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How not to ask for computer help

January 3, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has gone to sleep with their computer working fine and woke up to find that the computer has rebooted to a black screen and no amount of reboots will change that.  Most of the time you’re left thinking “wtf?” and probably ready to launch your computer across the room because well……it makes no damn sense. 

I’m pretty much the only one of my friends or family who has gone to school for computers so whenever someone has a computer issue they call me and it generally goes like this:

Me: “Why are you calling me at 6am?”
Them: “My computer is broke/f’d up”
Me: “What’s it doing?”
Them: “nothing, what should I do?”

At this point it’s kind of obvious what they should do, give me a damn hint as to what nothing entails.  Is the computer not getting power? If so, it could be the obvious, not plugged in or not turned on or it could be the power supply.  Describing the issue by just saying “nothing” could get you throttled if you interrupted my sleep  just to give me some half assed explanation. 

I understand most people probably aren’t going to be able to go into the technical details of a computer problem which is fine, but at least try to paint a picture for the person you’re asking. Tell the person “the lights are on, but it just goes to a black screen” or whatever the problem is, try to be as specific as possible.  Another thing, if you call the person for help and the first thing they try does not work, don’t get all pissed off.  If it was easy to fix computers you wouldn’t have called for help.  This goes both ways, if you’re the person trying to help, don’t spout off a bunch of commands real fast or talk in all tech jargon and then get irritated that the person is having a hard time following along.

Another thing I seem to run into a lot with my friends, they want my help but as soon as I start saying something they interrupt with “oh I tried that and it won’t work”.  Oh really?  So you didn’t ever hear of an IP Address until I mentioned it, but you knew to run IPConfig from the command prompt (“oh you didn’t know how to get to a command prompt?”).  If the person is asking you to do something, even if you did try it, maybe there is something they need that you didn’t know to look for or realize was important, it’s a process please let us try what has worked for us!  If you did attempt to fix the problem yourself, feel free to let us know ahead of time, it could save everyone time or the results could point to something that may have been overlooked. 

Please don’t leave things out, it may not seem important to you, but it could be the exact reason/cause for the issues.  I personally run into this whenever a friend or family member has a virus/spyware/malware.  Out of the box, computer probably aren’t going to go out on their own while you’re away and download a bunch of nasty stuff (microsoft updates being the exception).  If you were on a website and all of a sudden all kinds of stuff started happening, good chance that is the reason despite your protests.  I don’t care if you were looking at porn or whatever, just tell me you were on a website when it happened so I don’t have to possibly waste my time trying a bunch of other things. 

Lastly, if all signs point to a virus, don’t argue that your out of date antivirus software would’ve stopped it.  There is a reason why virus companies frequently release updates, there are constantly new virus’ and other nasty things being released. If you’re not up to date then you’re not protected.  Also, while your virus scan runs, I don’t want to stay on the phone the entire time, it’s automated just let it do it’s thing, I don’t need to sit there on the for 40+ minutes getting play by play because chances are, unless you have the dumbest virus in the world, it’s going to take a bit of time before it finds anything, at which point feel free to call back!