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Computer Help and Retail Warnings.

Updated on April 5, 2014

A Degree Does NOT Tech Savvy

In recent years, many places like Best Buy and Staples start hiring fresh college graduates over non-degree techs who have had many years of experience in working on computers and actually keep up to date with all of the current technologies. You may not believe it, but a majority of so-called "technicians" out there today that constantly misdiagnose problems with your computer and usually end up recommending the wrong services. This usually ends up with you paying for services you didn't need to begin with, purchasing extra services and spending more time without your computer(s). Also, there's no guarantee they end up fixing your problem at all.

In having my own IT office for several years and having worked for some of the major retailers as a Technician around America, I've found that there are very few Technicians hired by retailers that know exactly what they're doing, and their jobs do not last long as soon as there's another fresh college grad applying for a job.

In reading this blog, I hope that you can be well informed enough to make your decisions on how to go about getting your computer fixed and save yourself the headaches and save your hard-earned money for what really matters.

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Greed Is Greed

One of the biggest things you'll see is retailers trying to milk you for every dollar you have. Be especially weary when you're seeing supervisor/manager breathing down a Technician's neck, you can bet that that supervisor/manager got bad numbers for the week, and is going to be calling the shots on what services you'll "need". As much as we don't want to think it, the management in a lot of these retailer Tech Help businesses are still more after your money than actually helping you. The more ignorant you are about technology, the more they'll try to string you along.

Because of these corrupt managements, quality Technicians with morals get reduced hours to the point where they either quit or get fired for "not meeting expectations". The biggest trap for these companies is if your problems require you to be charged by labor time. Many managers state that certain services will take a certain amount of time, despite their lack of knowledge on how long it actually takes to do or even HOW to do said services.

For instance: Many of the smaller Tech Retail locations, like small towns/cities (no matter the company), will try to charge you 3-4 hours of labor for something that only takes 1-2 hours. It's very common practice, more than you'd think.

Another common practice is pushing you to buy a new computer. While it is true that, depending on the situation, buying a new computer is the best option, especially if it's beyond 7 years old, it's usually a ploy to make you spend more money at their stores. One of many common practices is the recommendation of the new PC if your computer's problems have anything to do with the Hard Drive, or your Operating system is out of date and needs upgrading.

Instead of going through these runarounds, try finding a more local and privately owned computer repair office. 9 out of 10 of these private offices run much more fair prices and give you much more realistic repair times/diagnostics. If you are stuck with retailers, keep an eye out for the Technician(s) that speak more realistically, and knows to check everything. A proper technician is knowledgeable about more than just causes of problems, but also about manufacturing defects and histories, whether it's parts or brands. Support the ones who truly care about what you need for your computers, and make sure they stay around by requesting them often. This will ensure that person is shown as an asset to the company, and they can continue to give you true quality services.

How Often Should I Get A Tune-Up?

How you use your computer dictates how often you should have your computer tuned up. Having your computer regularly tuned up and up to par is key maintenance to lowering its chances of malfunctioning. I'll list the usages and their maintenance schedules below:

  • Very basic: Once every 6 months
  • Basic needs: Once every 6 months
  • Light gaming: Once every 5 months
  • Web-browsing: Once every 5 months
  • Student (pre-collegiate): Once every 4 months
  • Student (collegiate): Once every 3-4 months
  • Business: Once every 3 months
  • Medium gamer/entertainment: Once every 3 months
  • Sound studio: Once every 2 months
  • Graphic arts: Once every 2 months
  • Heavy gaming: Once every month

What's your level of knowledge?

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Basic Knowledge #1 (Speed)

80% of computer problems is merely just slowing down. This can easily be rectified with a tune-up, but there's more than one would think there is. I'm here to help you identify what are the many contributions so that you can save the number of visits and possibly reduce the amount of money you'll spend. Major contributions are as follows:

  • Fragmented Hard Drive
  • Long Internet History
  • Temporary Files
  • Too many startup programs
  • Too many operations running at 1 time
  • Hard Drive consumption
  • Component failure
  • Need of system updates
  • Old operating system

Everyone already knows to delete their browsing history and defragment their hard drive, but there are so many more things that need to be done. 60% of computers that are brought in for slowdowns are usually ailed by too many things on the computer. Your Hard Drive can run at full 100% speed when it is under 42% full. At 42%, it slows very little, barely noticeable, but as you increase your space usage, it slows down exponentially every 7-12%, depending on the manufacturer of the Hard Drive (not the manufacturer of the computer).

