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10 Secrets Your IT Guy Won’t Tell You

Everything you need to know to prepare for the day you see the black screen of death.

by
Paula Bolyard

Bio

July 30, 2014 - 10:17 am
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If you own a computer, you’re going to find yourself in need of a “techie” someday. Your computer will slow down and stop working efficiently, or worse, it will crash completely and you’ll be visited by the black screen of death. When that day comes, you’ll call an IT guy (or gal) and hand your computer and all its precious — and very personal — data over to a complete stranger.

I’m not an IT person, but I happen to be married to the guy who gets the computers after all hope is lost — after the local computer shop has told you it can’t be fixed (and after they charged you an exorbitant amount of money for not fixing it). My husband (Gary) has a day job as a programmer and senior systems analyst for a Fortune 500 company, but by night, he becomes the Computer Whisperer, bringing systems back from the abyss. He rarely charges anyone (unless you count the cookies and other treats he receives from grateful friends) but considers it a hobby and a personal challenge to rescue lost computers.  I’ve seen with my own eyes the deep magic of data recovery and the resurrection of a system that had been left for dead, so I’d like to offer a few things I’ve learned from watching him in action these many years.

Here Are 10 Secrets Your IT Guy Won’t Tell You:

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Top Rated Comments   
My way:
CCleaaner and UltimateDefrag once a week.
Data on its own partition.
I don't let anything startup auto unless I want or need it to.
Pagefile - If I need one, I manage its size.
Pay attention when you install software. Don't let it do you any "favors"; say no to all the free offers. Set a restore point before you install software.
Use Chrome or Mozilla or anything BUT Internet Explorer. More and more sites just don't bother coding for Explorer compatibility.
All in all, my experience with Windows 7 (64 bit) has been excellent. It has almost caught up with BeOS.



16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Almost Anything Is Recoverable.
Except Lois Lerner and other IRS agents' emails to the White House.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
(6) "...they’re desperate to retrieve their pictures or their half-finished term paper (because they’ve never heard of this magical thing called the cloud)"

Screw the cloud.
Well, actually, use the cloud if you want to, but don't trust it, ever. Buy a bunch of flash drives. They're cheap, easy to use and they're **yours**, not the property of some faceless IT entity somewhere. And the data on them is always there, even if your ISP provider is down.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (35)
All Comments   (35)
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Good article, but here's a couple more tips:

Build your own computer. The little bit of research and buying quality parts will provide you a machine that is as capable as you need, with very good documentation of the key components. You'll understand what you have in your computer, why you have it, and will understand when/if you should upgrade. Most of the manufacturers have forums where folks will be able to assist with any issues you have, because many have also had them.

As for recovery, going all the way back to DOS, deleting a file simply changes the first character of the file so the computer OS no longer lists it. It's just there, and the OS now knows the space is available to be overwritten. Lots of programs, some even free downloads (may even be able to undelete in the OS you're using), that will go through and find the deleted files and then recover them by changing the chartacter back to something the OS will now allow it to recognize as a file.
My FIL inadvertantly deleted all the pictures on a card from his European vacation. MIL was p&*(&d. He didn't damage the card, just hit delete on the camera. I figured the delete system was the same as for a computer and told him to go to a data recovery place. They told him it would be weeks and cost $500 to start!! So he didn't use them. Next time he visited me he had the card with him. So, I went to www.zdnet.com, found a free download and in about 15mins had all ~350 images recovered.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Forgot-- another benefit of building your own computer is you have a full physical copy of the operating system. That OS has a lot of repair tools you can use when the computer goes belly to the sky, and it doesn't have all the extra bloatware that a lot of comupter manufactures put on their computer.

