"Holy Mackeral! My Windows PC System Just Crashed. What The $@)*%# Should I Do?"
That's what fiftysomething analyst Robert Dixon of Perth, Western Australia exclaimed as his blank Windows PC steered back at him and refused to power up. Dixon runs a small money management business and intimately depends on his computer's financial software for his livelihood. A half a world away in Malta, Leona Peonides, in the same profession, experienced a similar setback with her PC. Yet two hours later, her Windows PC was back up and running, not in perfect condition, but well enough for her to extract important data and graphs before she sent the computer in for detailed repairs. The difference between the two: Peonides had read the Computer Comprehensive Companion. Dixon had not. He's since repented and bought a copy. Shouldn't you?
Your Windows PC is the most important tool in your home or office. Should you remain completely ignorant about something that important?
According to Support.com, 65% of Americans spend more time with their computer than they do with their spouse. Over 7 in 10 Americans claim they're more dependent on their computers than they were three years ago, and by no means are Americans a special case. For a machine you're so dependent on, that you spend so much of your time using, don't you think it'd be prudent to get savvy about it?
I get it. You're probably not a technical dynamo. Computer manuals, for the most part, are difficult to understand, laborious to read. Who has the time and energy for that? You have Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat Reader, browser, and e-mail software installed on your PC and are familiar with the basics. When you bought the machine, you purchased some kind of extended warranty. You're not quite sure what that warranty includes, but you're confident the experts have you covered should something go wrong. Isn't that good enough?
Well, it wasn't for Robert Dixon. Dixon's PC was produced by one of the world's major computer manufacturers, just like yours probably is. He obtained a three-year warranty upon purchase, just like you probably did. When he called up his manufacturer's tech support number, which redirects to India just like yours probably does, he was run through the usual drills. Was the power adapter plugged in? Had he pressed the ON button? Was the computer overheated? What followed was a bureaucratic nightmare. He spent more than ten hours on the phone over the next six days to get the fix approved, yet more days waiting for a box with the appropriate authorization code, still more for the computer to arrive at the tech support facility, and more on top of that to get it mailed back to him. And it turns out the problem was a minor one: just a loose screw in the chassis of the machine! “With the money I lost not having access to my financial software tools and client files for almost two weeks, this wound up the most expensive simplest fix ever!” he now remarks.
A warranty is a necessity, but sometimes a little knowledge can take you a lot further
Granted, for Robert Dixon's particular issue, there's no way a novice like him could have known a certain screw required tightening. An expert had to disassemble his desktop to figure that out. But in an estimated eight out of ten situations, with a bit of knowledge in hand, you'd be capable of diagnosing and performing the fixes yourself like Leona Peonides did and like Robert Dixon could if the same problem recurs.
Even with a warranty, you only want to have your computer hauled in if you absolutely need to. Tech guys can be too busy or too lazy to get to the core of your problem. One of my prior Windows PC laptops kept shutting down during certain memory-intensive processes, so I sent it in under warranty. A day later I got a call that they wanted to erase and reformat my entire hard drive. That's not news you love to hear. Not only would I lose a number of files I hadn't gotten around to backing up, it would take me several days thereafter to customize the computer the way it was before and reinstall all the software, some of which I feared I no longer had the discs for. When I queried the tech repairman further, he admitted he had done NO TESTING to conclude that a reformat was the optimum way to solve my problem. Reformatting was his “cop-out solution,” the thing to try to hopefully get him out of having to actually solve the real problem. I instructed him not to reformat at this stage and just replace the computer's internal fan. It was an educated guess based on my years of Windows PC experience which proved to be the correct solution.
Many of these tech hounds resort to erasing your entire system or opening it up to unnecessarily replace components without considering the simplest and most suitable fix. And without genuinely addressing the real cause, your PC issues are going to resurface again and again. On another occasion, tech repair hastily patched my motherboard. Three months later, my computer was back in the shop.
Think about your Windows PC like a car you use every day. There are times when things just go wrong. Your car won't start. Your fuel hose is leaking. One of your fuse panels is shot. Some of these fixes are beyond your knowledge. A professional has to look things over to perform the repairs. But what if your car issue amounts to a tire going flat? Even with an automobile club membership which includes free basic repairs, is it really worth your time to wait around until someone shows up to do the job? What if you are in a remote or dangerous area where waiting around isn't a suitable option? Wouldn't you be better off if you just knew how to put on a spare tire yourself?
What about your health? There are times when you suffer a calamity or fall ill, and there's no way out of it. You need to call in the doctors. But is it necessary to summon the doctors every single time something goes wrong? Would you ring a doctor for every cold, sore throat, and fever you incurred? By learning something about nutrition and general health, you could probably self diagnose and handle plenty of the more menial medical issues.
The medical analogy is very apt because we're so used to speaking of computers in clinical terms. We commonly say our Windows PC has caught a virus or crashed. As humans, we minimize illness through nutrition and exercise. We follow tried and true procedures which strengthen the body and weaken the invaders. Just like you, your computer requires its own set of procedures to strengthen it and aid it in resisting viral attacks. It would sure come in handy to know the precise steps to protect your Windows PC from the moment you take it out of the box.
Privy to the secrets in the Computer Comprehensive Companion, if something bad befalls your computer which isn't hardware related, you stand an excellent chance of being able to remedy the problem yourself.
The PC is here to stay. Do you need the threat of a PC breakdown as your sole excuse to become more proficient on the most powerful device in your home or office?
Over a three year period, the average computer user experiences a computer problem eight times and winds up wasting the equivalent of half a weekend per month on the setback. Without a doubt, knowing how to troubleshoot your PC after something goes wrong is an asset, but it shouldn't be the end of the road. Your PC remains the most powerful computational device you've got. Shouldn't you be doing everything you can to the get the maximum out of it?
There are an estimated 850 million to 1 billion computers in the world. 85% to 90% of those are Windows PC's. That's a fair share of PC's, roughly equal to the total population of Europe. Still, pundits keep proclaiming the PC is passe in a world of mobile devices. Given the penetration of smart phones and tablets today, of course consumers' computer experiences are not going to be spent exclusively on a Windows PC anymore. Does that equate to the Windows PC moving into extinction? Or does it more accurately mean that people are using phones and tablets for tasks that are better suited to them –- for example, reading books or watching online videos? Look at the movie industry. Thirty years ago more people saw more movies at the cinema on a regular basis. That doesn't translate into the movie industry spinning into a death spiral. Quite the opposite. Box office grosses have quadrupled since 1980. Cinephiles just consume their movie entertainment differently. They see a fewer number of movies at the cinema and consume a larger share on Blu-ray, DVD, or on streaming video at home.
The PC is far from dead. In fact, with the prices of Windows PC's steadily falling, there's never been a better time to own one. It is, BY FAR, the best bang for your computer buck. For less than the cost of the latest iPhone, you can get a Windows PC with fifty times the hard drive space and four times the memory. The PC's bargain cost and versatility makes it a better self-contained word processor, spreadsheet, and web design interface than any tablet or smart phone. You can do more and more things on a phone or tablet everyday, but you can do EVERYTHING on a Windows PC. For the time being, Windows PC's will continue to remain the focal point of any home or office network.