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Afraid of Your Computer?

“I’m not smart enough.”

“I never touch the thing!  My wife’s the only one who uses it at our house.”

“I’m afraid I will do something wrong and royally mess it up.”

“I just don’t feel comfortable.”

“I only do things I know how to do – like checking my email and getting on Facebook.  I never venture out beyond that.”

I hear these statements almost every day from clients who come into my office.

It saddens me.

Computers are tremendous tools and the Internet is a vast resource, bringing the entire world to our fingertips.  Yet, many computer owners suffer by self-imposed limitations that prevent them from enjoying their benefits.

For example, did you know that by using one certain web browser and making one minor setting change, you can search the web using only your voice?  Yep, you can!

Granted, computers and the Internet can be time-sucking distractions.  But the positives far outweigh the negatives.

If given the opportunity, I know many hesitant computer users – maybe even yourself – would jump at the chance to become a more knowledgeable PC user.

I’m frequently asked, “Scott, do you ever teach any computer classes?” Or do you come to people’s homes to provide training?”  Of course, my answer is “Yes” to both questions.

Other organizations in our community, like the Princeton Public Library and Fort Branch Library, offer very useful, small-group computer classes.  Local community colleges sometimes offer non-credit computer classes throughout the year, too.

Classroom settings are great, especially because you get hands-on learning with a live instructor to help if you get stuck.  It’s also very affordable.

But these courses are typically very general in nature so that they appeal to a wide audience.  Often times, you may not learn exactly what it is you wanted to learn.

One-on-one computer training is next best way to learn how to use your computer.  Such training is custom-tailored to your specific needs.  You can ask specific questions and often times work on your own computer, instead of a computer in a lab.

But one-on-one computer training can be costly.  And if you don’t take detailed notes or master the task during the training session, you may not retain much of what you learned; thus, basically wasting your money.

YouTube videos are another resource available on the Internet for learning how to use your computer.  300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube EVERY MINUTE!  This means that almost every topic imaginable can be found on YouTube.

But therein lies a problem.  With such a vast library of videos, it’s hard to easily and quickly find a video specifically answering your question.

Once you do find videos related to your topic search, it’s impossible to know if the video contains correct or accurate information.  I can shoot a video in my kitchen telling you how to bake a cake and upload it to YouTube.  But I wouldn’t suggest following my recipe because your cake won’t be worth eating!  But you won’t know that until you try it.

I wouldn’t suggest taking such a risk with your computer – following directions from a random unknown person who happened to post a video on YouTube.  It could potentially damage your computer and cause all kinds of problems.

So what should you do if you want to break out of your chains and become a knowledge PC user?

Obviously, computer classes and one-on-one instruction are excellent ways to learn.

But I recently found a great website that combines the power of individual instruction with the methodology of YouTube.

Get Computer SmartIt’s called Get Computer Smart (conveniently found at

This website offers short, very easy to follow videos showing you step-by-step how to perform specific tasks on your computer.  Everything from how to block unwanted Facebook game requests to removing viruses from your computer and more.

Because it’s video-based, you can stop, start, and even repeat videos as many times as you want until you master what you’re wanting to learn.   It’s just like having a teacher sitting right next to you showing you how to do something – without the cost.

I’d encourage you to at least check it out.  It’s one of the best resources I’ve come across in a long time that’s easy for hesitant computer users to use.

No matter how you do it – stop underestimating yourself and stop being scared of a machine!


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“But I Only Paid $299 For It!”

A few weeks ago, Diane approached me about having a lot of unwanted, annoying, and sometimes obscene pop-ups appearing on her laptop. She inquired about what might be causing them, what I recommended be done to get rid of them, and how much it would cost.

Having never seen her computer, I suggested she schedule an appointment for me to run full diagnostics to accurately determine the problem and best resolution (remember my last column?). I also gave her a ballpark estimate of what the repairs would cost.

“But I only paid $299 for it!” Diane sighed. “It’s just a cheapy I bought at Walmart around the holidays.”

I hear this comment quite frequently from computer owners who are experiencing troubles with their desktop or laptop. Many of them saved money up front by purchasing cheap devices at the big box stores. Then when they experience issues, they find the cost of repairs is easily half or more of what they paid for the machine itself.

The unvarnished truth

First, let me boldly address the elephant in the room.

When you buy cheap, you’re going to experience problems faster and more frequently than if you had invested in a good computer. The only way retailers can offer you ridiculously low prices on a computer is for four reasons:

1. They’re made with lower quality components that have a higher failure rate. Meaning you will have to either repair it or junk it.
2. They’re loaded with useless software that slows the computer down and can cause problems right out of the box.
3. They lack the essential hardware to adequately run the operating system and your software programs.
4. They’re taking a loss on it just to give you a good deal (unlikely, but does happen around holidays).

No matter why it’s cheap, the fact is ANY type of repair will cost 50% or more of what you paid for the computer.

You just have to decide whether you want to spend your hard-earned money to repair it or waste your cash again on another cheap piece of technology that soon will cause you the same problem.

When should you repair and when should you replace?

In Diane’s case, her problem resulted from a virus or malware infection. It’s a software problem that can happen to any computer no matter how much one paid for it.
Other clients, like Rick, experience a hardware problem – like a failed motherboard or crashed hard drive.

Software problems, especially virus infections, happen on every computer. I recommend spending the money to repair the computer because it’s typically going to be cheaper than buying a new one (especially a good one).

Even if it ends up costing slightly more than you paid for it, it may be worth repairing because some of those costs may be for actual software programs, such as virus protection, which you would have to pay for with a new computer anyway. So those costs can’t really be included in the cost comparison.

Hardware problems are a different story. If you bought a cheap laptop or desktop and find it needs a new hard drive, the cost of hardware and labor will probably be equal to or more than what you originally paid.

In this case, I would recommend replacing the computer – but don’t make the same mistake by buying another cheap device. Instead, wisely invest your money in a reliable computer recommended by a true PC tech, not some sales geek at the big box store just looking to earn a commission.

If you wisely purchased a good computer, but are unfortunately suffering a hardware failure, I would recommend repairing it only if it meets these criteria:

• The total cost of repairs is less than 60% of what you paid for the computer
• The computer is less than 5 years old
• The computer adequately performs the tasks you need it to

Otherwise, you’re smarter purchasing a new, reliable computer – again from a true PC tech, not a sales geek.

Your individual situation may be different, but these are my general guidelines when making repair versus replace decisions. I would be more than happy to advise you what’s best for you. Drop me an email at