Sunday, January 24, 2010

I'm a PC, and I'm Frustrated

You've seen those computer commercials. Mac is young and hip, and while pleasant, PC is middle-aged and somewhat dowdy. PC is plagued with viruses. When they bring the new PC in, he's slick in an expensive suit, but restrictive in what he will allow the potential buyer to do. I've always thought this was brilliant advertising, but I viewed it as exactly that...advertising. Clever, but until recently, not enough for this creature of habit to consider switching.

In the spring of 2008, I bought a new laptop, sleek, lightweight, with a big high resolution screen. I opted out of the extended warranty. We never spend money on those things. The one time we did, there was a loophole that kept us from cashing in when the electronic device in question went bad. Of course, one year and one month after I bought the computer, it began having issues. For no apparent reason, it would freeze up while I was in the middle of something important. The task manager wouldn't even open, and I would have to force restart. The interval between these freezes shortened until finally, the thing wouldn't boot all the way up without locking up.

I took my computer to the Geek Squad. They looked it over and told me I had a bad hard drive. Cost of replacement and labor -- $200. Seriously? A third of the cost of a good replacement?

This happened mid-summer when, as a teacher, I am flat broke. I can pay the bills and that's it. So, I put my shiny, nonfunctional computer on a shelf. I dragged out a dinosaur I had previously used only for word processing because it was too old to talk to my wireless router. I bought an adapter and made do. After school started and I had money again, I kept making do. I didn't want to pay $200 to fix a computer that shouldn't be broken after only a year.

The dinosaur didn't like working harder. It was happy to be a glorified typewriter. Recently, that testiness translated into a sluggishness that made doing anything, even word processing, highly frustrating. Yesterday, I hit my breaking point.

I retrieved the shiny, nonfunctional computer, crossed my fingers, and started it up. I needed to retrieve last year's tax return and some pictures from the hard drive before I bit the bullet and fixed it. Lo and behold, it booted all the way up. I copied the tax returns and my pictures onto a flash drive, alternately holding my breath and whispering, "oh, please, please, please work." After I copied all the essential information, I opened Internet Explorer. My luck ran out, and the computer locked up tighter than Fort Knox.

I called my tech-savvy friend, Thomas, for a recommendation on a computer repair person. I had decided I would rather shell out a boatload of money to a person than to a corporation.

"Doesn't sound like a hard drive problem to me. Sounds like you have registry errors. And even if it is a hard drive problem, it shouldn't cost $200 to replace it. Try reformatting the hard drive and running a system recovery."

I did, and it worked. My computer is humming along like it did the day I brought it home. Total cost? $0

Imagine that. The Geek Squad was going to overcharge me to replace a hard drive that didn't need replacing. I let a perfectly good computer sit unused for 5 months. Next time, I'm calling Thomas first and the Geek Squad never.

According to Thomas, this isn't an unusual problem. Some PCs have to run a system recovery every six months or so. Seriously? I'm overusing that word, I know, but seriously? I have to erase everything on my computer and start from scratch every six months? Are you listening, Microsoft?

I'm a PC, and I'm frustrated.

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