back to article BOFH: Hammer time!

"Ooooh, watch this!" I gasp happily to the Boss as he and I observe the PFY, from the relative safety of the webcam monitor in Mission Control. "What?" the Boss asks. "He's going to take a look at her PC!" "Isn't that part of his job?" "No this isn't a work machine, this is a home machine!" I snigger. "Still, if it's a …


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  1. Fractured Cell

    Well Done!

    Just what I need on a friday afternoon, you are on form as always, Mr. Travaglia.

    Here, have a (metaphorical) beer on me.

  2. Duncan Carter
    Paris Hilton


    Superb, and so familiar...

    Paris, because.

  3. eJ2095


    Been there done that many times...

    Speaking of that sodding cat i stuck down double sied tape on top of my case the cat never slept on it ever since (Cat had half its fur missing)

    And the secret way of opening it...... must have been a compaq!!.....

    You forgot to add the famous quote "Can you install XP to it"

    And Windows ME... Would have cried if i saw that come on and directed them to the nearest website to buy a new one!!..

    Nice work Though on BOFH

  4. LINCARD1000

    Fixing Friends/Relatives computers

    Funny because it's true. Even attractive young people who know nothing about electronics can have crap machines. Nice one, Simon :-)

    Grenade for what happens to my sinuses every time I tried in the past to fix a friend/relative's computer and ended up inhaling glub only knows what sort of spores and crud from the orgy of horror inside the case.

  5. E_Nigma
    Thumb Up


    There isn't much action in this episode, but it has the BOFH spirit as well as a sense of freshness, it's fairly convincing and it gave me some good chuckles. In short, it was a very enjoyable reading.

  6. Mike Wood

    Ah I love the smell of dead machines in the morning

    Brilliant, Same principle could be used with all DELL Machines but with an added twist of handcuffing the user to the machine, pouring petrol over the machine and the user, turning the condemmed machine on and lighting the fuse!

    The best DELL is a dead DELL!

  7. Lottie
    Thumb Up


    Really did laugh out loud at the old folks routine :-)

    Still, how does Simon know what my parents PC is like?

  8. alyn

    Am I just thick?

    No, don't answer that.

    I didn't understand the punch-line. "I couldnt repair it because it is her PC". Is he alergic to cats or to attractive girls who use Windows ME?

    It's beer o'clock, so I'll ponder on it in the pub

  9. 4a$$Monkey

    Best BOFH for ages!

    Great episode Simon!

  10. LuMan


    Nice twist at the end.

    Still, wouldn't like to be in the Boss' shoes after winning a tenner off the BOFH!!

  11. Peter Simpson 1

    They'll never come back if... wipe the hard drive and install Linux on it!


  12. sandman

    So true

    Could have been worse - could have been dried blood. Before Roladex went bust they moved from file cards to making the cheapest, nastiest PCs ever. I had to install modems (pass me cane young whippersnappers) in eight of them. The insides were full of unfinished metal edges and subsequently with blood....

  13. Annihilator Silver badge

    Love it

    But "use the memory as a coffee coaster for the morning" - wouldn't a coffee stirrer be more appropriate (your cup would just fall off a stick of ram!)

    But more than made up for it with the motherboard being suitable to land a light aircraft on :D

  14. Chris 29
    Thumb Up

    very good

    Hahahaa very funny! Totally made me smile!

  15. eJ2095

    @Sarah Bee

    You did not by any chance leave feedback on teh argos site about a Belkin Ipod classic holder?

    If so are they n e good?

  16. Manas Straw

    Windows ME!

    For the love of all that is holy!

    Please nuke the site from orbit. That's the only way to be sure.

    Pub time already.

  17. Kevin Podsiadlik

    An episode where the Boss gets the last laugh?

    Whatever is this world coming to?

  18. Wize

    PCI slots?

    Not just normal ISA ones?

    It is so familiar, the complicated cases that sometimes bite when reassembling and only need one screw to hold it together (as thats all I'd bother putting in) but strong enough to stand on when you need a step ladder. Loved the cleanliness of a 'vacuum bag' bit.

