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April 13th, 2005

Let’s Talk About Computer Upkeep

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

The first mistake that anyone who can work on computers makes is telling people about it.

Rule #1 - The first rule of Fairly Decent Computer Skills is you do not talk about having fairly decent computer skills.

Rule #2 - The second rule of Fairly Decent Computer Skills is you DO NOT talk about having fairly decent computer skills.

But, really, it's true. Then every Tom, Shane and Elsa who owns a computer but hasn't the foggiest idea what to really do with it will be knocking down your door.

It's sort of like winning the lottery; family members and "friends" you did not know existed will be popping up all of a sudden, "Oh, hey. I heard you can work on computers. I'm your second cousin's boyfriend's mailman's sister's boss's dog walker. Do you think you could look at my computer?"

The hours Baret and I spend of our "free time" building, fixing, and cleaning up other people's computers is absolutely ridiculous. There are at least 2-3 computers at any given time sitting in our apartment waiting to be fixed or being worked on.

Sadly, the main thing we are called upon to do is what is known in the biz as "cleanup". I am honestly appalled at the number of people that bring computers to me infested with viruses and so bogged down in spy/adware that they can barely turn on.

These people do not have virus protection, or are not updating it if they do have it, and don't have the slightest clue what spyware removal is or why they should have it.

When the 'net first became a hotbed for picking up spy/adware, and viruses were just beginning to be a real threat I could understand the average user having no knowledge of these things and not realizing they needed to be protecting themselves from them. But excessive spam, daily scams, spyware, adware, malware, viruses, worms, Trojans, and hijackers are prevalent problems that should be well-known to anyone paying half a mind to the online community buzz. There is no excuse for you not to be aware of these things.

When I scold people for this I usually get the response, "I don't know what's going on with computers. I don't care about that stuff; I don't keep up with the latest news", I want to slap them. Perhaps a year or two ago you didn't need to, but in today's world if you have an active internet connection it is completely ignorant not to be staying abreast of the latest online dangers!

There's no excuse for not knowing what a phishing scam is. There's no excuse for being unwitting enough to click on pop-up ads. There's no excuse for "innocently" opening a suspicious email attachment from someone you don't know. There's no excuse for surfing the Internet without virus protection.

So people don't "get" computers. Okay, fine. But why aren't they taking the time to learn about them? If a computer has become a part of your everyday life and not knowing how to take care of it or protect yourself while on it can cause it to break or stop functioning properly, or get your identity stolen, why wouldn't you try and learn?

It's like having a car and not knowing it needs gas to keep running or that the oil needs changing periodically. If you brought that car to a mechanic, he'd laugh at you. "Why don't you try putting some gas in it?" he'd suggest sardonically. Or "Of course it's broken, you never changed the oil. There's no oil in it."

The computer, I tell people, is not a self-cleaning oven. If you put a lot of nasty stuff in it, it's going to get full of crusty, hard-to-remove junk and it isn't going to work like it's supposed to - if at all. If you do not take the time to run basic maintenance on your pc, it will not be functioning for very long. You will have a dead computer, or one moving so slow it might as well be dead. Then you'll have to dump it off on someone like us to "clean it up" for you. Or worse, you'll have to pay someone to clean your computer and if you get a real dimwitted jackass he may reformat your entire hard drive so that you lose all of your important files and data (there are many geniuses out there that think the only solution to "cleaning up" an infected computer is reformatting - this is always a LAST resort; beware of anyone wanting to do this to your computer and get a second or third opinion before losing everything on your pc). That right there should be reason enough to learn how to keep your computer clean and working properly.

Most of you reading this are fairly computer-savvy, and this really isn't for you. But I'm sure you know exactly the type I'm talking about. Likely, if you've made the mistake of letting people know that you are knowledgeable about even the basics of computers, you, too, are getting calls and questions about fixing and cleaning.

For those that aren't in the know, and for those that are and would like something to give to the unknowing, I offer you my write-up of basic computer upkeep. Print it out - pass it on to someone who can use it.

I already know one person who fell for a phishing scam (her entire bank account was cleared out in less than a day) and one person whose identity was stolen. Again, there's no excuse for not being aware of these dangers - if these two people had taken the time to learn about the risks of being online neither of them would have been scammed. I have saved countless computers from a virus-malware-ridden death. Had their users performed simple and basic maintenance, they never would've come to that state.

Be aware and be knowledgeable about your equipment. That's all I ask.

Shanna's Basic Computer Upkeep & Online Safety Information.

(The file is in .pdf format)

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