Archive for December, 2009

Geek Squad Blues

December 31, 2009

I keep seeing the commercials for Best Buy’s “Geek Squad” and it pisses me off to no end. Why? Simple: The Geek Squad ruined my LapTop computer a few years ago.

To start at the beginning, I had bought a Toshiba Satellite computer from Best Buy some years ago. It took a few tweaks over time, but the 3 year warranty covered all that. Until it ran out. OK, no biggie, I know quite a bit about repairing computers. Well, one day I dropped the LapTop and damaged it significantly. I couldn’t afford to pay somebody else to fix it, so I found a similar model on eBay being sold “as-is” (sellers term for a broken item.) Well, the main trouble with it is that the hard-drive was gone and the screen was cracked. No problem! I bought it, received it, and proceeded to take apart the two units and made one good functional LapTop. Yay!

It worked fairly well, especially with the extra RAM I culled from the eBay unit. After a few weeks it started acting twitchy. Well, I looked it over and couldn’t find the problem. So, I took it to Best Buy and told them they had authorization to do $200.00 worth of work. I paid my $59.00 deposit and waited for it to come back. When it came back the bill was for $265.00. I gave them what-for and they dropped it to the authorized price. I was pretty happy with that…

…until four months later when it fried out the motherboard. Now, I couldn’t imagine why that happened, so I took it to a different repairman. Guess what? The Geek Squad had screwed a wire down onto the motherboard (catching wire between screw head and board) causing a short to the system. Now, call me crazy (lots of people do) but it seemed to me that the Geek Squad should reimburse me for their mistake.

Nope.

Their position was that it took more than 90 days to develop the problem, so they weren’t responsible. Come again? If you put something back together improperly, you are responsible no matter how it takes for your error to become apparent. Well, obviously I couldn’t afford the lawyer to sue them, so I was stuck for the repair cost to fix their mistake. Since then I have not taken anything to the Geek Squad to be fixed. In fact it is a very rare occasion for me to walk into Best Buy at all. I don’t think I’ve been in one in the last two years.

I still have the LapTop though I rarely use it since I got my Dell. I like Dell repairmen WAY better than Best Buy Geeks! The Toshiba usually gets lent out to people who need one for school or what-ever. Still works fine since getting it repaired outside of Best Buy, too.

So stay away from the Geek Squad! You can’t afford their “services”.

Wolf Rant!

Back-up Battery

December 30, 2009

Sparrowhawk got me thinking about the computer (yeah, that’s hard to do) and the power requirements involved. Now, my previous post was all about speeding up your computer and solving simple problems. This time I’m going to tell you how to avoid wrecking your hard-drive.
Obviously, you don’t want to abuse your hardware. Playing catch with a hard-drive is a bad idea. So is dropping it, using it for a hammer, or taking any of the screws or seals off of it. However, since everybody should have sense enough not to do those things, here is something most people don’t think of:

1. Put your system on a surge protector…the bigger the better. I worked on a system some months ago that was partially fried after a lightning strike overloaded the home’s electrical system and even burned the rug under the surge protector the computer was plugged into. It was a cheap $3.00 job and it still protected the computer well enough that I was able to fix it afterwards. Had there been no surge protection at all, the computer would have ended up a very large and unweildy paper-weight. A better S-P might have protected the computer completely.

2. Better than a surge protector is a back-up battery. My admittedly over-sized computer is plugged into a 1000 watt battery unit that will keep the computer going for several minutes after a power outage has left my house dark. On a lower-powered computer it could go half an hour or better. More than enough time to do a proper shut-down and reduce wear-and-tear on your system…specifically, the hard-drive. I also have my battery plugged into a heavy-duty surger protector, giving extra protection. Don’t daisy chain your surge protectors, though, as it will reduce the available power to your system if you take it too far. Outlet, surge-protector, back-up battery, computer is as far as I will take it. And like I said, I use a heavy-duty surge protector that runs $60 or more. A cheap protector means cheap protection. Why plug a $500 to $2000 computer into a $3.00 surge protector?

3. Do NOT overload the S-P or Battery! One high-end power drain is enough. Run your system and a few lower powered peripherals from a single protector and/or battery. Don’t run two computer on the same unit. Over-taxing the battery will shorten it’s life. Over-taxing the surger protector could result in a fire. Ever see those extension cord octopi running off of a single out-let? FWOOSH! Same goes for the surge protector. DON’T OVER-DO IT!!! I would set up a seperate battery and protector for each computer. Hell, I would even run them on seperate circuits if possible. Ever run a space heater only to have your circuit-breaker trip? Gee, I wonder what caused that? DUH!

