There are two guys everyone should know and trust: your car mechanic and your computer guy. Both of these people can take you to the cleaners and you will probably never know it.
Ever hear the saying, “Caveat emptor or Buyer Beware?”
Recently I heard three separate stories from clients about similar incidents and thought I needed to share them. All three people had what they assumed to be virus issues with their computers and took them in to have the viruses removed. In each situation the people were told they would receive a diagnostic test for about $60 to $75 and then a price for repair.
After a few days the computer owners were called and told a test had revealed their hard drive was about to fail and should be replaced. Then they were told additional software needed to be purchased and, finally, a protection suite needed to be purchased and installed. The bills for these three people ranged from a low of $525 to a high of nearly $800. A new computer costs about $500.
There really is no definitive test that will report with 100 percent certainty whether or not a hard drive is going to fail. A trained and experienced ear can generally tell the condition of a hard drive, but even that is subjective and is limited to either “Yes, it is good” or “Sounds kind of bad to me.”
Oh sure, there is “Burn In” software that puts stress on hard drives and that is a decent indicator, but I once ran a “Burn In” test for a client and the tests were favorable so the client chose not to back his data up despite my advice that his hard drive did not sound good. Two days later the hard drive failed and he lost all of his data. My point here is if someone tells you that a virus has destroyed your hard drive or some other tall tale, I suggest you get a second opinion. In fact, if someone is presenting you with any scenario that seems too high or unrealistic, get another opinion and quote.
Computer repair is like any other business and you can negotiate and definitely shop around. Just like car repair shops, there are some good ones and some bad ones. Ask for referrals from your neighbors and/or acquaintances. Check the Better Business Bureau and keep your eyes and ears open.
I feel better now that I have that off my chest. Currently there is some really nasty spyware called Protection System that is infecting computers on the Internet. At the time of this writing, there was no known cure for it (although there may be a cure by publication time) and no program that will protect your computer 100 percent. This spyware will display warnings and messages saying Windows has detected a virus in your operating files, and requesting you click on a box to remove it. This will cost you between $20 to $40 and will only infect you with other spyware. The spyware damages files for your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs so they are inoperable and only programs that are infective in removing this spyware can be installed.
Basically, once your computer is infected you are very limited in what you can do. My advice is to call your computer guy as quickly as possible. One client opened an e-mail from her niece, clicked on a link and was infected. As it turns out, the niece’s machine was infected and sent a bogus e-mail to my client. Overnight her computer went from a great running machine to a nightmare that had to be formatted and have the operating system reinstalled.
Watch out for this spyware. Keep all of your protective programs up-to-date and be very careful what you open and where you go on the Internet.
Mike Smothers is president of Smothers Computer Services and lives in Ahwatukee Foothills. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (480) 753-7667.