How I Fix Your Computer

January 25, 2012 // Tagged in: technology

Preface: This post is intended not to be unique or original material, and I am well aware that much of this information is located elsewhere on the internet. Read this only if you're interested in understanding a little bit more about how I troubleshoot and fix basic computer problems, or if you just enjoy my writing.

People come to me with a slew of problems when they are having a computer issue. These problems can be broken down into categories, which I can generally ascertain in the first minute of describing the problem. These categories are as follows, with examples:

  1. How-to/Need - Setting up a router - Backing up a computer - Upgrading a computer (software or hardware) - Buying a new computer
  2. Something is broken/not working as expected - Printer not working - Peripheral disconnection (mouse/keyboard/wifi) - Computer freezing or very slow
  3. I have a virus - "It just started happening" / "I didn't even touch it" / "I have no idea" - "I visited a website that I've never used or heard of before" (I've never had anyone honest enough to tell me this)

There are a series of steps that I follow for each and every problem that you come to me with. The steps vary based on my experience with your problem, and the category into which they fall. The first step for every category is as follows:

  1. Google

I kid you not, I google everything. Even if I don't google something in one particular case, you can believe that I have googled it in the past. If you've got a computer problem, chances are others (and if you're inexperienced with computers - many people) have had this problem. Because of Google's ability to crawl forums, message boards, Q&A sites and blogs, most of this information is a quick search away. Figuring out what to search for isn't always easy; I'll talk about google-fu in another post.

Subsequent steps for your need broken down by category:


Chances are I've had this need for myself in the past, and if not, I've helped a family member with it. I draw upon previous experience (and the previous google search) to fulfill the need. I make recommendations on purchases based on experience with purchases.

There's not really any magic going on here. Just like you become accustomed to figuring out where to buy the cheapest clothes, or how to cook a certain recipe, I learn and remember these things with electronics and software.

If you'd like me to blindly hook you up, or if you'd like me to explain to you the process and my reasons, I would be glad to accommodate (although, be warned - I am much more willing to help you if you're willing to learn. I am very much against willful ignorance, especially in the case of technologies that are becoming crucial to business and day to day life for many people).

Something's Broken/Not Working as Expected

I Have a Virus

If you have a true-positive identification of a virus, then kudos. Some viruses (many of the worst, in my opinion) disguise themselves as ANTI-Virus. They directly tell you that you are infected with a virus, when in fact, they are the virus. Their motive is to elicit payment in order to buy the software to remove the virus. Never pay for this. (On a side note, never pay for any anti-virus. If you've got a "free trial" of an antivirus like MacAffee or Norton, just remove it, and install Microsoft Security Essentials). Other viruses are harder to identify, and some general computer problems are confused with viruses on occasion.

Here's how I remove it.

There is no catch-all solution to general IT/computer problems. Many problems are indeed unique, and I cannot fix everything. However, many things I've experienced before, and many things I am able to figure out using Google. So that's it. I'm not a magician, I just have a skill set. If you're willing to learn about it, I'm even more willing to help (sidenote: If you're willing to fix my car, I'll sure take the time to learn about what you're doing).