If anybody wants to relate a horror story about power-outages and their effect on the computer, please chime in. Same goes for surge protector over-use or lack of use stories.

This has been a public service announcement from the Wolf.

Slow Computer?

December 15, 2009

Ordinarily, I like to rant about the crap I come across. Not this time. This time I’m going to try to help you with a problem. It seems like every time I turn around somebody is getting jacked by some computer repair shop like Geek Squad for something they could fix right at home. I personally am not a fan of the Geek Squad, anyway, but that is an upcoming rant.
Now, if your computer is running slower than it was, there are some simple steps to fix this problem without getting jacked for $100 by some geeks.

First: Do a complete virus scan. If you don’t have an anti-virus program, well, you may be to stupid to own a computer. Yes, that is a mean thing to say, but it is true. 99% of most computer problems are caused by those electronic bugs that sneak into your system and eat your data or funnel your personal info to some crook. If you don’t have virus protection, get some. Yesterday! Where was I? Oh, yeah…do a complete scan. Follow the instructions when it is done and shoo away those pesky bugs.

Second: Do a Malware scan. What’s that? You don’t know what that is? OY! Malware is the nasty little spyware and spoofware bugs that get into your system and spy on you and try to scam you with phony virus threats. And guess what? Anti-virus won’t catch it. You need something like Malwarebytes (which I use and works well for me) to scan your computer again. You can get a free copy of Malwarebytes. Just Google it. It is also simple to use. And no, I don’t get a kick-back for recommending it.

Third: OK, you zapped all the bugs and either your system is going faster or it isn’t. Either way you should do a disc clean-up. Good news is that it is a utility in Windows so you don’t have to download or buy anything. Yay! Now, hit START (lower left corner of your screen for the computer illiterate) then hit PROGRAMS, ACCESSORIES, SYSTEM TOOLS, and finally DISK CLEAN-UP. A little window will pop up. Click OK. Be patient while it goes through its routines. Eventually another little window will pop up. Check pretty much everything then hit OK. If you have more than one hard-drive then you will have to repeat this process for each drive.

Fourth: Now comes the fun part…defragmenting. Once again hit Start, PROGRAMS, ACCESSORIES, SYSTEM TOOLS, then DISK DEFRAGMENTER. A new window will open (yeah, I know, big surprise.) Highlight the hard-drive and click on DEFRAGMENT. This could take a while, but it can run in the background while you play Freecell or whatever you do normally.

OK, you did all that and the system is still running slow, so what’s the deal? Now it gets a bit more complicated. First guess, you have insufficient RAM to keep up with everything you do. Windows XP needs a minimum of 256 MB RAM to operate smoothly. However, every program you add to the system eats into the available RAM. Anti-virus programs will eat up RAM even in passive mode. If you have Vista, then you REALLY need more RAM! Standard PC systems use a 32 bit OS. Don’t worry if you don’t know what that means. If you had a 64 bit OS, you would know. So, with a standard system, you can upgrade the RAM to a maximum of 2 GB (assuming you aren’t running on a real dinosaur…check the specs and see what they say.) This is especially important if you got suckered into buying a Celeron system (suckerrrrrr!)

Finally, we come to the hard-drive. If it is too full it will slow down a bit, and even prevent you from running a Defrag. Get a new hard-drive with more capacity. If you have room in the computer case you can even piggy-back it with the old hard-drive giving you even more room to play with. Of course, you will need to move a lot of data from one drive to the other to make space on the primary. I typically run four to six hard-drives, but I have a custom built system…I built it myself.

Now, after all that the system is still slow. Well, bad news, folks. Time to unlpug the Mouse and plug it into a new PC. Odds are your motherboard or processor are on their way out. In this case it could be cheaper to get a new computer than to fix the old one. It’s not 100%, but those are the odds. If you know somebody who works on computers, check with him first. It could also be a bad RAM chip (easy fix if not easy to spot) or a bad power supply. Power supplies can be tricky to identify, but I’ve done it. Make sure your power supply isn’t under powered. My system hit a point where I killed three 450 Watt power supply boxes in one year. Solution? New power supply with 650 Watts. End of problem.

I don’t usually do this, but if you are having a computer issue I’ll take questions and see if I can assist. Just leave a comment on my blog and I’ll get back to you. Consider this my X-Mas present to you all.

The Wolf