Scott Hanselman

The Technical Friend's Essential Maintenance Checklist for Non-Technical Friend's Windows Computer

August 24, '11 Comments [77] Posted in Musings | Tools
Sponsored By

World's Dustiest Computer I visited a friend today and noticed their computer. Of course I did, that's what we do. It was, as are all non-technical computer friends' computers, a 3 year old gray Dell mini tower with a 17" flat screen. In fact, these are the ONLY computers that non-technical computer friends own, you know.

I was there to visit, but I'm genetically incapable of NOT doing a system's check on an old PC. "How can these people LIVE like this?"

If you are reading this blog, you have been in this very situation. Perhaps your wife is waiting in the car to go home even after a lovely dinner with your couple friends and you'll be there in "5 minutes" but you're actually hypnotized by the defragmenter, trying to influence the hard disk head's pixel indicator with your mind. Which sector is next...damn! Immovable!

It's a dance, what we do to our friend's computers, isn't it. It's a dance we done a thousand times, but one that is comforting in its steps. Not surprised, nothing unknown, just maintenance. We've said one day we'll write a script, one day we'll create the ultimate batch file to do all this, but until then, click, download, install, update, rinse, repeat.

Hardware

  • RAM RAM RAM - I've got sticks of the stuff. Today my neighbor had a 512meg machine that was just sad to look at. I've said before, a machine with too little RAM is a three legged dog. You know he's gonna get where he's going but it's hard to watch. I had a couple of gigs of PC-5300 in the car for some reason and I just added it and got them up to 2gigs. Minds were blown.
  • WEI: Window Experience Index - I've gotten into the habit of pressing 'WindowsKey+PauseBreak' on any new Windows Machine to take a look at the Windows Experience Index. It's the number that will tell you, reasonably and quickly, how much your friend's old computer sucks. The top score is currently a 7.9. Usually these machines are 3s and 4s. The important part is the the score is the lowest scoring component. The best part is that most of these low scoring components are cheap. $50 for some RAM, $50 for a new  HD, $50 for a decent Video Card. Update the crappiest part. Again, chances are you have better hardware lying around in your junk drawer than does Non-Technical Friend.

Software

  • Update Drivers - Non-Technical Friend always has a piece of hardware that doesn't work correctly, usually a printer, sometimes an All-In-One scanner/printer/fax. Almost always getting the right drivers solves it. Help them out.
  • Windows Update AND Microsoft Update - They usually haven't set Windows Update to automatically install updates at 3am, and they never have clicked "Yes" to get updates for other Microsoft products. (You have to opt-in.) Visit http://www.microsoftupdate.com on machines before Windows 7 and run the Windows Update applet on Windows 7 and setup updates for Microsoft products (Office, etc. as well as Windows.) Make sure they've got the latest Service Packs for Windows and Office.
  • Anti-Virus - When I visited my friend today I was surprised to see that they had Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware software installed. Always a refreshing surprise. However, they had several installed, and they were fighting. They had AVG, Windows Defender, PC Optimizer, SpyBot, and two other playfully named "anti-spyware" applications as well as four browsers toolbars. I uninstalled the whole lot and installed Microsoft Security Essentials. It's simple, lightweight, solid and free. It's also free on up to 10 PCs for Businesses.
  • Uninstall anything evil - If you want to get a quick look at what's on a machine and uninstall LOTS quickly, look no further than NirSoft's My Uninstaller (download). Remove Toolbars (they think they need them and they never do and won't miss them), and anything that looks like it might destabilize their system. I check out toolbars, add-ins, etc.
  • Update Stuff that can't Update Itself - I usually install FoxIt Reader or at least update Adobe Acrobat and Flash. I updated their Firefox 3.6 (!) to Firefox 6 and installed IE9.
  • Backups or at least DropBox - I always ask "Is your stuff backed up" and they always say "I have been meaning too" or "On my thumb drive last month." I should start charging folks to install DropBox. In this case, I thought about Mozy but my friend really just needed some documents backed up so now they've got DropBox with 2GB free. Windows Live Mesh is another decent option if they are Hotmail/Live Messenger users. Regardless, for goodness sake, get their data to the cloud!

