A Layman’s Guide to Fixing Computer Problems for Family & Friends

computer repair 1Are you the local go-to person for family and friends whenever they are experiencing problems with their computer? It may well be that you are not actually a computer whiz at all, the burden of being even a little bit tech-savvy is that you are automatically elected to the position of ‘Chief Computer Fixer-Upperer’. It’s not generally a voluntary position, just one that you inherit simply because you happen to know a little more on the subject than everyone else.

I have previously published articles relating my own encounters with the ‘absolute novice’ brigade, it can be a frustrating and, at times, time consuming exercise. What follows is a few basic tips to help those of you who may be caught up in the role of ‘Local Friendly Computer Repairperson’ (note the politically correct non-gender specific terminology :)):

Hands-on is generally quickest in the end!

You’re sitting watching match of the day on TV, the phone rings, it’s your beloved Mum, she’s having problems with that infernal machine again. You don’t really want to leave the game, maybe you can guide her through whatever is ailing it over the phone. Forget it!! In my experience, in most cases all your going to do is waste more valuable time. If you can’t or don’t want to leave immediately, make arrangements to pop over at a more computer repair helpconvenient time.

Remote-control software can often be of assistance under certain circumstances but it’s generally not much use waiting until the phone call and then expecting the caller to understand how to download, install, and use the software… after all, that’s why they are ringing you in the first place, is it not? Here’s a good plan; as you visit each of your ‘clients’, install your preferred remote-control software on each machine, taking time to carefully run them through the connection process afterward. Now if you want to have a go at fixing a problem over the phone, at least you’ll be in with half a chance.

Recognize your limits!

It’s great to be the hero of the day and receive all the plaudits, but you can also make a rod for your own back by taking on more than you can chew. First rule of working on someone else’s computer… thou shalt not do it any harm. Before you do anything, take time to properly assess the situation and make sure it’s something you are both confident and comfortable dealing with. There is no shame in admitting that something is beyond your capabilities, recognize your own limits and when it might be best to call on professional help. It may well save a lot of time and heartache in the long run.

Start with the basics!

The worst thing you can do is jump in boots and all, trying things in a higgledy-piggledy fashion… you’ll only end up confusing yourself. Formulate a proper plan of attack and start with the basics. You’ll be surprised at how often a simple reboot can remedy a recalcitrant machine. Or how powering off a router or printer for several minutes and then powering back on again can return those devices to full operations. Or how many times a loose or disconnected cable can be the culprit. If, for example, you are dealing with a sluggish or non-existent internet connection, before you start the lengthy process of exploring for system issues and malware infections, power cycle the router and check any cable connections. Start with the simple things first and work your way through in a logical order.

A Loaded Flashdrive is your best friend!

computer repair flashdriveJust like any other repairperson, you should never leave home without an adequate toolkit. There are so many wonderful portable applications to aid with diagnostic and remedial operations, a well equipped flash drive is your essential ally. Make sure you have system-diagnostic programs, software to combat malware infections, file-recovery tools, and any other portable apps that can help with your endeavors. Assemble your very own PC troubleshooting toolkit. One of the best places to start is a collection of over 150 excellent portable tools and utilities included in the brilliant NirLauncher package from NirSoft, available for download here: http://launcher.nirsoft.net/

To further help you on your way, here’s a selection of the main portable tools included in my own flashdrive toolkit:

  • NirLauncher – Of course!
  • SUPERAntiSpyware Portable Scanner Personal Edition – A must have, and one of very few portable malware scanner/removers.
  • Emsisoft Emergency Kit – Includes powerful malware scanner, command-line scanner, HijackFree (similar to Trend Micro HijackThis).
  • Recuva Portable –  Arguably the very best free data recovery utility – from Piriform, makers of the ever popular CCleaner.
  • Everything Portable – Very fast file and folder search tool. I keep this mainly for working with XP where the native search function is very slow.
  • Speccy Portable – System information tool, also from Piriform. Invaluable aid for checking hardware specs/brand/model for possible replacement or associated driver issues.
  • PrivaZer – Superior cleanup utility. No installation required but you need to download the executable and run, then select the option to ‘Create Portable Version’.

Spread the Word!

Last but certainly not least is the need to ‘educate’. There are some wonderful resources available via the net; articles and how-to guides, etc. Not the least of which is here at DCT, where we pride ourselves on producing content suitable even for novice users. Usually complete with pictorial guides (screenshots) as well as easy to comprehend, non-techy type language. Our team of experts is also always ready, willing, and able to help out on the DCT Forum. So, when you come across any helpful articles… you know… just like the hundreds packed into DCT… make it a priority to share them with family and friends. You never know, given enough education, some may even stop ringing you!

About the Author

Jim Hillier

Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele... as well as writing for DCT, of course.

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