Much to our dismay, not everyone in the world is a tech-wiz. There are a lot of people out there who are completely in the dark as to how to troubleshoot an issue when things go awry. Just this past weekend, we paid a visit to our family who happened to also be experiencing some laptop troubles. We found quite a frightening sight when presented with the issue. It encouraged us to lay some ground rules for our technologically challenged family to abide by in order to save everyone from heartache in the long run. After the jump we'll clue you in on the guide as well finish our story that would make any self-respecting techie's skin crawl.
Have a Back-Up Plan
This is true for all users from amateur to professional. A solid back-up system is a must have for anyone with important information saved on a computer. We recommend buying a single external hard drive (around 1TB in size) for the entire household. Each member of the house would get a folder on the hard drive (it could be password protected for security) and they should dump their files in there on a weekly basis. Alternatively, they could opt for a cloud-based system such as Carbonite.
Have Boot Disks & Manuals on Hand
It is so easy to toss these aside/away when first opening a computer but it is important to always have them available when problems arise. Windows users will often find themselves needing to revert back to their boot disc in order to repair some corrupted files on startup. Since our family's computer wasn't booting properly, we figured it was a similar issue and asked for the disc. Of course, no one knew where the boot cd was kept.
How and Where to Search for Help
The growing database of support online is quickly becoming the most efficient method of curing someone's computer woes. The only trouble is finding the right information when you need it, which could be difficult for someone who doesn't know what to look for. We've written about this very subject to help clarify the dilemma.
Own the Proper Tools
Although we completely discourage an unknowledgeable person from tinkering with their electronics' hardware in any advanced capacity, some minor issues can be easily fixed with the proper tools. A mini-screwdriver set is good to keep around if you need to open a case or tighten a loose screw. Another good tool is a canister of compressed air to break up dust and other debris that might be collecting on your CPU fan, causing it to overheat (for instance).
Always Keep the Lines of Communication Open with a Family Expert
This is a major point which would have saved our family a lot of trouble had they contacted us when the problem arose. Essentially, we discovered that somehow, a panel of the laptop body came off and they were unable to reattach it because they couldn't find the proper screwdriver (see above). The alarming part was that the casing which came off was previously guarding the internal hard drive.
So for weeks, this laptop has been carried around with the internal hard drive literally hanging around, exposed to the world. We quickly fiddled with the drive, attempting to secure any possible loose connections, found the proper screwdriver, and replaced the panel. Sure enough, the OS started right up. Of course they were oblivious to the severity of leaving such a fragile drive in such a precarious position. But had they contacted us when it first occurred, we would have gladly offered them some advice on where to get a screwdriver and why it is urgent they recover that exposure. Although it might be a pain in the ass to have the family constantly call their personal (and free) tech support, it can save a lot of time, money, and heartache to get a quick answer soon, rather than experience a complete disaster (like a failed hard drive in our case) because they were too afraid to call you.