    Reminds me of the days of the 486 when my neighbour wanted me to look at his 8086 IBM. Well, first he was sold a VT terminal and told it was a PC, then was sold this old monster. The hard disk died on it and the machine default booted into GWBasic in lew of an operating system.

    There is a little nostalgia when looking at old PCs, unless someone wants you to make as fast as a new one.

  19. Columbus

    splutter cough

    Coca Cola - keyboard

    nuff said

  20. lorenzo
    Paris Hilton

    I wondered where it went

    except mine has no USB ports

    Paris -cos she know where her ports are

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Feminine Wiles?

    So when to we get the slash fanfic about curing the PFY?

  22. Lupus

    Windows ME?!

    Gaah! Good job I'm off to a party tonight - I must obliterate those painful memories...

  23. James Dunmore
    Thumb Up


    we've all been there !

  24. blackworx


    To paraphrase the Indian office dude from Family Guy: "HA HAAA! IT'S FUNNY BECAUSE IT'S TRUE!"

  25. Dave 64 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Best one in ages

    That is all

  26. Richard Claunch
    Thumb Up

    Oh Yeah!

    Been there and done that! Turned the machine on and just a BZZZT from the power supply! Opened the case (with required hunting dog and search party for screws) only to find that many, many, MANY generations of mice had resided in the case. The mouse urine had eaten the tracks of the mother board, curling the traces so the protesting noise from the supply was quite natural!

    The good side is that the owner did pay for the hospital visit for broad spectrum antibiotics, plague vaccine and the complete sterilization of my office! NEVER AGAIN!

  27. Rob
    Thumb Up

    Ah, that comfortable feeling of Friday

    Another good BOFH :)

    Seeing as our network is down I feel like I can home now my day is complete.

  28. Jacqui Smith's DVD Collection!

    Love it

    Have a virtual pint!

  29. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: @Sarah Bee

    Um, no. I haven't got an iPod, nor am I ever likely to run a half-marathon.

    I do know the Queen, though.

  30. Fluffykins Silver badge

    @ eJ2095

    "Speaking of that sodding cat I stuck down double sided tape on top of my case the cat never slept on it ever since (Cat had half its fur missing)"

    You now owe me a (dust and cat hair free) keyboard. Earl Grey all over the old one.

  31. Fred Mbogo

    Can you take a look a this for me?

    Every sodding time I get this request from an attractive lady has gotten me absolutely nowhere with the aforementioned dame.

    I now reply to such requests with: "are you willing to pay for this?".

  32. David 24


    LOL, Open PCI slots indeed. No mention of the razor sharp internal edges which were the de-facto standard in cases like that. I think the old beige machines turned yellowy because dried blood goes that colour when you try to wash it off.

  33. Alien8n

    @Sarah Bee

    "I do know the Queen, though"

    Her Maj? Or Graham Norton?

  34. Chris 67
    Thumb Up

    Brilliant, just brilliant

    I lol'd several times reading that :)

  35. Andy ORourke

    As an ex smoker

    I find working on PC's owned by smokers the absolute worst, last week a mate of the wife brought her overheating PC round, that much tar in the case and the processor fan had stopped turning! talk about stinks!

  36. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: @Sarah Bee

    The point is that you could probably fill Wembley Stadium with all the people who refer to themselves as 'Sarah B' on the internet so it's highly unlikely that that one would be me. I never refer to myself as 'Sarah B', anyway. Why would I? Tsk.

  37. Hugh_Pym

    "Sarah B"

    A friend of mine went out with a girl whose surname was Bee. It was years before I realised that Bee really was her surname and not an affectionate shortform. I didn't like to ask you see.

  38. Eden
    Thumb Up


    Nice to see the Boss coming out on top for a change.

    Even if doing so does do horrible unspeakable things to his projected life expectency :)

  39. Anonymous Coward

    I don't get it..?

    Why would he not be able to fix the machine because it's hers..?

  40. DRendar


    Arrgh!. The memories of my old field support days.

    I agree that ones owned by smokers were the worst. You'd turn up, the machine would be 6 months old, yet the case yellow - you open it up and everything inside is sticky, and the CPU fan is stuck solid.

