Friday, February 24, 2006

Who’s the Computer expert at YOUR house?

Christina (daughter) called me last night. “My computer’s messed up.” (It’s a less-than-two-year-old Dell Inspiron.)

Me: “What’s it doing — or NOT doing?”

Her: “When I boot it up it takes F-O-R-E-V-E-R, and then when it gets to a certain point I get a blue screen that says, ‘Windows has encountered an error, and will now shut down.’ And then it shuts down. I can’t ever get it started up. What should I do?”

Me: “as far as you know, are your Anti-virus definitions up to date?”

Her: “Yes. They are automatically updated once a day.”

Me: “Okay, it’s probably not a virus. Uh... (Long pause, thinking.) Have you tried starting it in ‘safe mode’?”

Her: “What’s that?”

I explain how to start the machine in “safe mode.” She tries it, and while we’re waiting to see if it works, she goes on, “I need this computer! Some of the bills I pay monthly come to me electronically, and I have to have my Outlook Express working to get them!”

I offered to send her the old 1996 desktop Packard Bell machine that she used to use before she got her Dell. That old machine still works, but man, is it slow! And it doesn’t have enough processor or memory to run Windows XP, so she’d be back on Windows 98. That idea did NOT go over well.

We determined that the computer WOULD boot up and run in “safe mode,” and that she could access the internet and her emails that way for a while, so the emergency was over.

Today I asked our I.T. folks at work if they had any suggestions, other than to re-install Windows. Christina really doesn’t want to do that, but she may have no choice. My I.T. guru said that if she had not recently installed something (which might have corrupted a Windows, and which she should immediately UN-install and see if that helped) she would have to re-install Windows.

So, tonight I’ll call her and we’ll discuss options. It’s too bad she lives in Tampa, and I’m in Texas, or I could pop in some Saturday and do all of that for her.

The next issue becomes her data files: those need to be backed up prior to the re-install of the operating system.


My plant I.T. guy (a thirty-something) was telling me tales about helping his dad with dad’s laptop when it developed problems. That seems to be more the stereotype — the oldster turns to his kids for computer help. In my case, sometimes that stereotype is reversed.

How about you — who do you turn to when the darn computer won’t compute? Parent, child, spouse, friend, or The Geek Squad from Best Buy?


Fuckkit said...

Generally I just shout at it until it works again. If that fails I call the nice man at MCM Computers and he helps me out.

Strangly, people usually come to me for PC help. The fools ;)

Christina said...

OK now I'm pissed. The "you know what" has now descended upon MY computer. See, it knows I rent and don't own the home or any of the appliances, but the computer.... low blow.

r.e.wolf said...

I'm it.

Which is not always a good thing, but so far I've managed ok. Like the time my laptop was doing what your daughter describes, only it was trying to reboot so fast I couldn't see the error. In 2 tries I managed to snap a photo of it, hunt down the error code, andlearned how to fix my own boot sector.

Hale McKay said...

Don't know if it will help, John ..But when I open windows in "safe mode," which happens occasionally, I then restart the computer and from that point on it works okay. Just a thought. Hope you get it figured out without having to re-install.

kenju said...

Could she just do system restore? That's what I resort to most times.

Actually today, we had a friend of mr. kenju's in here to work on our computers. We are trying to set it up so that his computer can share my files and email programs. No matter what he tried, it wouldn't work. We are so frustrated! And we cannot afford to call the Geek Squad or someone similar. UGH!

Duke_of_Earle said...


Thanks for the info and tips. I've recommended to Christina that she try the "restore" mode, Kenju (assuming Hale's reboot doesn't work, or simply shouting at it as my new UK reader above suggests). She never mentioned that there was an error code on her message, r.e. That might help. We'll explore that option.

I fear she may be right about the (shhhh) "conspiracy." After my van's recent experience of having its transmission turn into powdered metal shavings, I suspect she may be onto something...


Christina said...

Yeah, and my computer was IN THAT VAN when it all went down.


And, thanks for all the tips and suggestions. I have tried shouting and even cussing, but so far that has been ineffective. I will try to restart the computer, but if it won't boot up again, I will probably revert to shouting and cussing. As for "system restore" and "error codes"... huh?

Candace said...

Here's another tip, John, and it's especially handy for writers: run disk clean frequently. Sometimes the PC slows down because so much stuff is clogging it up. I got this from "No Plot? No Problem!" which was written by the guy who started NaNoWriMo. Every time you "save" bits of what you've written, you're adding to the clog.

Anonymous said...

Actually, on my PC the "system restore" usually seems to work for me too. It lets you restore your system to a prior date that you may designate. You chose a date BEFORE the problems started. Go into HELP on your computer and type in "system restore". It should lead you through it step by step. Wiping the hard drive and reinstalling Windows is always a last's a major pain in the butt because you have to reinstall all of your software and reconfigure for internet etc.

But...when all else fails...get a Mac. That's what I'm using right now and so far I've never encountered any of the frustrating, bang your head against the wall issues that are frequently experienced with Windows. The prices are starting to come down on the Macs and the compatibility issues are becoming fewer.

Duke_of_Earle said...


No disagreement from me, except that when I've done "system restores" back to an earlier date I sometimes created NEW problems. You're right about the Macs... Good machines!


Michelle said...

Oh oh John. It certainly does look like the "you know what" has changed direction. I think it is going to attack anyone who thinks we are being silly with our "you know what" theory. *wink*