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ISSUE 19.33.F • 2022-08-15 • Text Alerts!Gift Certificates

In this issue

SUPPORT: Randy’s top 10 customer-support issues: Identified!

Additional articles in the PLUS issue • Get Plus!

PUBLIC DEFENDER: Kim Kardashian wants out of lawsuit for promoting EthereumMax

FREEWARE SPOTLIGHT: CleanSweep2 — When you need extra hard-drive space fast

PATCH WATCH: Windows 11’s unique bug

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Randy’s top 10 customer-support issues: Identified!

Randy McElveen

By Randy McElveen

You hear pretty much everything when you’ve been in the computer-repair business for as long as I have, but you also hear a lot of the same questions and see the same issues on a daily basis.

In this series of articles, I have one goal — to keep you out of stores like mine by giving you some tips on what to do when you experience any of the following problems or have any of these questions.

Let’s start this week by simply identifying the most common things I see on a weekly basis, and then I’ll do a few follow-up articles to show what you can do to avoid me.

#10 — The spilled drink vs. the laptop

You would be very surprised at how often this happens. And it’s not always a huge catastrophe, at first. I spend my days micro-soldering blown capacitors, transistors, and resistors. A few components under water or cola stains is the norm. What makes this difficult is when a customer spends the hour and a half after the accident attempting to power their damaged laptop back on. Then we have to start discussing replacing the entire motherboard.

There are good people with good intentions who will tell you to buy a 40-pound bag of rice in which to submerge your laptop for 24 hours. This is actually a good idea for smartphones (just one pound of rice in that case), but it is not the remedy for an entire laptop.

If you do spill liquid on your laptop, time is money — literally.

Spilled Liquid
Figure 1. Water is bad. Diet soda is worse. Regular soda — very, very bad.

#9 — Box-o-parts

I’ve always encouraged people to fix what they own. That’s what my dad did. That’s what his dad did. In fact, I spend a lot of time giving out advice over the phone for individuals who also want to resurrect the lost art of fixing stuff. But if you are going to attempt it, follow through. Do not bring your computer girl or guy a box of parts after giving up. A single laptop can have dozens of different sizes of screws. A long screw in a short hole can fry the electronics underneath. It is very time-consuming for a computer tech to track down where each screw went. It will certainly not be cheaper than bringing in an intact device.

Still, I want you to learn. So, later in this series, I will demonstrate some of the state-of-the-art tools we use in the business that you, too, can use for repairs. (Sneak peek: see Figure 2.)

Figure 2. Pill organizers. They’re not just for pills in our shop.

#8 — The nerd squadron

“The tech at [insert name of big-box store here] told me a virus ate my motherboard. Is this true?”

No kidding, I have always wanted to write an article (or book) about some of the advice our new customers have been given before coming to us. In fact, that previous quote was a nearly exact quote from a customer. I’m not going to pick on just big-box stores when I show you how to protect yourself and your money. I’ll tell you what to listen for and what to watch out for when taking that computer or other device through the doors of an electronics-/computer-repair establishment, even mine.

#7 — Bad dog!

When you’ve lost the power cord for your laptop (or Fido chewed it to shreds), you don’t always have the time or the money to go buy a new one. We see a lot of travelers come through our historic town, so we know how often cords get lost or left behind.

What if I told you that it doesn’t matter if your kid’s laptop cord says Toshiba on it? You may still be able to use it in a pinch, even if your computer is not the same brand. But I have to warn you, do not try this until you read the follow-up to this article — where I will be giving you a crash course in volts, watts, and amps. Just because it fits into the charge port doesn’t mean it’s safe for you or your device.

#6 — Out of juice

Things have certainly improved since I was stuffing C batteries into my tape recorder every two days. Today’s lithium-based batteries are a marvel of engineering, but in 10 years we will all laugh at my saying that. By then, batteries will be lasting for years, not days. (Google “solid-state batteries.”)

With all of us becoming so dependent on our battery-powered devices, it can be very frustrating when a device stops recharging. When our customers have this problem (and it happens often), the cause is usually a bad charging cord (AC adapter) or an end-of-life battery. However, this is not always the case. I will touch on this in the upcoming articles by giving you some things to try before ordering replacements.

#5 — Hot, hot, hot!

Halfway to the #1 support issue, it’s time to talk dirty. Customers complain about devices getting too hot all year around, but after a long winter we have a surge of complaints. That’s because your devices have been sucking in dust in a cold room for a few months (Figure 3). When spring finally arrives, the chill in the room that was keeping your device from overheating is gone.

I’ll be giving you simple steps to maintain your electronics all year long, so they run cool and quiet.

Clogged fan
Figure 3. Dust is a killer of electronics, and your device is a vacuum sweeper.