Teaching

  • Tell them about Security - Wanna freak them out? Ask your friend for the last four digits of their social security number (or national id) then hit the Start Menu and search for it. You'll almost always find Excel files, Word documents or PDFs with their super-private information. I've often found scans of their actual id cards. This trick also works with their credit cards. Teach your friends to not keep personal information on their machines.
  • Teach them about History - Avoid looking at Non-Technical Friend's browser history or searching Google for anything that starts with "a", "p" or "s." You don't need to know Non-Technical Friend that well. Perhaps come up with an excuse to teach them about Private Browsing or "Incognito" if you're cool like that.
  • Teach them about Passwords -  Explain how passwords work to your friends. Suggest they use pass phrases, add complex characters, stop saving their passwords in the browsers. If they are cool with it, clear their passwords in their browsers and suggest a password manager.

Maintenance

  • Cleaning - Explain to them the importance of cleaning (or burning) their 10 year old keyboard. Computer keyboards are dirtier than toilets. That's a fact I just made up and I'm totally sure it's true. Get that biomatter off your keyboard and mouse. You wouldn't lick your keyboard but you'll type it on for hours then touch your face. You nasty.
  • Blow the Dust out of their System - It's just the right thing to do. Seriously, keep a bunch of Cans of Air Dusters in your car. I do. Get out the vacuum at your friends house, give them proper warning that it's gonna get NASTY up in here and open up their computer. Chances are this is the first time it's ever been open. It's probably got that "there's a weird sound in the back" groan that's indicative of dust in the power supply. I can't tell you how many times I've just jammed a pencil in there just to get a computer to SHUT UP.
  • Defrag - Of course Windows has its own defragmentation program but I love the MUCH better Auslogics Disk Defrag
  • Startup Programs - Get AutoRuns (or RegEdit to HKLM\Software\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run) and clean up all the random stuff that's starting up but they've forgotten why. If they are slightly technical, suggest Soluto for fixing their startup issues.
  • Tidy Up - Non-Technical Friend typically has some toolbar - perhaps an Explorer Folder or something - pinned off to the far left side of their screen and isn't sure how it got there or how to get rid of it. Clean up these things.
  • Crap Cleaner - It used to be called Crap Cleaner but now it's tamely known as CCleaner and it's the only "cleaner" I trust. I also run Disk Cleanup (as Administrator) that comes with Windows.
  • Resolution - Non-Technical Friend always has a 17" LCD with a native resolution of 1280x1024 but runs their system at 1024x768 and never understands why everything looks blurry. Save them.
  • Join.me - Show them how Join.me works and explain that their Technical-Friend-Who-Isn't-You can help them in the future remotely to tidy up and do routine bits and bobs without needing to come over.

Finally, give them a hug and tell them it's OK. What are your favorite maintenance tasks while visiting Non-Technical Friend, Dear Reader?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Sponsored By
Hosting By
Dedicated Windows Server Hosting by ORCS Web
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 8:22:49 AM UTC
That picture is just nasty :)
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 8:26:02 AM UTC
Glad you like it. Tell me you HAVEN'T seen a computer JUST LIKE THAT. Tell me! ;)
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 8:28:20 AM UTC
I have one like that at home, I've been meaning to fix it up **shame**
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 8:33:26 AM UTC
Hilarious Scott. I dread the holidays for this very reason.

Great post to book mark.

thanks,
Mark
Mark Brown
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 8:40:39 AM UTC
I also like to install process explorer to replace the default windows task manager, so that everybody (tech and non-tech people) can see the structure and company behind running processes
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb896653
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 8:41:21 AM UTC
The Air Dusters are no requirement: just opening the case and pushing the vacuumer in usually helps too.

Usually doing some other maintenance helps as well: if they have Gigiabit ethernet and are used to copy stuff between computers, enable Jumbo Frames and see the looks on their face when achieving 35 MB / s copies :-)
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 8:52:18 AM UTC
Man that computer looks just like my brother's... By the way Scott listen to your podcast on home server... went out & purchase the synology device... You should do a follow up on the device.