    Then they expect you to fix it under warranty. Pah!

  41. eJ2095

    @Andy ORourke

    I agree with the smoker thing.

    Had to repair a PSU in a cable box for some one and erm well I was sticking to the board..

    On a seperate note I came downstairs switched on my PC looked at tower and there was a soddng snail stuck to it...

    Bloody thing had left a nice trail all over it....

    So now got a ring of salt around my pc... Looks like i am trying to stop evil demons getting to it...

  42. I didn't do IT.

    @I don't get it..?

    Because no self-respecting PFY could have a "relationship" with such a technological half-luddite. Its the half part, you see...

    If the young, attractive (apparently single) lady had *no* computer, then no problem: She would be greatly impressed with the PFY's prowess with the dip switch technique(tm), or the short lived holiday to his bedroom would be simple and sweet.

    If the YA(AS)L [new acronym?!] had brought her parent's machine, then no problem: She would either be Category 1 (above), or her machine would be a nice modern thingy. A modern machine means either that she is comfortable with the PC and would be interested in the PFY as a person (GASP!), or would (holy grail of g/f's) actually be able to hold an intelligent conversation with the PFY and ENCOURAGE the expense for that new nVidia card. Yum in so many ways...

    However, because it was *her* machine, it means that she is still stuck in the hoarfrosted clunker of her college years, and obivously has no respect for the Light of Technology. Yet, she understands the nature of *needing* a computer, and would want to maintain a relationship with (possibly) the only person who would keep her dreck running. Hence, he found himself in a (very old, back of bottom shelf of fridge for five years type) pickle; she was merely one of the many "more interested in's shoe clearances than my machine" types. Though she would string him along to keep him near, she would also CONSTANTLY bitch, whine, and moan (but not in bed!) about him even getting compressed air to clear out the keyboard (it could mess up her hair and pollutes the environment... WITH AIR...) because it was money *not* spent on her.

    And no, money spent on her computer would likewise be "wasted"; look how well she kept it up, eh?

    Yep, he dodged a bullet on that one. <sniff/> We should all be *so proud*.

  43. alyn
    IT Angle

    PCI slots? Pah!!

    The Pc can't be that old if it had PCI slots.I would have expected ISA or EISA or VESA, and Window ME is positively modern. Windows 3.11 or MeSs-DOS would be more appropriate.

    I recently found a PC at work which still had the Netware client installed. I bet that sends shivers up a few spines.

  44. Laughing Otter

    Applause! Applause!

    Like the man said above, this is hilarious because it's true!

    Yep, done the PC repair person thing myself.

    Haven't come across a dead mouse in a machine yet. But there was one I did forensics on and confirmed that the spiderwebs that bridged between the power supply and the motherboard (and everything else) had collected enough dust to become a semiconductor. ZAP!

    Cat hair (or eugenically-engineered small canine hair), check. Dust layers an inch thick on the bottom, yep. Power supply and CPU overheats because of dust collection on the fans, quite a lot. Lots of really pointy solder connections and sharp edges on the cases and components, got the scars. Fiendishly complicated chassis, all the manufacturers did that (Compaq and Bleeding Edge, err, Leading Edge were the worst), and some of the kit machines we assembled came with Engrish instructionings. Always good for a laugh, those.

    Three rounds of Georgetown Brewery's Manny's Pale Ale for the BOFH, the PFY, and Mr. Travaglia for this one!

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns


    Old PC, they complain the net is slow. Boot it up, dozens of useless tray items for every single piece of cheap electronic usb gadget and fake antivirus theyve ever used. They use "the big blue e".

    Boot it, half the screen taken up by scrollbars for web searches, cursors, "buddies", translators etc.

    Absolute mess always makes me cry.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You know the Queen?

    cool - can you get me Prince Michael of Kent's autograph?

  47. A. Coatsworth

    "... Windows ME!!"

    Never have been so close to actually spit my coffee over the keyboard!

    Great job as usual, Simon.

    Will the Boss meet a sudden and gruesome death before the BOfH pays the 10 quid?

    Will the BOfH punish the PFY for making him lose a bet?

