Chicken Soup for Computers

April 25, 2013 at 7:55 am 1 comment

Sick Computer

Hi everybody!

Since this is the cold and flu season for you humans, I just want to let you know that computers can sometimes get sick too without some TLC (Taking a Little Cleaning). Has your computer lost it’s spring? Feeling wonky and not performing like it used to? Well today, I’m going to talk about five of the most common problems people have with their computers and what you can do about it.

1. If you computer’s performance has slowed down…

There are two different ways this can happen. If your computer has been gradually slowing down over time, the causes can be one or more of these: the Registry needs to be cleaned up (especially if programs were uninstalled), a fragmented hard drive (having a fragmented hard drive is like trying to look for books in the library when they aren’t put back in proper order), too many “temporary files”, files piling up in the Trash/Recycle Bin. Your Windows PC does have utilities you can run to clean each of these.  Or, you can use one of the free cleanup software utilities (sometimes called “Tune-Up” software) on sites like Gizmo’s Freeware Reviews. Mac owners, a clean up utility you can get for your computer is OnyX for Mac (it’s free, but the guy does accept tips and donations)

Now, if one day the computer was purring along fine and the next day it starts hesitating or running very slow, there is a good chance a virus, spyware, or malware has gotten in and infected your computer. If your computer does not have it, get at least an anti-virus and anti-spyware software. While I prefer Kaspersky to protect my computers, there are free anti-virus and anti-spyware programs you can get that do a decent job of protecting your computer too.  (Also, you should read my earlier posts about viruses and “scareware”.)

2. If your computer gets the “Blue (or Black) Screen o’ Death”…

If you turn on your computer, and while it’s warming up suddenly you get a screen with a lot of text instead of your nice Wallpaper, that’s what we kittens in the computer industry called the “Blue Screen of Death“, or BSOD for short.

Several things can cause the BSOD, but mostly I found its usually one of these two things.  Some spyware can cause the BSOD.

Another reason for the BSOD I found is the actual parts in the computer itself. Before you open the box, unplug all USB devices (except the mouse & keyboard, of course) and restart. You’d be surprised how many times a USB device that’s connected on power-up will cause a BSOD.

If that doesn’t work, now it’s time for the brave souls out there to open the box (with proper ESD protection).  Memory cards or cables can sometime lose their electrical connectivity to the board they are connected to due to oxide buildup or “creep”.  If you are comfortable doing it yourself or you can find a Friendly Neighborhood Geek, re-seat all of the connections in the computer.

3. If the computer shuts down or restarts by itself while you’re in the middle of using it…

Before you go any further, go to the back of the computer and make sure the power plug is snugly pushed into the computer.  Don’t laugh! I’ve seen a lot of name-brand computers that have sockets that don’t make a tight connection with a power plug and this is what happens.

Another cause for power shutdown is overheating due to a dirt-clogged or dead fan. While the computer is on, check the back of your computer where the fans are and see if the fans are running. If the fan is not moving, you need to replace the fan. If you can’t see the fan because the back is caked with dust, then take the computer outside and with a can of “compressed air” (usually about $3 at Staples or Office Depot), open the computer case and blow all of that heat-trapping dust out of there.

If your fans are working, there’s no dust build-up, and your computer still does the unexpected shutdown/restart, then its probably your power supply is dying and you need to replace it.

4. If you go on the Internet and suddenly…

You find that either your Home Page is different, it takes a long time to get on the Internet, or pop-up windows suddenly appear (usually showing stuff you don’t want your kids to see), then congratulations! You have spyware or malware in your computer!

If you haven’t done so, use your anti-spyware/malware software and run a scan on your entire computer (disconnect the computer from the Internet cable first) and remove all the things it uncovers.

If you are using Windows XP and haven’t upgraded to IE 8 yet (like me), Microsoft actually uses a spyware method called “high-jacking” where the minute you try to go on the Internet, it changes your home page to show the Microsoft IE8 Upgrade page. This is their way to get you to change your old IE to their newest. Personally, I hate having my computer hacked. Even if its Microsoft that’s doing the hacking, it still stands up all the hairs on my tail and makes me hiss.

5. If your computer starts to make unusual noises…

Depending on the type of noise, this can be anything from a wire or cable rubbing against a rotating fan, to the hard drive going bad.  It’s just like your car–when you start to hear unusual noises, you open up the hood and try to pinpoint what’s making the noise (You do not turn up the radio volume to drown the noise!) .  Open the computer and see if you can pinpoint the source of the noise.

As you can see, a computer’s health is just like for a person–if your computer is properly maintained, your computer will have a long and healthy life. (Just don’t feed the computer any chicken soup.)  And if you’re still uncertain, just write to me!

— “CC”, The Computer Cat


Entry filed under: cat, computer help, grandparents, malware, school, seniors, Technology, virus alert. Tags: , , , , , , .

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