Saturday, July 4, 2015

Family Tech: Here’s what to do when something goes wrong with your technology - July 3, 2015

We’ve all been there. Be it a PC that will not turn on, a blue screen of death or some other issue that initially has us flummoxed. And too often, the worst happens at the worst times.

If your computer or phone starts acting flaky, one trick fixes a lot of the problems. Simply restart it. If you call for tech support, they invariably will ask you to do that since it fixes so many problems.

Yesterday, the new Microsoft Surface in our home refused to turn on. I Googled the problem and found out that holding the off switch down for 30 seconds, then releasing it, and then pressing it once, would restart the recalcitrant device. That’s the second great secret of tech support. If you Google an issue, you’ll find others have had the same issue and hopefully you’ll find their solution.

Self tech support is easier if you have a second device you can use to search online for help. Even your phone will work.

Technology problems are inevitable so we must plan for them.

First, whenever you get a new device, take a few moments to read through the manual and play with the device. And after using the device for a few weeks, read the manual a second time. You will get so much more from it then, and probably learn new things of value about the device.

Take a moment to file away the receipt and manual so you can find them if you have problems. Personally, I scan the receipts into Evernote, and download PDF files or the manual off the web to Evernote.

Make sure your PC has a good antivirus application on it, and that it updates and runs itself at least once a week. If you do not leave your PC on all the time, be sure to put on your calendar or task list a reminder to leave it on all night the night it is scheduled to do the virus check.

Backup is critical should you lose everything. I have come to appreciate CrashPlan recently. For $5 a month for one PC, or $12.50 for the entire family, CrashPlan will make unattended backups to the cloud of all your PCs. That way, should your home burn down, or a laptop is lost, you have all the data elsewhere. It is worth it for peace of mind. There are other similar services, but CrashPlan covers multiple computers, and multiple drives on those PCs, something the other services don’t always do.

If your device does go bad at a critical time, having all your files backed up in the cloud lets you get at them from another PC easily. Say your PC goes bad as you are putting the final touches on a major paper, you can always go to the library and use one of their PCs to finish. Or use a family member’s PC.

If you do have to call for help from a family member, a support service or if it is your work PC, your company’s help desk, there are things you can do to help them help you.

First of all, be polite. As I read forum posts from help desk people, it is amazing they get calls from people horribly aggressive in their behavior. These same people would never call the Benefits Department and rake someone over the coals, knowing it would land them in hot water. But some feel they can berate Help Desk operators over things that are not in their control or that are happening because the caller screwed up. Be polite.

Second, think before you call and be ready to state the problem clearly. Don’t tell them what you’ve tried, unless they ask. Often, I’ll get a call from a friend and they tell me not about the problem they are trying to solve, but rather a problem they ran into trying to solve the original problem. Tell the Help Desk the original problem and let them guide you to a solution.

Be patient with them. They have to run through a script that will solve most of the problems for most of the people. If they ask you to restart your PC even when you’ve told them you have, cooperate. A lot of people do not want to restart their PC due to the time it takes, so they lie to the Help Desk. And restarting fixes so many problems; they have to do it first.

Nothing is more maddening to someone trying to help you then to hear this: “Just before the problem began I saw a dialog box on the screen. I forget what it said.”

Whenever a frightening or cryptic error message appears, write down what it says. Better yet, use the Snipping Tool to make a copy of it. The Snipping Tool has been a free tool on every Windows since Vista.

Links for this column are here.

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