DIY Tech Support

I’ve worked in software and information technology for a few years now. I’ve done tech support, which in the software context means “solving people’s  problems”. In the athletic context, support means “holding one’s balls in place”. Frankly, 90% of tech support amounts to little more than scratching your cojones and regurgitating the same few support tips. The software and athletic versions of support aren’t that different after all.

Computers aren’t magic. So that you don’t have to suffer through some of the tech nightmares I have had, I’ve created a handy list of the top things you can do to help yourself out.  Much of this advice applies not only to computers, but also to smartphones. Keep that in mind.

Make sure that the device you’re using is plugged in or charged.

This might sound like a no-brainer. Unless you power your computer with a massive interconnected network of potatoes like Bill Nye the Science Guy, chances are your device needs electricity. If the machine refuses to charge, try a different cable or charger. Often, the problem lies with the charger, not the computer.

Restart the machine.

If a program crashes functions improperly, simply restart the machine.  This can cause recent upgrades to take effect, which might fix software issues.  It also kills errant processes.  Whether a phone or a computer, try restarting it, or simply turning it off and on.

Upgrade the software you are using, especially the browser.

Unless you are a developer and have a damned good reason for not doing so, update your software. Hackers exploit security flaws and upgrades plug those holes.

Go to and if the version you’re running is more than 6 months old, you should ABSOLUTELY install an update. For cell phone apps in particular, sometimes uninstalling and reinstalling the software can make it work properly again.

NOTE: This doesn’t apply to Microsoft Office products. The new releases of Microsoft Office (‘07, ‘10, etc.) suck. They suck big time. I pine for the older versions which had “File” “Edit” and “Format” up at the top. I haven’t been able to find shit in Word or Excel since 2005.

Put short, install updates, but beware when upgrading Microsoft software.

Uninstall and reinstall

This handy little trick often cures an app or a program of its ailments. Delete it and install it again. Make sure the app has connected to a source of data backup, or you could lose information contained in the program.

Google it

LMGTFY stands for “let me Google that for you.” There’s even a website: If you have a question, try just typing the specific error it into Google before asking for help. You’d be surprised how good it is at solving your problems.

Even the best of us forget the Google rule from time to time. About a year ago, my scanner stopped working, and the software no longer functioned properly.  I tried all the configurations I could think of, tried uninstalling and reinstalling the software, etc. etc.  For a year, the scanner just sat there. One day, I typed “HP 4500 scanner not working OSX” into Google.  What I found astounded me: Apple had configured their image capture software to perform the scanning functions of the HP machine. My scanner went unused because I didn’t think to just “google it.”

Backup, backup, backup

Computers crash.  Hard drives fail.  Files are mysteriously deleted.  Even the best support people can’t help you with some of these issues. Many of us have been there, too: “OH MY GOD MY POR… I MEAN HARD DRIVE!”

  1. Save early, and save often. The mid-essay crash is a killer.
  2. Put current work and projects on a USB stick, in a DropBox account, or in an email to yourself.
  3. Buy an external hard drive, and back up your computer once a month.

You can get most software back pretty quickly. You can purchase, steal, download or stream new porn. (And frankly, who watches a porn more than once? They’re not Citizen Kane or The Godfather…)

Losing your photos, emails, and documents can suck. There may be only one copy: the one on your computer. If it crashes, the photos sink along with the ship. External hard drives are pretty enormous and cheap these days, and they’re worth it.

Leave the porn, take the cannoli.

You can do some Tech “Self” Help with this humorous flowchart from XKCD. Seriously, all tech guys mostly do just this.