Similarly, most laptops don't have a physical copy of the OS. So make a recovery disk. MAKE A RECOVERY DISK. when you first get the laptop. Lots of stuff can happen where that recovery disk will be able to fix. IF you made one and put it where you can find it. Most laptops now will allow you to use a flashdrive.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
In the 30 years I have owned computers the security situation has only gotten worse. How many years does Microsoft need to develop a secure operating system, How many years does the disk designers need to do a secure controller design; how many years for browsers to be secure. If you buy all of the security software, which doesn't always work, it will cost you nearly $200 per year. It is mindless we need to demand better.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
I do almost exactly the same as your husband. He gets it! So do I.
So maybe he and I should team up and recover all of the IRS lost emails.
EZ!
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
My way:
CCleaaner and UltimateDefrag once a week.
Data on its own partition.
I don't let anything startup auto unless I want or need it to.
Pagefile - If I need one, I manage its size.
Pay attention when you install software. Don't let it do you any "favors"; say no to all the free offers. Set a restore point before you install software.
Use Chrome or Mozilla or anything BUT Internet Explorer. More and more sites just don't bother coding for Explorer compatibility.
All in all, my experience with Windows 7 (64 bit) has been excellent. It has almost caught up with BeOS.



16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
1. Yes, you DO need a pagefiile, unless you have 8 gig or so of RAM. And yes, you should manage it.

2. Win7 defrags in the background continuously, so no need to defrag.

3. Yes, with Win7, Microsoft is finally selling a competent OS. Sort of.

16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
"And yes, you should manage it."

Can you elaborate, as there are conflicting views out there as to how it should be managed, leaving me to wonder what to think?
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Make like a Ronco Rotisserie - set it and forget it. Make it about twice as big as your RAM, and leave it there. Set the lower and the upper bound the same, so it never changes size.

Then do a deep defrag, and forget about it.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Twelve gigabytes? Oh my (hard drive is a terabyte though). Right now it's at 9800mb. Don't recall seeing the upper & lower bounds (I use win 7). I just wish I understood all this better. #research
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
3. You may not really need a new computer, but Microsoft is going to do their best to make sure your two-year old system can barely run their latest bloatware.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Almost Anything Is Recoverable.
Except Lois Lerner and other IRS agents' emails to the White House.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
About 10 years ago after having several of my kids computers crash due to malware, and after having read Walt Mossburg's first review of the iMac touting the fact it did not need malware protection, I bought a Mac. I have used them exclusively since then, along with iPads and iPhones. I have never purchased virus protection software and have never had a single minute of lost time due to malware.

Android based tablets and phones are not locked down and are definitely susceptible to malware. The companies that study these things report that about 95% of malware on mobile devices is written for Android devices, which almost never get software updates because Android is such a fragmented user base and the user don't bother.

I don't think a single piece of the advice in this column applies to Apple users. If consumers don't enjoy pain and suffering they should not use Windows computers. It is a thankless thing - like being a conservative Republican these days.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Kent, I think Apple products are overpriced fashion items that are locked down too much, but people are free to buy whatever meets their needs. Good for users who are especially careless, but people who are reasonably careful shouldn't experience blue screen of death, malware, viruses, etc. Windows 7 does a pretty good job of warning the user of potential problems and even Internet Explorer seems better about asking before installing crap than it was a decade ago. I haven't used Windows 8 much, but I doubt that it went backwards in security and stability.

In terms of political philosophy, some people believe that the world would be a better place if experts made decisions for everyone while others believe that markets deliver better results at a lower cost. Difference between forcing people to ride public transportation designed by the experts for the masses vs. letting people own and drive their own cars. I'm firmly on the maximizing individual liberty side of things even if the results are somewhat chaotic at times.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't need my OS telling me what I can or can't run on my computer. But I do approve of the fact OS X is POSIX compliant.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Blue screens of death malware, systems that have software made by one screwed up company and assembled by a separate company that is only able to make about a 4% margin on the hardware sale by the marketplace. So the answer is to deliver inferior junk. And no single company has to take the blame. That sounds like an Obama product to me.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
And, since Leopard, Xprotect has been pre-installed on iMacs. Just like Microsoft Security Essentials since XP. I too have never purchased AV software.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
You, Kent, are like one of the inner-city dwellers that just LOVE Obama. Everything is going great for them right now - but the crash is just around the corner.

