Sunday Tech Support

I dropped back the laptop I finished fixing yesterday, then back to the office to finish remote support on a laptop I was working on yesterday that had  turned itself off. The customer and I couldn’t get it to connect again, so I drove over to pick pick it up. Back at the office I fixed the remaining problems, then jumped back in the car to return it to the customer. Social distancing, and antibacterial wipes were used, of course. The laptop had been very slow (for example, when opening Microsoft Excel), and occassionally locking up. Here’s a list of some of the things I did to fix it.

CDI Caution

  • The first thing I checked was the hard disk health. It reports it has reallocated sectors. In simple terms, it has had trouble reading several blocks of data, so when it did finally get read the data, it moved the data to ‘spare sectors’. I explained to the customer that if this was my own disk I would replace it as it’s the first sign of failure. However, we agreed to check the disk periodically and if the number of reallocted sectors increases, we will rplace the disk. Meanwhile, I set up an online backup (second copy) of the customer’s files.
  • I removed TotalAV Antivirus. It had been installed by mistake after an advert popped up a fake warning saying his antivirus was due to expire, and to ‘click here’ to continue protection. Clicking it downloaded and installed this software, even though the customer already had McAfee antivirus (which I don’t recommend either).
  • I removed adware (advertising malware). It’s nothing to do with the holiday booking site, it’s an unwanted app that periodically shows adverts.
  • I had to do a password reset to log in to OneDrive.
  • I repaired some corrupt Windows files, did a tune-up, and installed a Windws Update.

I also provided phone support for a couple of internet and router/modem/hub connectivity problems. There were some other calls too, but this post is long enough and it’s 9:30pm and I’d like to get out of the office.

If you have any computer propblems that you need professional help with, please phone me if you’re in the UK. Phone numbers are on this page on a green icon (somewhere, depending on whether you’re on a computer, tablet or phone). If you’re outside the UK I can still help. Use the Contact Me form on this website and I’ll be in touch. Thanks!

Broadband internet troubleshooting

A client called to say that their BT Infinity broadband wasn’t working.  They had spent a considerable time on the phone to BT technical support without any resolution.  This sort of problem is very hard to diagnose over the phone; you need to actually be there to troubleshoot these problems.

I visited the client and tested the PC, then the Home Hub, then the Infinity box.  They seemed to working correctly but there was still no internet connection.  I checked their internal wiring (phone sockets and BT Infinity socket) and that appeared to be in good condition.  My diagnosis was that there was a problem with the BT line outside the property.  They called BT who informed them that there was a charge of over £100 to have a BT engineer come out, but they wouldn’t have to pay the charge of the problem was outside the home.  I was confident that it was a problem at BT’s end, so the client agreed and booked the BT Engineer visit.

The client later informed me that it was a problem at BT’s green box in their street, which BT fixed free of charge, and the internet is working properly now.  My charge was less than the BT Engineer would have cost, so the client saved money by calling me in.

My advice is, if you have an internet problem, call me in to troubleshoot and don’t waste your time with calling BT (or Virgin, TalkTalk, or whoever).  I will identify and fix the problem if it’s a problem at your end, or advise you to contact your provider if the problem is at their end.  It will save you time, money, and hassle.

Internet connection problem – Why it pays to pay me

I went to see a client this morning.  She had no internet.  Yesterday a Virgin Engineer spent two hours at her house and couldn’t get it to work. She then spent three hours on the phone to Virgin who eventually blamed her computer.  She was so stressed that she took the night off work.

I got her back online 35 minutes after I arrived. The problems was an incorrect setting on her Virgin router. I fixed something in 35 minutes that virgin couldn’t fix in five hours!

I then spent the remaining 25 minutes of my one-hour minimum call-out fixing a blue-screen problem (caused by overheating) and speeding up her PC a little.

This ‘can’t get on the internet’ type of problem is very common.  It’s not something the Internet Service Provider (ISP) can easily diagnose over the phone.  It needs someone actually there to see what’s going on and to try things in a logical order.

The ISP will tend to blame the client’s computer (especially antivirus) first, but they could be barking up the wrong tree and wasting lots of time changing the computer settings.  Almost always, the first thing I do is connect my laptop to the modem/router and see if I can get on the internet.  If I can, then it’s likely to be a problem with the client’s computer.  If my laptop can’t get on the internet, then it’s likely to be a problem with the modem or router or a line problem, and the ISP can’t blame the client’s computer.  Either way, we’ve just saved half of the time by ruling out half of the possibilities.

So, next time you can’t get on the internet, call me and I’ll figure out what the problem really is.  The alternative could be spending five hours with the ISP, not getting the problem solved, and losing a night’s money because you’re too stressed to go to work.

Tech support from your ISP could be a costly waste of time

BBC News reported on a Which? report today which shows that most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are using premium rate numbers for their tech support.

Why would anyone want to pay premium rates for a call to India and have to wait (while paying) for their call to be answered? Why not contact me? My time is cheaper than some premium rate tech support calls, and I’ll help you in person. Most of the calls I get are from people who have called their ISP, spent around an hour on the phone, and still haven’t got a solution. Most of the time, it’s not a problem the ISP can fix directly anyway.

Take a recent case as an example. A couple, both computer novices, had been on the phone to BT for ages because they couldn’t get their PC connected to their internet service. BT tech support had asked them to do lots of stuff on the PC to try to fix the problem, but as novice’s this was slow and frustrating. They even told them to buy an unusual type of USB cable to connect the modem/router to the PC. They did, but that didn’t work either.

I went round and started my diagnostics. I found that my laptop easily connected to their internet service, so it wasn’t a problem with the BT end of things. Their PC couldn’t ‘see’ the modem using the USB cable; the reason is that the USB socket on their BT modem is for attaching an external hard disk, not a computer, so that was never going to work. This just illustrates that the BT helpline doesn’t even know how its own equipment works.

The solution was easy. I fitted an Ethernet card to the PC (having cleaned out the dust from the inside of the PC first) and we got a connection immediately. They’ll have a good, reliable internet connection now. It’s something a novice couldn’t do on his own, and a helpdesk can’t do over the phone.

It took 90 minutes from start to finish, including cleaning out the PC, explaining everything in terms they understood, and a good chat (I know them personally). 90 minutes of personal service, compared to long phone calls, trips to PC World for unnecessary purchases, and still no solution.

I offer:

  • In-you-home PC and IT services for residential clients in Essex, UK
  • In-your-office PC and IT services for business clients nationally (if it’s cost effective for you and me)
  • Online tech support. See the link on the homepage (requires broadband connection)
  • Payment by cash, cheque, credit card, or PayPal

Whatever you need, if it involves computers or IT then please contact me by using the Contact menu item at the top of the page.