5 Things You Should Know Before Trying to Fix Your Computer

I come from an era where computers were designed for geeks and geniuses. Without the Internet, their only practical uses were data storage, being a really expensive word processor and being a kickass solitaire machine. Growing up in that mindset, you learned to fix computers because there wasn't much else to do with them. But now that they're a common fixture in pretty much every household, it's kind of ridiculous to expect everyone to know how to fix them. There are computer guys for that, just like there are mechanics to change the oil in your car or leather workers to repair your sex whips.

So I guess I shouldn't really be surprised when I find people today -- smart people who know their way around the Internet -- who don't know what to do when their computer flips out and starts shouting racial slurs at them. If you're one of those people, pay attention, because what I'm about to tell you can save you hundreds of dollars. Before you pack up your injured porn machine and drive it to the local repair shop, understand that ...

#5. Two Free Programs Could Fix the Whole Damn Thing

Computer people, tell me if this sounds familiar: A friend calls you in a panic because every time they "do the Internet" they get booted out to a spam website completely at random. Their homepage has changed, too, and they need you to come over and "wipe it." You recognize it as some simple hijacking malware, so you tell them, "Oh, that's an easy fix. Just download Malwarebytes and Spybot Search and Destroy, and run them. It'll be fixed with virtually no effort on your part."

But no matter what you tell them, they absolutely refuse to just click the download button. They want you to put your day on hold, drive over to their house and click the four buttons required to fix the problem because they are convinced that this is something that requires a high level of expertise. Nothing you say can change their mind, even though in your head the voices are screaming, "JUST CLICK THE GODDAMN BUTTON! CLICK IT, YOU SON OF A BITCH!"

It's right there, for the love of God!

Finally, they realize that you don't want to spend your day sitting in their living room waiting for a two-hour scan to complete, so they give in and say, "It's no big deal. I'll just take it to a repair shop and have them wipe it." Wait, what? You don't have to wipe it. It's a simple fix. Just download the programs and click the goddamn button, you son of a bitch! Click it! Instead, you grit your teeth and tell them, "I'll be over in an hour."

If any of this is going over the heads of people who aren't computer savvy, let me explain. Malware are programs distributed by dickwad companies that get downloaded and installed to your computer, usually without your knowledge. They can be attached to other seemingly innocent programs like Weatherbug, screen savers or a simple flash game. They can also be embedded right into the website you're visiting, so that simply looking at their page infects your computer. If your computer's problem is that it's running slow or spawning popups or redirecting you to another website at random, this is most likely the cause. And it's fixable without you having to pay some guy $200 to do it for you. Wiping your computer is not the solution because the actual fix takes half as long, and you don't lose any of your files in the process.

Oh, hey, look! The problem is solved, and all I had to do was click "fix"!

The awesome thing is that the repair programs are totally free, so if they don't work, you've lost nothing. You'll get a billion nerds telling you a billion different programs to use, because nerds are annoying elitists who need to shut the fuck up, but the ones I linked above are the ones that I've had a 100 percent success rate using. And neither one charges you a goddamn penny. Just download them, install them and run them. Just ... click the goddamn button. Please? Using them is as easy as following the directions on a microwave pizza. Everything is streamlined because it's written for average people who consistently get themselves into computer trouble. "Click here. Now click here. Now sit back and let the program do its thing."

Or you could, you know, take it to a guy who will do the same exact thing, except charge you $200.

No! All you have to do is just click the- ah, fuck it.

You're not going to mess it up. Get your damn hands dirty and fix that bastard. The things you learn by repairing your own machine will save you thousands of dollars worth of repairs in your lifetime. However, if you do find a problem that's over your head, you'll sometimes find that the repair shop is unavoidable. If that's the case, know that ...

#4. It's Going to Be Expensive as Hell

That sounds obvious, doesn't it? Believe me, it's not to many people.