You will be nailed someday along here - and it will be a disaster, not an annoyance.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
No, au contraire. You are the one who goes out and spends hard earned money and all you get is pain in return. I go to one company, get a fantastic product provided via free market capitalism, and I don't have to have semi-retired IT guys lined up to spend days fixing my constant problems. That is what you are getting with your vote. In case you had not noticed Dell is no longer a public company, Microsoft is now scrambling to figure out what its future is having missed the emergence of the mobile marketplace and having done nothing to make an operating system that is "excellent" in the last 15 years. You are probably still running XP.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
(6) "...they’re desperate to retrieve their pictures or their half-finished term paper (because they’ve never heard of this magical thing called the cloud)"

Screw the cloud.
Well, actually, use the cloud if you want to, but don't trust it, ever. Buy a bunch of flash drives. They're cheap, easy to use and they're **yours**, not the property of some faceless IT entity somewhere. And the data on them is always there, even if your ISP provider is down.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bingo.

Great marketing term, isn't isn't it? "The clouddddd!" Ooooooh! Ahhhh!

Make sure you say it with proper reverence! All bow!

They took an idea that had been floated numerous times, touted as "the next great thing" countless times, which flopped every time for very good reasons, and they renamed it. It used to be distributed computing, but nobody wanted that turkey with its non-existent security.

So, we renamed it something mystical, something magical, something exotic and ephemeral, and PRESTO!

Everybody and their mother's brother is running to it blindly, trusting their personal data and in many case, their entire livelihood, their business, to this marvelous magical thing called (reverent hush, please) "The cloudddddd!"

Yet another triumph of marketing over reason.

And you wonder why our country is in trouble? Offer Americans a bit of convenience, a bit of flash and dazzle, and reason and healthy suspicion goes out the window in the time it takes to upload a file or use yet another free service that watches and catalogs every move you make.

Google is not your friend, and neither is the cloud.

16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was never taken in by "the cloud."
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why am I not surprised? ;-)

16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
IT tech guy here...

"Secrets your IT guy won't tell you"... Why? Because most people aren't interested. "Just make it work."

"10. “Turn Your Computer Off and Back On” Really Works" Microsoft's unofficial slogan: "34 million documented problems, 3 Solutions: Restart/Reboot/Re-install."

"8. Computer Repairs Take a LONG Time" Ask a lawyer, how long to do that brief? He says two weeks, customer says ok. Ask an accountant, how long to do my taxes, he says two weeks, customer says ok. Ask a techie, how long to fix that computer/write that code/install that network, he says two weeks, customer asks, "Whuuuut!!!????!!!!!" Nobody wants to give techies enough time. Customer don't understand, what's so hard about computers? It's just point and click...

"6. All IT Guys Are Not Created Equal" A former boss once told me that the best techs were more productive than the worst by a factor of fourteen. I don't know where he got his metrics, but he was the kind of guy who'd know.

"5. Your Computer Tech Guy Googles Stuff". Well, yeah! Microsoft documentation is unreadable by human beings. Google is the unofficial Microsoft manual. Somebody in this world has had the same problem you're having and is vain enough to post it the solution on the Internet.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have a technical degree, but have maintained a degree of strategic incompetence with regard to serious computer repair so I'm not responsible for it. Plus I find very few actual productive uses for my PC in my life. I'm mostly limited to word processing, reading e-books, and looking up specific pieces of information.

With that being said my observation is agreement that malware is a huge chunk of what kills a computer, and while having good programs to keep your computer clean are necessary people need to be better informed about where it comes from in the first place. My mom has an awful time keeping a computer running for more than 6 months. My husband has rebuilt her computers and she keeps going back to the same sites.

I remember my husband once updating her protection program and increasing her security settings. Literally 10 minutes after handing her computer back (it was a laptop) she was accusing him of breaking it because she couldn't access one of her regular sites. The site was trying to download malware and whatever protection program it was blocked it. But as someone else said, malware is constantly changing, so knowing how best to avoid it in the first place is valuable.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
I wonder what types of sites she was going to that fettered her computer with malware.
16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Literally 10 minutes after handing her computer back (it was a laptop) she was accusing him of breaking it because she couldn't access one of her regular sites. "


You can't fix stupid. And that behavior is only one of two things: stupidity or spoiled-brattiness.

I'm sorry for your father.

16 weeks ago
16 weeks ago Link To Comment
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