The Big Crash: Self-Help In Times Of Computer Crises

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There are, it is safe to say, four basic types of computer users:

Novice users those who are afraid that simply pressing a key might break their computer.

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Dan Working, owner of Rim Country Technologies, says that fixing your home computer can be as simple as running virus-detection software on it. Computer problems also can be quite complex, requiring the expertise of technicians, such as Working.

Intermediate users those who don’t know how to fix their computer after they’ve just pressed a key that broke it.

Expert users those who break other people’s computers.

Programmer the only computer users who can understand any feature, device or concept described as “user friendly.”

Come to think of it, there is one more type and Daniel Working, the owner/operator of the computer-repair company Rim Country Technologies, is one of those.

Working is among the very few who actually know how to fix computers; how to tell you in simple, easy-to-comprehend language how to fix it yourself; and perhaps more important, how to keep the evil machine from crashing in the first place.

Viruses

“I would say that, during the last month here in Payson, about 90 percent of all the computer problems I’ve seen are virus-related,” Working said. “That’s the first thing I check for when I go into somebody’s home. If they’re telling me that they’re having problems getting on the Internet, or if their computer is constantly freezing up, I know right away that it’s probably some type of virus.”

Viruses are insidious programs that can spread from one computer to another when files are exchanged. The degree of damage they can cause to your computer varies with each different virus. Some may just take up room on your hard drive, while others can destroy important data.

The smart way to protect yourself is to use anti-virus software. Run a scan of your disks once a month and be sure to continually use your anti-virus program’s Internet “update” feature to update your virus definitions, since new, increasingly complex computer diseases pop up every month.

“There are a number of good virus programs you can buy for $39 or $49 per year,” Working said. “But the home PC user can also go to the website www.grisoft.com, where they can download a free antivirus program with free updates for as long as you want them. It is excellent. It catches every virus that’s up here.”

Memory

No matter if you are virus-free, and no matter how careful you are with your applications, sooner or later one of the programs you’re using will lock up meaning that its functions can no longer be accessed and, often, the rest of your computer becomes unusable as well.

“When this happens, most people reboot their machines,” Working said. “But that can damage your computer over the long term.”

Here’s what Working calls a better and very simple way to deal with this common headache: click Ctrl-Alt-Delete ... in the “close program” window look for the program that says Not Responding beside it ... then double click the locked-up program.

For a long-term escape from computer freeze, Working also suggests adding more RAM (rapid access memory) memory to the computer.

“For most systems, this provides the single-biggest increase in speed, and it doesn’t cost much,” he said.

RAM is easy to install. The tiny circuit boards can only be placed in one set of slots, facing in one direction. Typically, they slide in at an angle and snap up. Some plug right in. You can tell by looking at the RAM you already have.

To figure out what type of RAM your computer uses, visit www.crucial.com, which allows you to shop by brand and model.

The big chill

“Another major contributor to lock-ups at this time of year is the temperature,” Working said. “Your RAM can get very hot but it is made of silicon, which transfers electrons fastest at cooler temperatures. So the cooler your system stays, the better it will run. In fact, if we could freeze computers at zero-degrees Celsius, they’d probably run three or four times faster.”

The best way to chill out the average home PC, he said, is to:

  • Keep it off the floor, where the cooling fan inside the computer is most likely to became inoperative due to dust;
  • Keep it away from heat-generating devices such as lamps;
  • Regularly clean the computer’s fan and other interior parts with a can of anti-static dust spray and NOT a vacuum cleaner which, according to Working, can create sufficient electro-static energy to zap your computer for good.

“When that happens, there’s nothing anyone can do about it,” Working said.

Parting tips

Here are a few other Working suggestions you may want to attempt before you consult computer manuals or call in a technician:

  • Are all cables connected After securing connections, reboot the computer and see if it works.
    • Did you recently load new software Often times, you won’t see a problem until after you reboot the machine.You may not know the program you loaded caused problems until the next morning when you boot your machine.
  • When was the last time you ran Windows’ Maintenance Wizard This built-in program includes a lot of tools to keep your computer running squeaky clean. To access the wizard, click on: Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Maintenance Wizard. Follow the instructions on the screen.

Daniel Working of Rim Country Technologies can be contacted by calling (928) 468-8178 or (928) 970-0237.

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