Before you pick up the phone, tell the person that your computer "is being stupid" and ask how much it's going to cost to fix it, know that the reason their response will sound muffled is because they're talking through gritted teeth while flipping off the phone. It's impossible to give an exact diagnosis over the phone for the same reasons that your doctor couldn't tell that you have bronchitis without first running a few tests. But with the right information, they can give you a couple of scenarios and at least a ballpark estimate of each.

This is important, because hourly rates vary dramatically from shop to shop. I've heard prices range from $40 to $150 per hour. If your local shop falls into those higher rates and your repair is going to take three or four hours, you're now talking about a bill that's equal to a brand new tower. Yep, from time to time it's actually cheaper to buy a whole new system. And that is a very real decision you're going to have to make. "Do I repair the one I have, or is it smarter to just buy a completely new machine?"

Sadly, the garbage can is worth more.

I talked in another article about how your 5-year-old machine is basically worthless now, and this is something that very few people are prepared to hear. It seems downright unfair that the system you paid a thousand dollars for just a few years ago has been reduced to the price of the scrap metal inside it, but that's the way the computer world works. So now it's down to some simple math.

If your current computer is worth 50 bucks and the problem is a fried hard drive, is it worth spending $100 on a new one? More importantly, how long do the rest of your components have before they are obsolete? Are you about to drop that much money on a hard drive, only to be forced into buying a brand new system next year? Ask the tech if the repair they're about to perform boils down to polishing a turd.

"Wait, this is a joke, right? Did Chad put you up to this?"

I can't tell you how many times I've seen a person sink 300 bucks into a repair when they could have spent the same amount for a lower end tower that is actually more powerful than the one they just fixed. Remember, you already have working components that don't need to be replaced: mouse, keyboard, monitor, etc. When you strip all of that out of the overall price and just look at the cost of the tower alone, you'll be surprised how cheap it is.

But in order to even reach the point of making that decision, they're going to need some detailed information. And none of their ballpark estimates will mean jack shit if you're not willing to ...

#3. Be Honest With the Repair Person

If you've ever seen the show House, you know that they regularly bring up an interesting phenomenon we do as humans that just destroys any chance we have at helping others: "Everybody lies." Any person who has ever worked at a job fixing things can tell you that it's absolutely true, and it is the most frustrating thing in the world to computer techs.

The thing is, there is nothing you can do on a computer that we haven't already seen a thousand times. We know people watch porn -- hell, three-fourths of all repairs I've ever made have been because of bad porn sites. I've seen a computer overheat because the person stuffed a bag of weed inside the case and the plastic got caught in the fan. I've seen a tower infested with roaches, and another that got infected with a virus because a little fuckhead kid was trying to learn how to make and distribute one.

I like to picture him doing it like this because, as well all know, this is what hackers look like.

Yet people are still afraid to come clean with what they were doing when things went to shit, opting instead to say, "I don't know. I was using it just fine one minute, and the next thing I knew it just went crazy on me, out of the blue!" They're afraid to simply tell us what happened because nobody wants to be blamed. Like they're afraid we'll look at them differently or scold them for being so stupid.

The truth is (aside from the oddball cases I just mentioned), almost everybody does exactly what you were doing. The reason repair guys have a job in the first place is because people continually mess up their computers by going to bad websites, downloading screen savers, opening spam emails, installing questionable games and using torrent sites without knowing how to spot the bad shit.

Have the people at Photos.com ever actually seen a goddamn computer?

By not being honest about how your computer got screwed in the first place, you're adding additional time to the repair process. Because now the tech has to track down the source of the problem to make sure it's not coming from a file buried in the system that will simply respawn the same problems once the symptoms have been alleviated. And that translates into more money that you'll be paying because you'd rather keep your poop fetish to yourself. Wanna know something scary? In the process of fixing the computer, they're going to find out anyway.

Awwww, that's so cute. Nice try, little buddy.

Trying to cover your tracks by deleting your history and clearing your cache only adds more time to the repair. Which brings me to ...

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