May I ask if you still have your WHS
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 8:56:41 AM UTC
I have the Home Server but it's just sitting around. I've moved 4TB over to the Synology.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 9:07:33 AM UTC
"searching Google for anything that starts with "a", "p" or "s.""

Do I want to know what "a" stands for?
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 9:20:00 AM UTC
Thanks for sharing these tips. The "I'll be there in 5 minutes" made me laugh, because it really happens.

Do you think it is a bad idea to store copies of IDs and Passports on the PC?
I mean I thought it would be a good idea to put a copy of them in Dropbox so I can access them in case of emergency if I was abroad.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 9:20:05 AM UTC
Hi Scott, I always wanted to ask your suggestion for a good password manager. Which one do you recommend ? Ideally I would like to have a password manager which not only stores my credentials and generates strong passwords but also let me access all features in my mobile phone(iphone).

Thanks
Ram
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 9:31:43 AM UTC
I like LastPass for password management.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 9:38:26 AM UTC
I also wanted to ask - after choosing Google for commenting my name is clickable but it downloads an "id" file. Why doesn't it link to my Google Profile or at least link to the home page I entered instead?
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 9:41:05 AM UTC
Hasan - Because Google's OpenID implementation sucks.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 9:45:26 AM UTC
Lovely and very recognizable post!
Perhaps a warning should be added to the "Blow the Dust out of their System" section. A friend of my actually managed to blow a hole straight through his motherboard by vacuuming the pc. The metallic end of the (metalic) cleaner touched a component on the motherboard that probably still had some electrical charge and BOOOM. A 2inch hole straight through.

So a) don't touch the actual computer components
b) use a plastic vacuum cleaner if possible
c) unplug your computer from the power grid.

Just my 2 cents.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 9:55:44 AM UTC
I also love Secunia Personal Software Inspector, which will scan your system and tell you if you're missing any critical security patches for any of your software.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 10:24:30 AM UTC
The picture is very nasty, I have seen dozens of PCs like it. My hands are itching to clean it up.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 10:26:56 AM UTC
@John Costello: Seconded. It'll actually install the ones it knows enough about automatically, so it's like Windows Update for third party software.

@Scott: However, the importance of backups notwithstanding, DON'T put other people's data in the cloud without getting their informed consent. Maybe you don't :-), but that's how this reads! Make sure they understand they'll be entrusting a company (and all its employees) with the security and privacy of their data, and increasing their attack surface. I know their own box is probably the bit most at risk; that doesn't mean they shouldn't be aware of the additional risk associated with the cloud. Whether the tradeoff is worth it is their choice, not yours.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 11:10:43 AM UTC
Depending weather you foresee some maintenance in the future you want to take care of, installing <a href=” http://www.teamviewer.com”>Teamviewer</a> might be a good idea.
It's the best remote desktop app I know of and it's particularly non-tech-savvy friendly to launch. I use it to support my old folks constantly.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 11:14:51 AM UTC
I like Crashplan for cloud storage (and for data that consumes space larger than 2GB, e.g. photos or videos). If the non-technical friend has got data over (but not MUCH over) 2 gigs and does not change often, then I would suggest the free edition of Crashplan which lets them back up to (one of) your PCs that have Crashplan installed (encrypted and compressed, of course).

Otherwise, you can convince them to use the paid edition which allows backing up to the cloud ($1.50 / month for 10GB, $3.00 / month unlimited). In some cases (relatives mostly!), even paying yourself for the service would look like a good idea :)

I'm not associated with the company in any way, but I've been using the family edition (10 pcs, unlimited storage) for a couple of years now and it's proven very, very useful.






Wednesday, August 24, 2011 11:24:22 AM UTC
One more comment: I didn't know about Join.me, but I've been using Teamviewer in a couple of cases (including my mother's laptop) and it's very good. I think it has a time limit for non-commercial purpose usage, but you can just reconnect if the connection drops.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 11:24:32 AM UTC
Just did that last week for my dad again...