#4 — Shattered

Whether it be an ink pen left on a laptop keyboard, a kicked backpack at school, a phone becoming a spider-killing projectile, or just a simple slamming of the laptop lid, screens break for every reason you can imagine. Well, I don’t imagine it — I see them all!

I will show you what you can do in a pinch to get that work report done after breaking your screen. We will also talk about the dangers of glass and fingers. We’ll discuss why your phone is sealed from moisture and why steamy bathrooms and phones with cracked screens don’t mix. Most importantly, though, I’ll give you some hard, cold facts about repair costs.

#3 — Can’t connect to my social life

When you can’t connect to the Internet in normal times, it’s a big inconvenience. But when the kids are grown or deployed overseas, or when the grandkids’ home videos are a lifeline for you, having no access to the Internet is no longer just an inconvenience. With things like remotely monitored pacemakers and home-security cameras, there are times when no Internet is downright dangerous.

I will certainly spend a great deal of time on this subject. I’ll make you sure know how to exhaust every possible remedy before spending two hours on the phone with your Internet provider.

Router back
Figure 4. Wires can come loose. It’s always the first thing to check. Really.

#2 — Powerless

Here in Tornado Alley, we get a lot of lightning storms. Completely dead electronics are almost the biggest customer issue, especially in the spring. But the thing with a computer, smartphone, or tablet is that they can just appear to be dead. Modern batteries are a great example of this. Sometimes you can try to charge a device for a few hours, and it stays quite dead if the battery has been drained for weeks or months. Charge the same device overnight, and suddenly you have a perfectly working device.

There are plenty of virtual sticks with which you can poke a device to determine for sure whether it’s dead. I aim to teach you all the ones I can think of that are simple to try. What do you have to lose?

#1 — Malware, viruses, and scams

I estimate that between service calls, remote service, and in-shop repairs, malware and scams make up about 70% of our customers’ problems. In our follow-up article on this complaint, we will spend a significant amount of time discussing solutions. While you’re waiting, go ahead and get a new flash drive — we’re going to load it up with some tools so you will have it ready in the event of an infection.

I’m also going to teach you some things to avoid while online. Teaser: Microsoft will never pop up a window on a webpage with its phone number for you to call (Figure 5). If you have ever tried to call the real Microsoft, you know they’re not going to make it that easy.

Don't call
Figure 5. It’s a TRAP!

In the upcoming articles, we’ll get our hands dirty tackling these issues. Have that printer loaded with paper (I’ll have some things for you to print), and don’t forget that flash drive.

Don’t let the smoke out!

Talk Bubbles Join the conversation! Your questions, comments, and feedback
about this topic are always welcome in our forums!

Deanna and Randy McElveen are celebrating more than a decade of running, over two decades in the computer business, and even more than that putting up with each other. Their computer store is in a small town in the Missouri Ozarks. Believing that happy customers are always the best advertisement, they hope to squeeze in a couple more decades doing the same.

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Here are the other stories in this week’s Plus Newsletter


Brian Livingston

Kim Kardashian wants out of lawsuit for promoting EthereumMax

By Brian Livingston

Attorneys for Kim Kardashian, the famous reality-TV star, have filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit that alleges investors lost millions of dollars after the celebrity promoted a new cryptocurrency named EthereumMax to more than 200 million followers on Instagram.

EthereumMax is a digital product that went live in trading markets on May 17, 2021, under the symbol EMAX. Its promoters can’t be accused of thinking small: they issued an initial quantity of 2 quadrillion coins. (That’s 2 followed by 15 zeros or 2 million billion tokens.)


Deanna McElveen

CleanSweep2 — When you need extra hard-drive space fast

By Deanna McElveen

My first use of Windows was 3.1. Back then, I didn’t know how fast a graphical user interface was supposed to be.

If the operating-system gods determined that Netscape Navigator would take a full minute to load, who was I to question it?

Today, I question that a lot. There are things in Windows that are slow. Very slow. Not just third-party programs, either. There are features of Windows itself that are just as slow now as they used to be.

Disk Cleanup is a good example.


Susan Bradley

Windows 11’s unique bug

By Susan Bradley

Whenever Microsoft releases a new version of Windows, it invariably introduces new bugs as a side effect.

KB5016629 includes a fix for a server message-block (file-sharing) bug that is unique to Windows 11. In a peer-to-peer network, an attacker could trick you by using web-based sharing links such as Azure or other data centers. Windows 10 and earlier are not affected.

This month’s Windows 11 updates also include fixes for issues where File Explorer fails to work when you use the Star menu’s context menu and an external monitor, or when you use the Play and Pause keyboard buttons.

Not to be outdone, the Windows 10 security update this month, KB5016616, includes fixes for an issue that affects printing. Let’s hope it fixes those problems we’ve been seeing with USB-based printers.

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