Computer repair at home is not brain surgery. Computer repairs can be divided into two areas: software and hardware. A screwdriver is a potentially dangerous tool in the hands of some people. If you can change a lightbulb without being shocked, you might be able to swap out a part of a computer. Although the software is a bit more complicated, it's still easy to use for most computer users.
On a weekly basis, the three main repairs I'm called upon are:
Hardware failures (usually power supplies, hard drives, and ram)
Computer problems such as lost passwords, toasted OS, or hardware failures can cause computer boot to fail
These can all be very difficult depending on how valuable and likely you are to lose essential data. This could be anything, from photographs to tax records. It is possible to repair any computer; all that matters is your budget and time. Not all data can be saved. Data recovery is not possible if a hard drive experiences a catastrophic failure.
A good backup is essential for any home computer repair. I don't work on any item for more than an hour without backing it up immediately on another media. USB thumb drives cost only $30 and can store up to 5 gigs. CD or DVD prices are also very affordable. This was something I learned early in my computer use experience. It is much easier to repair your home computer if you don't have to worry too much about essential data. Would you please make sure to back up your data immediately after reading this article?
A backup is essential for home computer repairs. Let's take a look at how to avoid each of these common computer problems and, if the problem is already present, what are some possible solutions? This will allow you to do some research (to find the root cause of the problem - Windows sometimes points you in the wrong direction) and then come up with a solution.
Two significant preventive measures to eradicate Spyware/Malware are to make sure your OS (normally Windows) is up-to-date with security patches from Microsoft. Automatic Updating can be enabled in your Security Center. Go to Control Panel, click Security Center, and then verify that Automatic Updates have been turned on. Another option is to ensure that your Anti-Virus software is installed. It will automatically get updated. These programs provide a 93% solution.
An additional 5% can also be addressed by Anti-Spyware software like Windows Defender (free from Microsoft; just search for it using your choice of Search Engine) or Spybot (a free program available at www.spybot.info). Both do a great job. The last 2%? I don't know of a 100% solution. You can be safe by using common sense about where you surf, which email you open, and what you click.
What if you're already infected?
There are manual methods to remove Spyware/Malware, but they can be tedious and require several searching and restarting in safe mode. You can search for the culprit (most of them have a common problem) and find a manual solution. SpySweeper is the best commercial program I have seen. SpySweeper costs only $30 per annum and can save you time and money. It can be found at www.webroot.com.
There is not much prevention for this type of home computer repair. Remember that modern computer components typically have a 3-5-year mean failure rate. This time frame can range depending on how often you use your computer or leave it on. I have many older computers (plus seven years) that I don't use often.
I want to emphasize that nearly every customer who calls me for hardware problems had signs of warning before the actual crash. Computer freezing up, strange noises, frequent restarts, and other symptoms are all characters to be concerned about. These are all reasons to be worried. Do not wait for the computer to die. Which one? This is a difficult question. I have found that diagnostic programs can help, but it's often a matter of experience.
The basics of thumb:
Freezing and rebooting could be due to a flaky power supply or RAM going bad. If you have a problem with the power supply, it is possible that the power supply has lost its ability to provide enough wattage. The constant heat and cooling can cause RAM to become flaky. It will often die slowly as well. They are easy to replace, but you need to be careful about the number of plugs on your power supply when it is being replaced. For most computers, any power supply that exceeds 250 watts will work fine. 300 watts is the best. If you are looking to increase speed or wattage, match the RAM or power supply exactly.
Boot failure on hard drives with the message "no Operating System" or something similar means that there is a problem with either the hard drive or controller. Some hard drives also have controllers that fail. A hard drive problem can also be indicated by an error when you try to save or copy files. Any noises coming from your computer could be caused by either the power supply fan or the hard drive. You can sometimes format the drive at a low level and then bring it back. However, new hard drives are so cheap that you don't want to risk them.
Boot up problems:
Windows of any flavor are the number one culprit. Every version uses a registry to manage all user and hardware settings. Although it is a fancy database of settings, it can quickly become corrupt. When there is a problem with the software, open files won't close correctly, and this can cause issues with database integrity. The registry becomes unreadable or completely gone when you reboot. Windows has several files in the "hive," five to be exact. Each one can be toast, but I replace them all because they are interdependent.
If you have access to the Recovery Console, the easiest way to fix the problem is to locate a set of backup files that can be used and then copy them to your current access area. Although this sounds simple, the directory structure can be pretty complex, and you will need to hide the backup locations. You can find all the information you need about Microsoft's Recovery Console here: http://support.microsoft.com/search/#adv=1.
If the Recovery Console is already installed or from your CD with it, you can use Windows to run it. What if you don't have an installation CD? Many computer manufacturers no longer provide one. A bootable CD can be used with an NTFS-enabled OS (like Linux) to copy the files as recommended in the Recover console information. To use Recovery Console, borrow a friend's Windows XP Home or Pro install CD. Okay, so you don't have a friend with an installed CD but have no desire or access to a Linux CD. Now what?
Plan B is to remove your hard drive from the computer and change the connector at the back to the slave. Most hard drives come with instructions on how to do this. You now have access to the drive using an NTFS-write-enabled OS. You can now go back to the Recovery Console Fix and start working on it.
You can replace the hard drive if it doesn't turn on or light up. The majority of new units come with a CD that handles all details for adding the hard drive. You can then use the manufacturer's recovery CDs to install all of the original software on your new hard drive. Are you not familiar with the restore disks? If you don't have the restored disks, ask your computer manufacturer. They will usually sell you a set for less than $20. To ensure that you get the correct software for your computer, make sure to give the model number. If I don't have a set of recovery discs when I purchase a new computer, I order them immediately. This way, I am prepared for whatever happens.
Now you know the basics of home computer repair for the most common issues. Most people can do it quickly and follow the instructions. If you need to push, ask a friend with more experience. They buy the pizza, and you provide moral support and expertise.