The best thing is if you start building up machines out of your spare parts or old computer pieces and end up with a machine which is way better and give to them. On the next visit you realize that they are still using their old piece of crap, because they were not able to transfer there documents to the new machine or install some programs.

I simply installed CrossLoop on all machines of family members, in order to avoid to much travelling :)

hf
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 11:34:14 AM UTC
The most common one I get called in for is the fake security popup aftermath. Always a pain to fix, particularly if they've tried to fix it them selves :/ last time I was asked to fix one of those problems I bailed, but that was for my ex-wife so my motivation was a little low.

My favorite person to do tech support for is my mum, she always does exactly what I say, provided I give her detailed instructions
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 12:04:59 PM UTC
"I had a couple of gigs of PC-5300 in the car for some reason"

Hey, some people keep a couple extra quarts of oil, and then some people have a few sticks of PC-5300. And maybe a spare 250 watt power supply or a 60mm fan for emergencies. I understand.

That picture is bad. I wish I could say I hadn't seen it before. I have a server in my house that I keep under a workbench in my basement. (Long story, it made sense at the time and I never got around to finding a better place for it once it was there). I opened it up after a couple years and the interior was completely encased in sawdust. I was shocked that it still worked. Took the shop-vac to it, and it's still running, now well into its fourth year at that location. The machine itself is a homebrew AMD Duron that's about 6 years old.

The robustness of this crappy hardware is often amazing.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 12:22:51 PM UTC
Good article, very familiar scenario. The worst one I find is the machine that won't get Windows Updates any more for some reason. How do they do that to their machines? It's always a massive pain to fix.

I used to do machine control software in a factory environment, and having an industrial airline around was very handy for cleaning dusty machines. Always loved the fffwwwwWWWEEEEEE!! noise you get when you hit a fan with the air jet. You need to make sure your airline has a dryer and doesn't have lubricating oil injected though.

I've always heard warnings about using home vacuum cleaners, because of static build up on the nozzle. I don't know if this is true or not.

Finally, who else is old enough to have taken apart office PCs in the days when people smoked in offices? I am - just. Now that was /really/ nasty.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 12:29:40 PM UTC
You should never vacuum your PC (or other electronics)
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 12:31:57 PM UTC
Why did you choose Microsoft Security Essentials over AVG? It seems a bit strange to trust the OS company ("guilty" of making the vulnerable system) with the only anti-virus :)
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 12:32:19 PM UTC
I use FileHippo to update all of the miscellaneous applications. I hear Ninite can also used for similar purpose.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 1:22:57 PM UTC
Firefox 3.6 isn't really that old and still supported. Firefox 6 is actually something like Firefox 4.0.2 in the old version scheme.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 1:41:02 PM UTC
What does work pretty well for dust removal is to find a piece of hose or plastic pipe, ideally about 5-10mm ID, and ideally about 1m long.

Take the machine outside and blow into the tube, using the other end as an air jet to blast the dust out.

Internal diameter needs to be right to get a good high velocity air flow without making it too hard to blow through. Length needs to be long enough that you don't get a face- or lung-full of dust without again being too hard to blow through.

I've used this improvised solution many times!
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 1:50:58 PM UTC
A post full of the truth, I recognised every single point on your list, many many times have I been at peoples houses and had my wife wait on me downloading updates etc its almost impossible for me not to do this as you suggest.

Why do people need and install all those toolbars also, my fathers a particular offender using incredimail (just checkout the crap that stuff sends people).

Several colleagues gathered around my pod today when i was reading this all nodding their heads and laughing, all had been in these situations. how does the non-technical friend crowd cope ?
krystan honour
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 1:50:58 PM UTC
A post full of the truth, I recognised every single point on your list, many many times have I been at peoples houses and had my wife wait on me downloading updates etc its almost impossible for me not to do this as you suggest.

Why do people need and install all those toolbars also, my fathers a particular offender using incredimail (just checkout the crap that stuff sends people).