    Will we be forced to wait a whole month in order to know the answers to these questions?

    ... Don't miss the next Bastard Operator from Hell in (hopefully) less than 30 days!

  48. SigKill

    Right, beer!

    One of the best ever.

  49. Peter Kay

    @alyn and others

    It's as 'I didn't do IT' says : you couldn't possibly go out with someone who thinks Windows ME is a good thing.

    There is precisely one exception : if the reason they don't care about their computer is due to having multiple interesting non computer related hobbies/interests. In that case it's allowed, although some of the really sad geeks might disagree.

    Of course, Simon clearly isn't a cat owner : cats don't sit on tower cases, because they go under desks. There isn't enough room to fit a cat and a full tower under a desk. With the death of CRT monitors, cats have lost out from their elevated heated sleeping platforms, too.

  50. Jeremy 2

    Windows ME?!

    I can beat that. My father-in-law handed me a sodding 286 a couple of months ago and asked me to 'take a look at it'. I did. For about 4 seconds. Lord knows what OS I would have found if I could have been arsed to get it past the CMOS Checksum Error (dodgy clock battery) POST message...

    I told him to tie a rope on it an use it as an anchor for his boat.

  51. Nigel 11

    Dead mouse

    Does this story mean that I'm not the only person ever to have been called in to fix a dead PC (a work one) to discover that the cause of the fault was a dead mouse of the meaty variety? I still can't believe that it managed to crawl in through any of the available holes in the ironmongery. Having done so it inserted its head into the fan assembly on top of an old hot AMD Opteron. I hope for the mouse's sake that this broke its neck, rather than causing it a slow agonizing death as the heatsink temperature ascended to boiling point. and beyond.

    @Mike Wood - if it's certain models of Dell, give the user a standard ATX power supply. If it's the other models, give them a Dell power supply from the former sort of Dell. Tell the user that any fool can replace a power supply, you just unscrew it and unnplug it and plug in and screw in the new one. Retire to a safe distance and wait for the BANG and the smoke. Same ATX connector, different pin-outs. I quite agree, the only good Dell is a dead Dell.

    I've also seen a PSU go bang, taking out not the 5A fuse in the power lead, not the 13A fuse in the distribution board, not the 30A breaker on the circuit, but the 180A fuse in the vintage fusebox feeding the breaker box. Magic! (And a day's downtime, while the electricians scoured the UK for a 180 Amp non-rewireable fuse cartridge).

    @Peter Kay - cats today sleep on top of the power extension reel, that says "extend cable to full length before use" moulded on the case in flyspeck-4 font. A month later when you try to use the reel for something else you find that the cable on the reel is fused into one lump of PVC. Cats aren't stupid. They're the BOFHs of the animal kingdom. They always land on their feet.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @PCI slots? Pah!! #

    I know for a FACT that the last company that I worked for STILL RUNS NOVELL!!!! I know bc my GF works for them still....and yes our relationship started @ a technical level and now is much more than that hahah.

  53. cybersaur 1
    Thumb Up

    It came from the PC!

    I found a dead scorpion in a PC once.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ahhh Windows ME

    I still run on Win ME

    Whats the problem

    Best ever MS Operating System

    After I upgraded to a 56k modem all my speed issues went away

    That bloody 33.6K was a real letdown

  55. Ismael

    @previous poster

    Just to be pedantic, there were many towers that fit under a desk and still give space for a cat to lay.

    By the way, cats can bend and compress themselves so they can fit in just about any place, as small as it is...

  56. Chris iverson

    @ Peter Simpson 1

    Right, because they will get frustrated and annoyed and go buy a new machine. Wont see em for a few years.

    though I could be jaded as a proud slackware(read: masochist) user.

  57. Trent Hawkins

    ah memories

    I did a lot of PC repair and on top of all that I managed to find a case that was filled with spiders (from Hawaii) and on several occasions had some nasty cuts and other injuries from working with various machines(IBM was a bad case designer all around because on top of the dangers of entering the machine the exterior was also defended with sharp hard corners that would dig in to your flesh if you tried to lift one on to a desk).

