Jim Fisher

In my business, we get the same questions day after day. I thought I’d share some of those with you guys. So without further adieu:

Q: Why did my hard drive die?   A: Hard drives are mechanical devices utilizing a spinning platter that has a read/write “head.” It operates similarly to an old-school record player but uses a magnet instead of a needle. The bearings in the platter can wear out making the hard drive spin slower which can make your old computer seem slower. Sometimes, the motor gives out and the platter just doesn’t spin at all. This is very bad news for your data. The platter itself can also develop bad spots over time. Your computer then “trips” over these bad spots making the computer lock up or run very slow. Those of you with laptops should stop moving your computer around while it is on. Moving the laptop while it is on causes bad spots on the spinning platter. Once you have enough of them, bad things happen. Always make backups only of the stuff you want to keep.

Q: I have a big message on my display that says I need to call Microsoft or bad things will happen.  A: Turn your computer off. You may have to press and hold the power button for a few seconds if your computer is locked up. Turn it back on and I bet the problem is gone. In our experience, this annoyance is only temporary and leaves nothing on your computer that you should worry about. To avoid this in the future, stop visiting whatever website you were on when the “error” appeared. Above all, DO NOT CALL THESE PEOPLE (see next question).

Q: I let someone take remote control of my computer before I realized it was a scam. What do I do?   A: As long as you didn’t give them your money, you’re probably OK. In our experience, the scammers do no harm to your computer other than trying to convince you that your computer has horrible problems that warrant hundreds of dollars in repairs. Everything they will tell you is a lie designed to scare you.

Q: Why do people make viruses? Can’t we send them to prison?  A: A few years ago, hackers sought recognition and fame--sort of the digital equivalent of smashing mailboxes when I was a stupid teenager. Today, these criminals use malicious software to steal money from their victims. Viruses and worms are usually used to take control of your computer with the aim of using it for fraud without your knowledge. They will also install spyware to gather your personal information when you surf the Internet. A hacker could obtain your password to access your bank accounts, or your credit card number when you make online purchases. Unfortunately, these people are pretty savvy at hiding their identity so prosecution is difficult. The worldwide internet also makes it easy for a criminal in Russia to rob your computer in the US, making prosecution difficult or impossible.

Jim Fisher owns Excel Computer Services in Florence. Reach him at www.ExcelAL.com