when your PC needs help

All of us love it when we make a customer happy. Bringing a computer back from the brink of death or saving files and pictures that the customer thought were lost forever gives us a rush. Conversely, we all feel bummed when we have to give a customer bad news. That’s why they usually make me do it.  It’s unpleasant but stuff happens. Hard drives fail, files disappear, Windows corrupts, hackers can turn your PC into their “bitch” and international crime networks can kidnap your PC and hold it for ransom.

When computers need work, the fact that it cost money is bad enough, but it’s far worse when important data, files or applications disappear. Replacing components that fail or even replacing an entire computer is fairly inexpensive and easy these days, but how do you replace a lifetime of family pictures or letters from a departed loved one. Small business owners rely on their PC to keep financial and customer contact records. Forms, business applications and other critical information needed to run the business are available only on the PC. The IRS requires small businesses and individuals to keep years of records in the event they are chosen for an audit.

The point is that the programs and data files that resides on our computer hard drives are often far more valuable to us than the computer itself. There is no way to predict when your computer will fail but there are many ways to ensure that whatever happens to your PC, your data will be safe. “Do it yourself” data storage on back-up drives, DVDs or flash drives can be somewhat effective, but those who rely on them must take precautions and constantly monitor the results to be sure these devices are working properly. The easiest, surest and safest way to ensure your data files are “cloud” based storage services like “Carbonite.”  For less than sixty dollars a year you can relax knowing that your data files are safe. Sign up, sit back and relax in the secure knowledge that your files are safe and that no further effort on your part is required.

Eventually something on your PC will fail. Most hardware problems won’t affect your data or usage patterns. Two failure modes will. If your hard drive fails or starts to fail or if your Windows OS (Operating System) becomes corrupt, it will often require some changes in the way you do things. It is a lot like getting a new PC. When applications and data files re-loaded, they never look or work exactly the way it looked and worked under the old OS. Most folks can take these changes in stride and adapt but some “freak out.” Many of we seniors underestimate our own ability to learn and adapt and so we react to change with frustration, fear and anger. That type of reaction to change is not limited to seniors.

Reinstalling windows or transferring data to a new PC is done because the old system simply cannot be made to work. There are no other choices. Helping people to adapt to these changes is probably our biggest challenge and what we are best at. Our techs understand frustration and they don’t take it personally. They know that their job is to get you back to where you can use your computer again so they are pretty patient.

Next week we’ll discuss some things that you may have used for years but that will eventually bite you in the butt. A few are Systems Mechanic, AOL, Outlook, Outlook Express and Incredimail.