    The worst thing about old PCs had to be the CPU mounts. They were hard to get on and required you to push down hard on a spring with a screw driver and let me tell you, more then one RMAed MotherBoard had a mysterious slash across it. Oddly though some worked even after a few tiny chips were chopped off so... I never actually told anyone that i'd hit it with a screw with the hope that what I did destroy wasn't all that important....


    Or about that fire I caused by inserting the USB connector backwards.

  58. J 3


    I've heard of ants' love for electronics, but... Wow, I wonder how the mice get into the cases... I know the little buggers are resourceful, but this is quite a feat.

    Only unexpected place I found a mouse nest was my old motorcycle's air filter (where it brought a bunch of paper shred in small bits, besides munching through the filter's outer foam cylinder). Little oil soaked, fried bastard won't be making anybody's bike starting routine a pain anymore, that's for sure.

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Now I know...

    ...where I (b.1950) am heading: "Their daily routine is..." etc.


    But fun!

  60. Trygve Henriksen

    Dustbunnies can be deadly...

    I know of one machine that got so full of dust that it actually caught fire!

    Luckily the firefighters didn't have far to travel as it was in their own 'COC' room...

    (It was mounted behind a large desk full of monitors. They had put it back there because it was out of the way since the monitoring SW never needed restarting... )

    Anyway, WinMe isn't that bad...

    Not compared to Win3.0.

    And the worst bloodletter I was unfortunate enough to touch was the Compaq Proliant 1600 series.

    Ever tried to install a DLT drive in it?

    And those silly 'handles' to lock the 'CPU cage' into place...

    Snaps off real easy. Luckily, there was a Hardware store nearby.

    The kind that sells rubber mallets...

    (I lost the receipt, or I'd have claimed it as a business expense, too)

  61. Andus McCoatover

    Computer thingies and animals...

    Once, when working for Nokia, I had a basestation (BTS) returned from - I think - Indonesia for repair.

    Production girl opened it and screamed at the top of her voice, and ran outside to be sick.

    Problem was, the BTS was full of red ants, most of which had died (luckily it was Finland, not UK otherwise the surviving* ants would be illegal immigrants. Here they'd be refugees and able to claim unemployment benefit) , and their swollen and decaying bodies had pushed the PSU away from its connector.

    Took me ages to clean up. Dead mice/WindowsME - nothing!!! Wish I'd photographed it.

    On second thoughts, maybe not as Moderatrix would use it as an icon....

    Keyboard icon, although it was much, much worse than that. I puked while cleaning it, too. Nasty.

    *An aside. Lovely sign in Texas I saw once.

    Trespassers will be shot.

    Survivors will be shot again.

  62. Anonymous Coward

    The cat under my desk was startled...

    ...when I saw a new BOFH and yelled "Yay!"


    No, really, I mean it.

    Thank you, I'm not just typing this out of habit, I really, really mean thank you from the absolute bottom of my heart, which is just above my belly button and just below the scar left by that incident with the 386 memory upgrade.

  63. Anonymous Coward

    Help! I'm in trouble!

    My parents' machine is newer than mine... but it runs Fista, so I don't feel as bas as maybe I should :-P

    Worst 'pc' I've taken apart was a Westward 3219 graphics workstation keyboard - despite protestations from the User that he never ate near his keyboard, we found bits of blue cheese roll embedded under the keys. Unfotunately it had started life months ago as cheddar onna white bread bun...

  64. Dave Bell

    On Cats

    Not all cats want to sleep on top of computers or monitors.

    (I've heard stories about problems with cats. Tabitha was never a problem, and I still miss her, dammit!)

  65. Robert Heffernan

    Speaking of mice...

    I was once called to look at a PC that had let go of the magic blue smoke, only to find a mouse had climbed into the machine, and on top of an old internal modem.

    The mouse came to grief when it decided to relieve it's bladder all over the cards High-Voltage section.

    *Anyone for roast?

  66. Gavin Burnett

    School computers

    Many years ago I worked as an IT technician in a comprehensive school.

    During my first week on the job I was asked to take a look at a faulty PC in the woodwork room.

    I popped the case open, and found that it was full of wood dust!

    The flame icon for obvious reasons.