Several colleagues gathered around my pod today when i was reading this all nodding their heads and laughing, all had been in these situations. how does the non-technical friend crowd cope ?
krystan honour
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 1:51:03 PM UTC
Typo: "Them them about Security"
Bigsby
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 1:55:57 PM UTC
I have read all this and really enjoyed it. Learned a lot and remembered a lot. I rarely startup my pc and have recently repaved so I don't need soluto YET.
I thought other than the safe (firefree airplane friendly TSA approved) hibernation in windows 7, they also made it so that defraging was no longer necessary. Can you set me right on this?
Can you also help me figure out how to get live mesh to run on my local area network? It is advertised but is almost impossible to get working. Unless they mean backup all your local pcs to the cloud NOT within your network sans internet.
Thank you Scott.
Love the new site by the way (I used it for two days before noticing it).
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 1:58:08 PM UTC
After giving them the education and lecture on good computer maintenance, are you still friends? Most people that let their computers get to that point aren't later going to following those instructions because they just want it to work. They don't care how, they just want it to work. Oh look, Scott is here. He can get it to work and I won't have to do anything again.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 2:04:03 PM UTC
Huge fan of Portable Apps

I have a Thumb Drive with all the utility apps I need to quickly clean up a friend's PC without having to have internet access. And for those apps that aren't portable, I just have an archive on the drive with all the other installers I will need. The entire Sysinternals Suite fits nicely on a thumb drive.

It's a digital Swiss Army Knife!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 2:09:20 PM UTC
I always make sure, sysinternals tools are on my flash drive.

A programmer's family reunion
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 2:23:38 PM UTC
Great, Scott!

Now he's going to have nothing but computer problems since you cleared out all the dust and cobwebs. Some friend you are -- that thing will never be the same again! Epic fail in a couple weeks....
dm3281
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 3:24:44 PM UTC
The problem with cleaning the inside of a computer is:

Most computer come with a warranty sticker that says that the warranty will void if the sticker is damaged.

So, your non-computer savvy friend will never open the computer by fear of voiding his warranty.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 3:49:13 PM UTC
I'll second Sotiris Filippidis's suggestion of Crashplan. I use it any time I'm helping out friends with 2 or more PCs in the same house. It's invisible and painless, and the data is protected unless the house burns down. For people who pay lip service to backups but can't be bothered, it provides free peace of mind.

For startup programs, I've stopped removing items from the Startup folder and the registry. It works, but prickish applications like anything from Adobe and Apple will recreate those shortcuts any time an update is applied (and for Adobe products that's like every twenty minutes). Instead I run msconfig and uncheck the items in the Startup tab. This will prevent them from starting and application updaters won't replace/reactivate them.
(If you've never used msconfig before, be sure to reboot after applying changes. On your first boot you'll usually see a warning prompt about startup changes - check the 'Don't Remind Me Again' box and click Ok)
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 3:55:43 PM UTC
"AVG, Windows Defender, PC Optimizer, SpyBot, and two other playfully named "anti-spyware" applications "

What specifically did you find as far as these things conflicting/interfering/otherwise hosing each other? I typically run Avast and SpyBot and haven't had any problems or noticed significant redundancy. (I think I also leave Windows Defender on but all the Windows security notifications bleed together in my memory)
David Fauber
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 4:15:53 PM UTC
What are your favorite maintenance tasks while visiting Non-Technical Friend, Dear Reader?


I had not heard of Join.me before; I use CoPilot for remote tech support and training sessions and it has not failed me.

