In my last blog, I bragged about my nascent IT repair skills and offered three reasons why Average Joes should tackle computer repairs themselves. What do you do, on the other hand, when your best-efforts just aren’t good enough? Or when you don’t have time to tackle the job? Or maybe you just don’t want to deal with it.
Sometimes it’s easier to spend some coin and bring in a hired gun. Letting a highly skilled computer jock solve your problem will cost you some money, but the aggravation avoidance is often worth the additional expenditure.
When you haul your machine to the shop, the first thing the guy behind the counter will say is, “What’s the problem?” Watch out! This question isn’t as innocuous as it appears. Choose your words carefully, because they can have an impact on the length of time you are without your computer.
Shrugging your shoulders while saying, “I don’t know.” could result in the computer technician running unnecessary tests, or even setting your machine to the side in lieu of an easier repair job — the technological equivalent of the iconic scene from 300 where King Leonidas of Sparta kicks the Persian emissary into a bottomless pit.
I bought my first computer in 1984, a basic Mac with a six-inch black and white screen. I was up late that first night playing Championship Boxing when an unexpected power-surge reminded me that I had forgotten to purchase a surge-protector. Fortunately, the university provided an insurance policy and I was able to replace my machine the next day.
Over the ensuing three decades, I’ve experienced my fair share of computer issues and have spent more time than I care to admit trying to explain them to repair guys. That’s just part of the burden of computer ownership — no matter the problem, and no matter how non-technical you are, at some point you will be asked to explain what happened. And, as I said above, “It was like that when I got here,” is unacceptable.
Fortunately, in my visits to numerous computer hospitals, I’ve learned a few tips that have helped solve the problem and, in a few instances, even reduced my computer down time. When you walk in the door, information is the key. The more information you can provide about what happened, the easier it will be for them to diagnose and fix your machine.
So, the next time your electronic marvel ceases to function as it should, here are a few simple steps to take before schlepping over to the repair shop.
- If an error message flashes on your screen write it down. This way the technician won’t have to guess which one of the hundreds of error messages it was.
- If no error message popped up, step back and think about what is (or isn’t) happening to your computer. Then describe it to yourself. At the least, this will help the repair tech know what to look for.
- Whenever possible, document when the problem began. Is it a one-time event, or has it been going on for some time? Is the problem occurring more frequently, etc.?
- Did anything else unusual happen with the computer when you first noticed the problem? (Were there any clunking, grinding, or rattling noises, blue screen of death, etc.?) I know of one guy who heard an electrical pop inside his computer just before it went dark. The repairman opened it up and found real, live ants crawling all over the guts.
By carrying these notes with you, the technician will be able to get a better idea of what has happened and be more likely to know what to try to fix the computer. With luck, it might be a simple repair and you’ll soon be on your way. I also urge you to be patient, calm, and pleasant. Just like being nice to the guy preparing your food, doing so with computer jocks can go far towards getting your machine back in a timely manner.
I still believe that ordinary users can do simple repairs on their machines, and TestOut PC Pro is a great way to get up to speed. Even proficient computer users, however, occasionally run into situations where it’s easier and quicker to pay an expert. When that happens, practice the steps above and, before you know it, your computer will be right as rain. And even if it isn't, you will at the least have made a friend who knows more about computers than you, and probably can tell you what to look for in your next purchase.
About the Author — Calvin Harper is an associate editor for GoCertify and a veteran of the publishing industry. Calvin has a mean uppercut, but the left jab is his go-to PC boxing move.