  67. Peter Kay

    If your cat can fit on your tower case, it's not a proper tower case..

    Do you have either a really tall desk, or a particularly tiny cat?

    Given that I have a rather large (stacker) case (with wheels), a standard height desk and average to large cats it's unlikely ever to happen. Fortunately I still have two large CRT monitors, so they could sleep on those if they were bothered enough. More likely is that they'll be trying to get me to play fetch instead of using that thing that distracts attention from Cat Time.

    In terms of 'things set on fire' the most impressive was a smoking keyboard, which until I saw it, I didn't think was possible.

    I'd also enter the Dell Poweredge 2400 in the awkward cases league for the non swappable PSU support. You have to remove both side panels and the top panel. It's a bit of a far cry from SGI boxes or a decent server box, where you can swap the PSU in 30s..

  68. nichomach


    One of the best this year!

  69. This post has been deleted by its author

  70. Trygve Henriksen

    Smoking keyboards?

    Sounds like the West PC800...

    (I won't blame anyone for not knowing about this little 'gem')

    It was a CP/M-compatible computer built here in norway in 1984. It had 2 CPUs(z80 for CP/M and a 6502 for BBC Basic), built-in alarm central and modem, and... IR-based wireless keyboard.

    Now, to charge the battery pack, you just plugged the keyboard into the machine and used it normally...

    In theory.

    In practice though, just about all the keyboards had a faulty charge regulator which would explode and let out the magic, blue smoke when power was first applied.

  71. Richard 74
    Thumb Up

    Some people seem to be missing the point

    The repair stage was described before as battering the hard drive, pulling out pins etc and handing it back as unfixable. The PFY couldn't do the repair stage as the machine was hers and he fancied her. Understand?

  72. Anonymous Coward

    Dead gecko...

    -...pried out of the leftovers of a power supply and case. One. charred. piece. at. a. time. And scrapping off the rest with a screwdriver.

    - More dust bunnies rolling about than Western movies.

    - Enough gunk stuck to fans to make it look like an Alien-decorated nest.

    - 22 screws (then I lost count) and 18-illustrated pages on how to remove a hard-drive from an IBM Aptiva's P100 case. Closing the said Aptiva case and finding 5 screws were left behind, despite everything was tightly fixed to withstand a 6-richter-scale quake. And NGRA.

    Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt, and a coffee mug.

  73. Jason 42

    @J 3

    I had a PC out in Cyprus that i was replacing...

    I had all my files on a second drive.

    I took the drive out then threw the PC away as i popped out (20 mins) to get my new one.

    Came back to find my HDD was covered in ants.

    Got them all off but the drive never worked again...

    Ants do have a thing for electronics.. I think its something to do with teh coating on the PCB


    Whenever i get a call to upgrade a PC the first thing i say when i get there is "Get the hoover out"

    Nothing worse than opening a case and tons of dust falls out..

    Remember - Dust is 80% Dead Skin YUK!

  74. Wintermute
    Paris Hilton

    Oh, the poor unfortunate PFY

    Let me be completely honest. The description of that yellowing beige monster will haunt my dreams tonight. Who hasn't had an abused, past-it's-sell-date PC brought to you from someone more clueless than you could ever imagine existed?

    I really feel for the PFY on this one. If it was her parents or grandparents machine, sure. But hers? That's inexcusable. She belongs to the caste of the technologically unwashed. She should be beaten for daring to connect to the same municipal electrical grid that he uses.

    Ah, love is so elusive. Paris, because the PFY needs her more than ever.

  75. NukEvil
    IT Angle

    Episode 14, 2008

    ""No, you're right, Platinum is the best option" the PFY responds. "With Gold support we can probably help you with phone numbers, but Platinum support would get you my cellphone number and my firsthand knowledge of the way the coffee was made and what potential problems might arise - determined from our extensive logs of previous coffee drinkers. We also have an in depth knowledge of the various mocha ingredients - which may have contained traces of nut, I'm not sure."

    "Neither of us has a nut allergy," #2 blurts."

    Somehow, I seriously doubt that the PFY was talking about peanuts...

    IT, because no one else bothered to comment about it...

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