Weird Things You Encounter As A Computer Technician

In Marvel’s “Thor” they went to great lengths to make the point that all magic was was science we hadn’t discovered yet. I agree with that. Today, that magic is computers. Despite the fact that computers are quite literally everywhere, most people still don’t really know how they work. Nothing wrong with that. I mean, computers are complex, who has time to figure all that out if you don’t have to?

Thing is, since people are generally not in the know, it can give rise to all sorts of misconceptions about just how computers function, which is never more apparent than when you actually work in computers. So when you’re, say, a technician, you encounter all sorts of weird situations, like the following:

Smut, Smut, and More Smut

I used to work at a computer repair shop (shout out to PC-Integral, LLC!). We saw a lot of computers, desktops and laptops, brought in for all sorts of reasons. The biggest problems I personally encountered were by far those caused by viruses. And you know the most frequent cause of said viruses?


That’s right. Smut. There are few things more awkward than having to explain to a 54 year old man that his continued viewing of naked people is screwing with his computer, and then watching the conflict play out on his face as he tries to figure out whether it would be worth it to run his computer the rest of the way into the ground so he can continue his habit.

No, there is one thing more awkward. When someone brings in their computer and specifically requests that we don’t delete his stockpile, which leaves you no choice but to try and work around all that dirt while you simultaneously try to clean the system. It feels a lot like mopping and polishing every tile in a kitchen floor except the one with the dog crap on it.

On third thought, something slightly more awkward is having to explain to a man that his crippling smut addiction is also crippling his laptop while his (formerly) oblivious wife listens. That’s weird on like three different levels.

My point is, you don’t realize how pervasive all that is until you’re on the front lines having to remove it from people’s computers.

People Want To Tell You How To Do Your Job

There aren’t too many things more annoying than someone who thinks they know everything about something they really don’t know anything about. You run into that a lot in the computer world.

The thing with computers is the technology is continually updating. If you don’t stay up on things, just about everything you know can become invalid in only a years time. Yet for some reason, people who used to be in computers think they are still in computers, when in reality, while the most basic of things haven’t really changed, if you went to school for computer science in the 70’s and that was the last time you touched a PC, you probably can’t offer a very helpful (read, accurate) opinion on what’s wrong with your system. Sorry.

You’ve also got the people who have never been formally taught anything at all about computers, yet they insist that the knowledge and insight they’ve acquired through Google makes them a guru. No one seems to realize that, if you have to bring your computer into a repair shop, it’s more than likely because you yourself are not qualified to fix it. So, if you bring your computer to an expert, it would be awesome if you, I don’t know, let that expert do his job. Odds are they know how. Odds are also that if you do insist on giving your input they will only listen respectfully and then disregard most of what you say, because unless it is fact, it is irrelevant to the diagnosis process.

So when you do bring your computer into some repair shop, spare the tech guy all those “I really think it’s the fan,” or “It’s got to be the memory,” and just tell him or her the problem and the symptoms. We can usually figure out the rest.

People Have No Idea The Amount of Work We Do

Since so many people don’t know how computers work, not many people know what it takes to fix them when they stop working. A lot of people think that shutting everything down is like dying in Super Mario; you just start over with a clean slate. Or they think that their their computer screwed up because of something that had nothing to do with them. They see fixing computers as something as simple as flicking a switch.

At the shop I worked at, we charged a diagnostics fee of $55, which we waived if we actually fixed your PC. If we figured out what was wrong and you then decided not to have us fix things, you would have to pay the diagnostic fee and nothing else.

When we told people this, they lost their minds! They could not for the life of them understand why we were charging them when we didn’t do anything.

Thing is, we did. Diagnosing, or troubleshooting, takes time. Time that could have been spent on other things, like, oh I don’t know, fixing other computers or something. My manager said it best. Technicians are computer doctors. When you go to the doctor for a checkup, you still pay your doctor even if you did get a clean bill of health. Same goes for your car. Same goes for your computer.

On the flip side of that, people tend to be wary of computer techs because since they don’t know exactly what we do to a computer to fix it, we can charge basically whatever we want for whatever reason we want. That doesn’t mean we do that though, but people don’t know. It doesn’t help that they probably think all we do is push some button and everything resolves itself.

While it’s true that some things are easier to fix than others (I’m looking at you, virus removal!) it’s still work, and everybody deserves a fair wage.

You Learn Just How Reliable Technology Is Not

Before I started working in computers, I didn’t really trust computers. If I had a paper or something to write, I’d do it by hand, because I didn’t trust that my work wouldn’t be somehow erased or corrupted or rewritten or whatever it was that computers did to hapless people like myself. Now that I’m familiar with computers, while I am a lot more comfortable with them, I still don’t trust them.

This is a case of knowledge actually being worse than ignorance. I don’t have to imagine all the terrible ways my computer can screw with me and all my precious information, because I know exactly what could happen. I know exactly how data can be corrupted, files can be fragmented, how a hard drive can die because of something as simple as a bad disk. It’s scary.

But I take precautions now. I back up everything. Twice over. Because I know that all it takes is one faulty piece of software or hardware to seriously screw you over.

I also have to have a physical copy of everything. Be it music, movies, books, software, I try my best to avoid simply downloading. Because if you read the terms and conditions for most of that stuff, you learn that even after making a purchase, you technically still don’t own the item. What you paid for is the right to use said item. So who’s to say I won’t plug my iPhone into my computer one day and my stuff won’t get magically erased? Push that little reset to factory settings button on Itunes by accident and that nightmare becomes a harsh reality. But unless someone steals them or something, I’m not going to wake up one morning and find my entire CD collection vanished.

So while it is terribly convenient to have all my stuff in as small a space as a laptop, I still like to have backup copies just in case, because while I’m not exactly distrustful of technology, I’m aware of it’s limitations.

In summation, as long as computers continue to become more and more integral to our everyday lives, there will be a need for people who can fix them. While I don’t work in the field anymore, I was able to leave it as a more enlightened individual, with some pretty weird stories to tell.


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