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10 Secrets Your IT Guy Won't Tell You

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 a tech 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:

10. “Turn Your Computer Off and Back On” Really Works

Anytime you call a technical-support person or someone who repairs computers, the first thing you'll be asked is, “Have you tried turning your computer off and then turning it back on again?” They're not asking you this to mock you (even though it probably sounds that way), they're asking because sometimes it's just that simple. My son runs an IT department and won't even talk to a user having a problem until they've tried this. Often people panic when their computers freeze, especially if they get the black screen of death. They assume it must be catastrophic and don't think to do something as simple as hitting the power button. If your computer completely crashes and you can't reboot the traditional way, you should hold down the power button until the machine shuts off and then give it a time out. After ten or fifteen minutes, turn the power back on and see if it will boot up. More often than you might think, "troubleshooting" ends up being "turn your computer off and back on," which solves the problem.

9. Viruses and Malware Are the Cause of Most Problems

Nine times out of ten, your computer problems are caused by viruses and malware. Having a good virus-protection program (and keeping it updated) will prevent many of the problems that computer technicians deal with on a daily basis. Never click on a link in an email and (it should go without saying) never open something that you didn't request.  Never, ever click on a window that pops up on your screen unsolicited and watch carefully when you download programs to make sure there are no additions. Many free downloads now tack on additional programs when you're mindlessly clicking through the "I agree" statements. Take the time to read before clicking.

If your computer is slow,  freezing up, or experiencing other problems, try running a full scan for viruses and malware (it may take a while!) and remove any problems discovered from the scan. Also, the vast majority of browser problems would be eliminated if you set your browser to automatically delete your cache upon exiting.