Another commonplace and large contributor is an outdated operating system. No matter what system you use, they eventually no longer receive support and updates to make room for newer ones. Should you choose to hold onto these older systems, and use newer software, your computer starts having conflicts and, in turn, slows down trying to process everything. This solution is very simple. You either update the system, or you get a new computer.

Component failure is a very rare case, and would be very apparent in the eyes of anyone who has true experience in computers, so I won't waste your time with a long list and essay-style explanation. The rest are easily taken care of from a basic $10 tune-up.

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Heat Treatment

One of the biggest issues with computers is heat. Computers are constantly being poorly maintained, causing overheats, and shorter life spans of the electronics. For desktop computers, you want to make sure it's not put in any enclosures, and has plenty of space to circulate air, meaning you should never have it any closer than 6 inches to a wall.

For laptops, they should never be sitting flat on any surface, especially your bed/blankets. It's highly recommended you use a cooling pad. However, if you can't afford one, make sure that it is always elevated at least 1/4 inch off the resting surface. Without an active cooling pad, though, regular air circulation isn't enough to run a laptop for a prolonged period of time, and must be shut off for at least an hour for every 3 hours of constant usage.

Constant exposure to a lot of heat degrades the components of your computer, and will severely shorten the life of your computer.

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Get Rid Of Those Dust Bunnies

Dust is a major issue with computers, and is sometimes even the cause for overheating, component malfunctions, lowered life expectancy (of the computer) and in very rare cases, house fires. You should always have a can of air readily available for regular maintenance. Dusting your computer once every 2 weeks keeps build-up from forming, and helps with the health of your computer as preventative maintenance. If dust builds up in your computer, air circulation is reduced, even if you have powerful fans or a cooling pad, which leads to heat build-up, and eventually, overheating. In rare cases, if the computer has overheated enough times, or is defective, and it doesn't shut itself down when overheating, a large build-up of dust can easily catch fire.

Save Money On Ink

Another money guzzler about printers have always been ink. Ink cartridges, especially the newer ones, have always advertised hundreds of pages per cartridge, but two to four weeks later, we're buying new ones without printing much or anything at all. Why is this? That's because ink, even in cartridges, DRY UP. As a simple preventative maintenance, be sure to at least print 1 page a week. If you're not printing anything in a week, just print a test page.

If you go too long without printing, the ink inside the cartridge will dry up at the feed nozzle. For larger, higher end printers, the ink in the ink tubes also do dry up as well, as do the feeds inside the printer heads. Those become the biggest problems as they will need replacing if it dries in those areas, and it is not always cheap. Replacements for printer heads and/or ink feeds cost anywhere between $45-350. Cartridges are easier to rectify with buying new ones.

Anyway, always remember to print at least a test page per week, and those cartridges will live up to their labels.

(The only exception to this is the Lexmark 100 series cartridges. More than 80% of cartridges of this model usually only yield between 60-100 pages before being empty, despite their 250 page label.)

Printing Issues

Printers are the biggest computer accessory with issues and taken in for repairs. Believe it or not, 90% of time, there was no real issue to begin with. There are many common misconceptions on what's actually working and what's not. Many of the big retail stores with IT Help Desks know this, and will take the opportunity to take more of your money away. Here are some of the most common problems, and what could actually be wrong with them:

  • Printing is weird with uneven colors and/or fading and lines: Believe it or not, this is all due to your printer head, and rarely, your ink cartridge. A simple fix is cleaning the printer head (always removable) with an alcohol-based wipe or replacing the printer cartridge. If these steps don't work, then either the printer head is broken or ink-feeding tubes are dried and caked up. In which case, you either order a new printer head or a new printer.
  • Not responding to wireless printing: This is another common problem, but easy to fix. Wireless printers sometimes lose communication with wireless routers, and sometimes new software causes conflicts. All you have to do is reset the printer, remove the software on your computer, and re-install it. Sometimes, if your wireless router is older, you might have to look at upgrading your equipment. Please note that router/modem combinations provided by your internet provider is NEVER 100% wireless printing ready.
  • Won't communicate with the directly connected computer: There are usually only 3 causes for this situation. The first, software conflicts, simply remove and re-install. The 2nd, bad cable, just get a new one. The final, broken connection, check the connecting port in the printer and your computer. 30% of consumers tend to break these ports.

Just working with these basic tips on these common problems will save you gas money and service costs, as well.

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