize that all of this is just an elaborate prank meant to teach you to be satisfied with what you have in life, because you just couldn't leave well enough alone.

John is a columnist right here on Cracked. So suck it. If you'd like for him to tell you to suck it on Twitter or Facebook, click those links.

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