Jim Fisher

Hey, I’m on vacation this week so tried to dig through my archives to find a really interesting article from the past. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything interesting so please be happy with this one wherein I expose all my secrets. . . . okay, perhaps not all of them. This newspaper doesn’t have room enough and most would bore you to tears. But I can reveal enough computer repair secrets to keep you busy until I get back.

The first step in computer diagnosis is to determine if the problem is hardware or software related. Heat buildup can cause all sorts of issues so one quick way to determine that is to open the case and inspect the innards of the system. If your first reaction is, “Ewwwww!” then you should purchase a can of compressed air and get rid of the dust. If you have a laptop, it should be blown out as well. Just stick the air nozzle into the vents and blow away. While you’re in there, just look for broken stuff.

If the initial hardware inspection passes, you should know that, besides user errors (what we in the business call “loose nuts behind the keyboard”), the biggest cause of most computer problems are viruses, spyware. and junk programs. If you don’t have updated security software, chances are very good that whatever problem you are having is virus and spyware related. Our choices for free antivirus programs are AVG Free Edition and Microsoft’s “Windows Defender” that’s built into Windows 10 and is available for Windows 7.

Even the best antivirus programs aren’t perfect. There are some types of junk that get by the major antivirus programs. An excellent free product called “Malwarebytes Anti-malware” removes the junk that antivirus programs don’t. Download and install this program and remove whatever it finds.

The next step is to go through your list of installed programs and remove stuff that looks suspicious. You need to be careful to not remove something just because you don’t know what it is. Some programs are necessary. But if you have ANY sort of “Speed Fixer” to “PC Speed” or “Registry Clean” programs, remove them with a vengeance. They are all pure junk.

If your computer freezes often, and the system is free of viruses and spyware, the likely culprits are either a bad hard drive or a defective memory module. Problems with RAM modules are rare but do happen. Microsoft provides a free RAM tester. If it finds a problem, you simply replace the defective module. Do an Internet search for “Windows Memory Diagnostic” and run this test.

Next is a test of the hard drive. Most computer manufacturers include built-in hard drive diagnostics on their systems that aren’t quite as thorough as the “professional” stuff we use in the shop but it’s good enough for home use. The test is simple: If your hard drive fails the test, you need to backup your important stuff and call someone that knows what they are doing.

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