As for getting involved in the first place, I understand the obsessive-compulsive apparent need to rescue people from a degraded machine but I have found that it's far more mutually satisfying if I merely plant the seed in their mind that I might be able to fix their computer if the need arises. When they call frantically two months later asking if I could look at their "crashed machine" their gratitude after bringing the machine back from apparent death -- and refusing payment other than replacement parts -- does far more for our friendship than if I had become the "well actually" guy the first time and inserted myself into their computing life. Think of it like the "Prime Directive" in Star Trek: if they don't ask you to get involved with their computer then don't. You can play hero later but if you fix things proactively and they screw it up, it will be your fault. If they are totally screwed and you recover their machine, then even if they screw it up again you will only be seen as someone who can bring a machine back from death rather than the smarmy dude who did "something" to the box and now it isn't working right.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 5:09:09 PM UTC
This post is a great starting point for PC maintenance. But to me, the fact that I have to spend so much time maintaining my computer demonstrates why things like the iPad are gaining popularity. You essentially don't maintain it (not completely true, but the story is better). I easily spend more time maintaining my computers (2 computers less than 3 years old) than the cars I own (21 years old between the two of them). I would love to get to the point where I never have to: 1) manually update software, 2) update any hardware, 3) worry about viruses, 4) figure out where I wrote down my license keys. I think we're approaching the age of using computers as utilities like we toasters and lawn mowers. I'm a Windows guy, I hope that Microsoft can find a way to make this happen in the Windows ecosystem.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 5:10:35 PM UTC
The free tier of Mozy is quite good for non-technical users IMO (I set my parents up with it). Mainly because it's automatic and you don't have to think about. And most non-techies have less than 2GB of data (aside maybe from digital photos).
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 5:14:21 PM UTC
Scott,

Look into Ninite (http://ninite.com/) for installing/updating software. I have an installer setup with all the basics (MSE, Firefox, VLC, Dropbox, etc.), so the only thing I need to do after re-installing/fixing Windows is to run Windows Update and change a few settings.



Athtar
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 5:31:03 PM UTC
On the subject of passwords...
I am a loyal user of Keepass/Dropbox, but this XKCD comic has changed my view on how we should educate users on passwords: http://xkcd.com/936/
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 5:35:20 PM UTC
The defrag hypnotism gets me every time. I always think the job will take a 10th of the time it does because I am used to fast machine.

To be honest I have given up somewhat on cleaning hard drives of programs, taking stuff off startup, run updates.... The first question I now ask is "Can I backup your documents and format your computer?" obviously make sure they understand what will be lost and what the benefits are. I keep a slipstreamed version of Windows 7 and XP ready to go and can generally have them back up and running in no time.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 5:42:10 PM UTC
I'm genetically incapable of NOT doing a system's check on an old PC.

Perhaps we should just start a 12 Step program and support group for folks like us. "God grant me the serenity to leave my in-laws F-ed up computer as it is..."
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 6:22:20 PM UTC
I can SOOO relate to this. My favorite part was that you just happened to have extra sticks of RAM in the car. That, and the three-legged dog analogy made me laugh.

I agree with Athtar about Ninite (http://ninite.com/). It is AWESOME!

Great post! Thanks!
Cori
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 6:38:02 PM UTC
Two question I have.

Scott the data you moved off of the WHS was that videos/music only. Also you said not to save password/ID info on your system. but using some kind of password management software does the same thing.. right


Someone else, Crashplan does it secured your files at the system before sending to the cloud?
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 7:18:14 PM UTC
1. Great post. So sad, yet so true.
2. I like to use Revo Uninstaller to get rid of the crapware.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 8:10:20 PM UTC
It's possible that the best long term help you can provide your non-technical friend is to guide them towards switching to an iPad which requires no maintenance. For average non-technical friends, an iPad, perhaps with a Bluetooth keyboard and iPad compatible printer, will do everything they need. It's unfortunate Microsoft isn't even a contender in this area (for the Apple haters), but it's possible to have zero maintenance, as the iPad has shown.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 8:28:49 PM UTC
Zero? Not really. OS upgrades are still manual, so are app updates until OS5. My relatives have iPads with 50 un-applied updates.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 8:44:02 PM UTC
Up until iOS 5.0, you still needed a computer to setup/configure your iPad, iPodtouch, etc. At least since the new version will support the "cloud"... you no longer need a PC initially. This is a WIN for most folks -- especially my parents.

When their current Dell dies, I'll just recommend they buy the latest iPad and not have to worry about a PC for just checking e-mail, browsing, and checking the account balances.

