Bad websites aren't the only things that screw up a computer. At any given moment, there are dozens of programs running quietly in the background, all written by different companies, telling your computer to do different things. If one of them is telling your system, "At the next stoplight, make a right," and you plug in an MP3 player that tells it, "At the next stoplight, make a left," your computer freaks out. This happens all the time, and it's not your fault.
However, when you bring it in for repair, and the guy asks you what happened, you can't just tell them, "It was working fine one minute, and the next minute it just got all stupid." You'd be more helpful by just staring at them in cold, dead silence. You need to let them know exactly what you were doing when it flipped out. Did you turn on your printer? Did you plug something in? Did you remove something? Did you accidentally spin-kick it during ninja training?
Maybe you thought it was a spider?
As I mentioned earlier, knowing what you were doing with the computer at the exact moment of its demise eliminates several hours of work. It's for this reason that you need to keep your browsing history intact.
Any time we see that the history has been cleared the day it was brought in, the first thing we think is, "Porn." That gives us a general direction to go, but it's only a guess, and that is about the worst way to dive into a fix. What generally happens is that we take a shot in the dark and it turns up a dead end. So we have to start from scratch with a brand new guess, which again leads to nothing. In most cases, if we know what we're dealing with, we could have your computer back in your hands so fast that you could have it fucked up again by dinner time. Instead, we have to experiment over and over until we whittle down to the source through a process of elimination, and your bill ends up being five times more than it should have been.
"No, I'm not as concerned with the downloaded music as I am all the horse-fucking websites."
But aside from just finding out what the problem is, if we know where it came from, we can warn you so you don't have to go through this again. "The problem was that your phone wasn't compatible with Windows, so we updated the drivers and it works fine now." In the case of malware, many people acquire these problems completely oblivious as to how it happened, no porn involved at all. Hell, maybe they're really into knitting, and they frequent a mittens-making community where a banner ad dropped a piece of rogue software onto their system. Even if they didn't click on it. By tracking down the source, we can warn the person to either stay away from that site completely or to let the site's owner know of the problem so they can get the ad or its network removed. Otherwise, a return trip to the repair shop is inevitable, and those bills are going to just keep stacking up.
"Oh, hey, welcome back! By the way, thank you so much for paying off my house this year."
"Hold on, you dirty motherfucker," some of you will scream in a fit of rage and panic. "That's my favorite website, and I'll see your entire family dead before I stop going there!" OK, you might want to sit down for this one, because it's hard for some people to accept that ...
I used to have an aunt who was the sweetest woman in the world. She had virtually no vices to speak of -- she didn't drink, smoke or even curse. But that 60-year-old woman loved the shit out of poker. She loved it so much that she bought a computer specifically because one of her sons told her that she could play online for free, which would eliminate any worries of her running away to Vegas and having to blow mobsters to pay off her unfathomable gambling debts.
Anyone who has used a computer for more than four seconds knows what happened next. Within a matter of days, her computer became an $800 paperweight. Knowing I was a computer guy, she called me, and while cleaning up the mess I explained that I'd have to uninstall her new poker game, and that all of the online versions she played would also have to be avoided. She sadly agreed, and we got everything back to normal. But the upside was that I was able to track down another clean poker game for her, and that made her happy again.
One week later, I got another call. Same problem. When I started the cleanup again, I saw that she had been frequenting five completely new poker sites -- all of them dumping the same malware into her hard drive. When I brought it up, she explained, "The one we put on there last week wasn't very good, so I found new ones."
That exact situation is the problem with new computer users, and it's not entirely their fault. When you turn on the television, you can flip to any channel you want without worrying that the show is going to break your TV. You can go through every radio station on the dial knowing that you're not going to land on one that forces your speakers to play nothing but commercials and randomly switches back to that station without your input. No device or broadcast on the planet does that -- except computers.
"I told you not to type on that keyboard! What are you, crazy?"
It's unthinkable that randomly clicking on links would break the very thing that was designed to let you click links. That visiting websites would prevent you from visiting other websites. That playing the wrong game could cripple your computer so badly that it prevents you from being able to play even that game. Everything a person knows about the normal world is turned upside-down on the Internet, and it takes some training and education before you can dive in and start clicking things.
Yep. That's a totally good idea that will not bite you in the ass in any way.
It's going to turn out that some of the things you love are the very things that are causing your computer problems, and the only way to fix it is to completely remove those programs. There is no other way around it. Those programs are specifically designed to be fun and interesting because that's what keeps you from uninstalling it, hence stopping the malware from funneling in. But unless you accept it and let us do what we need to do, you're going to be back in that repair shop every week until you have to start blowing us like mobsters to pay your unfathomable computer repair debt.
For more Cheese, check out 8 Scenes That Prove Hollywood Doesn't Get Technology and 6 Things Our Kids Just Plain Won't Get.