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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
Related: 5 Cruel Ways Being Poor Is Expensive
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 ...
Remember What You Were Doing When It Died (And Don't Delete Your Fucking History)
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 ...
You May Be Losing Some Things That You Love
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.