What's nice is that the iPad is a solid state device and no fan or moving parts to worry about. And no Flash!!! C'mon HTML5!!!
dm3281
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 10:40:54 PM UTC
I just wear "No, I will not fix your computer" t-shirt. Or quote my hourly rate :)
I know all about karma and such, but do you ask your friend surgeon for a tummy tuck every month? Why should they ask you for a fix-up?
Thursday, August 25, 2011 4:33:11 AM UTC
Just found your site. Immensely informational as well as fun to read. This post, in particular, is a very nice touch for those of us that are often asked to help out our family and friends. I'm going to make a little tool box and post this on the inside cover.

Many thanks!

-Mike
Thursday, August 25, 2011 5:14:02 AM UTC
What a lovely friend you are, I'm that non-technical person. I guess I should learn to do this stuff myself. thanks for the tips.
cemck
Thursday, August 25, 2011 6:39:21 AM UTC
I really like "Acronis True Image" and I recommend it to my friends.
After installation, it's easy to install weekly tasks to backup the whole system on their own.
Ok - it's not for free - but it's an excellent piece of software I never want to miss.

Stone
Thursday, August 25, 2011 6:54:54 AM UTC
To funny, and SO true! Logmein.com (free) has also be a life saver for me with friends and family of this nature.

Augh, I will never forget the look on my grandmothers face as she attempted to figure out her new wireless mouse and keyboard could possibly be working without the wire!
Thursday, August 25, 2011 7:42:25 AM UTC
You wouldn't lick your keyboard but you'll type it on for hours then touch your face. You nasty.


Just did a genuine lol. And got stares from my colleagues. Again.
Thursday, August 25, 2011 9:22:26 AM UTC
Oh yay, a new TLA - "NTF". Non Technical Friend.

Usage: "I went to a BBQ the other day, and you won't believe what my NTF was running. Windows 95. Seriously, the man is a dinosaur."
Thursday, August 25, 2011 1:16:14 PM UTC
Firefox 3.6? They're probably running IE 6 or 7, unless you installed Firefox the last time you came over.

Great post!
glaxaco
Thursday, August 25, 2011 9:55:32 PM UTC
I totally do this. I do it with the same urgency the fashionistas from the TV show What Not to Wear do when they go through some poor shredded 80s jean jacket wearing mom's closet. It's basically the same thing, they'll thank you in the end.

--Aaron
Friday, August 26, 2011 8:45:42 AM UTC
@Dan Esparza, Re: the XKCD, I’m a designer, what do I know of math? But.... I’m not sure it is correct to look at four common words as random individual letters. If they’re common words, they’re a subset of English language. The second letter is likely to be a vowel (so the first word is highly likely to be an even smaller subset). The comic is routinely passed around in gaming circles, so the approach is likely to have a higher adoption rate. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t see that the formula for cracking his suggestion is anywhere as difficult as he claims.

If it gives much extra protection then I suspect that is due to low adoption. Should many start using this patern, I believe it won't be that high a bar to crack. I'm I wrong?
Friday, August 26, 2011 8:14:39 PM UTC
Yeah, I do know a lot about this. Too much if you're to ask me but since there is no other way... I considered buying the T-Shirt "No I will NOT fix your computer" from ThinkGeek just the other day but I think that most of my friends would just ignore it and ask the same way... =)

I've found bugs (the little insects I mean) everywhere. Might begin to sell them for some creepy collection or begin my own.

Some time ago I just received a computer that was restarting. After a bit of usage it just turns off and restarts. I got stuck with it for like 2 days until I finally decided to completely remove every piece of hardware there. Than I found the problem: the cooler was attached to the processor with GLUE. That white glue from everyday.

I just began wondering if it was another folk that did that or if it was my friend himself. I guess I'll never have an answer...
Sunday, August 28, 2011 12:26:55 PM UTC
After reinstalling my mother in laws pc every 3 months for a year I made her install it herself.

She is the person who besides the usual toolbars and other crap also manages to inflict other damage such as removing the win32 dir.

I made her carefully read the bluescreen with the xp license once. Now I only have to help once a year.

Sunday, August 28, 2011 1:02:14 PM UTC
From the same shop as Ccleaner I use Defraggler as a replacement of the auslogic toolkit. I also install pagedefrag from technet.

A quick check on most online storage prices above the free plan at amazon s3, dropbox, ubuntone, skydrive or whatever seem to vary between $140,- $ 200,- per month for 1TB. (Could not find prices for skydrive).

For a lot of non techie friends this is above budget for their music and holiday pictures. I do not want to spent that amount of money on offsite backup myself.

A solution involving dropping cheap portable harddrives or dvds with encrypted data at the home of family or friends seems to be more budget acceptable.

An online solution like the beforementioned Crashplan, Synology NAS's software or a homegrown solution may actually work and be more more budget friendly than the online cloud services. If you do not want to bother or trust friends you could also rent a VPS for about $20 a month with 1 TB (non redundant!!) storage.

I wonder whether storing backup in my car is a good idea? It is not parked directly near my home. Thinking second synology with wifi in the trunk of my car or even just dropping a box of dvds under a seat.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011 1:40:29 PM UTC
I agree with all of that except for updating the Firefox from 3.6 to 6. 3.6 is FAR more stable and less of a general piece of trash than 5 or 6 is. (4 was...okay)
Chris
Wednesday, August 31, 2011 11:51:58 PM UTC
i once used auslogics boost speed on my 64bit windows 7 and it deleted some necessary boot file. that was a huge blow for me . so i recomend not to use auslogics on 64bit system, it may cost u a lot !
Friday, September 02, 2011 5:47:24 PM UTC
Thanks for this great information Scott! I've been using LastPass for password management, and Raxco's Perfect... products: PerfectDisk disk defragmenter, PerfectUpdater that keeps my drivers up to date, and PerfectRegistry that keeps my registry clean.

Although these products are not free (LastPass is if you don't want mobile or advanced stuff) they are well supported and do a great job.

I also bought a 16gb flash drive to test with Windows 7 ReadyBoost.

I appreciate the valuable info you provide us developers (MVC, etc.)!

Richard
Richard
Friday, September 02, 2011 6:26:11 PM UTC
Forgot to mention BackBlaze for online backups.
Richard
Tuesday, September 06, 2011 8:45:46 AM UTC
About: "Wanna freak them out? Ask your friend for the last four digits of their social security number (or national id) then hit the Start Menu and search for it"

it still amazes me why knowing the social security id could be a security risk in US..
In most countries in Europe, the national id number is public info, so even if somebody knows it, it can't use it for identity theft - no company or institution is asking only the SS ID for identification - always the original ID card or a passport have to be shown (both having a photo on them and being very hard to counterfeit) when a person has to be identified..
Tudor
Wednesday, September 14, 2011 9:11:56 AM UTC
OMG!!! Is it dust which is on computer or computer on dust :)
Tuesday, November 15, 2011 7:10:08 AM UTC
Lovely post.
But fixing my friends computers takes alot of time of me:(
Navid Rahmani
Saturday, November 26, 2011 1:44:41 PM UTC
I'm always fixing peoples resolutions. Then they say "Everything's gone small!" - I have to explain about native resolution and blurring, and then fix them up with Large Fonts. Often they seem to remain unconvinced that 1280x1024 is "better". I don't understand why. But then I write C# code all day in 6pt. After 25 years of looking at CRTs and LCDs, almost daily, my vision seems better than anyone else I know - obviously looking at computer screens is GOOD for your eyesight, not bad as previously thought!
Monday, January 02, 2012 5:48:51 PM UTC
A friend of mine made an excellent suggestion - Install Google Chrome for them. It updates automatically, so you never have to worry about them having an out-of-date browser.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012 3:54:20 PM UTC
Saw a computer about that bad out of an office in a custom glass shop. Place didn't seem that dusty. Must have been because the computer was collecting it all!
Greg
Comments are closed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.