back to article I am NOT a PC repair man. I will NOT get your iPad working

Alistair Dabbs is recovering from the dreaded lurgy, but still none too chipper this week, so we’re happy to let him linger in his bath chair and tartan blanket once again. No doubt his neighbours will be concerned though, if this repeat publication from 2013 is anything to go by. “My nephew bought me one of those iPad things …


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  1. Ralph B

    Apparel Solution

    I bought (and wear) a t-shirt to get the message over for this sort of thing.

    The next-door neighbour was one of the worst offenders, and so, over some months, I pursuaded her to swap her old Windows PC for a shiney new Mac and was then able to claim complete ignorance of MacOS and point her at Apple Support instead. It's worked rather well. (Not sure Apple Support would agree though.)

    1. tony72

      Re: Apparel Solution

      I'd like a t-shirt that says "I will fix your PC. But not for free." The fact is most of the bastards who come to you trying to get you to fix their PCs and whatnot for free, would never spend the same number of hours helping you out for free. The few that would, no problem. But for the rest, I have come to find it deeply offensive to be asked, unless the request starts with "How much would you charge..."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apparel Solution

      Must admit, that's one thing I do like about Windows 8 - it gives me the ability to go *shrug* you probably know how to use it better than I do.....

      1. JEDIDIAH

        Re: Apparel Solution

        "Sorry. I don't do Windows."

    3. Dave Robinson

      Re: Apparel Solution

      Yep, I have exactly the same tee-shirt, and I wear it at appropriate times (i.e. when visiting people who I suspect have an ulterior motive for inviting me round in the first place).

      Unfortunately, it's not wholly successful, so I'm considering getting one with the words "£30 per hour" written on it instead.

      1. sisk

        Re: Apparel Solution

        Unfortunately, it's not wholly successful, so I'm considering getting one with the words "£30 per hour" written on it instead.

        That doesn't work either in my experience. Most of the ones I deal with will happily cough up my $50/hour with 1 hour minimum payment to avoid having to take their computer to the local computer repair shops. But to be fair those morons make the Geek Squad look good.

        And hey, sometimes it works out. I got a crack in my windshield fixed for free because the guy at the glass shop remembered I was a tech and they happened to be having computer problems that day. (I use the term 'computer problems' lightly. They'd accidently closed their file in QuickBooks and couldn't figure out which one they needed to open back up. Open a file, get a rock pit fill for free. Good trade for me.)

      2. ClanMcKinnon

        Re: Apparel Solution

        Too cheap!

      3. David 14

        Re: Apparel Solution

        I like to just float the hourly rate that companies pay for my IT consulting time... between $150 and $200 per hour in the local market (what my employer charges, I wish it was what I was taking home!).... that way when "fixing my PC" question is asked, I can laugh it off saying "you can't afford me"...

        In the end, I end up fixing more PCs than I care to count, and I have.t done that work professionally in over 20 years.

      4. HandyJono

        Re: Apparel Solution

        I had a huge sign in my tv. Video repair shop.ALL LABOUR IS CHARGABLE. Yet I was still asked can I have a free?. NO.

    4. JimmyPage
      Thumb Up

      I like it ..

      Many years ago, in Chandlers guitars, Richmond, there was a big sign behind the counter:

      "Our hourly charges:

      instrument repairs - £20

      if you watch - £30

      if you help - £50"

    5. John Sanders

      An even better solution

      I'm a Linux admin if I fix your computer I will have to remove Windows install Linux on it.

      Ah, the sweet sheer terror on their eyes!

      So far only a brother in love accepted and we're both much happier :-)

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: An even better solution

        From my recent cases of helping family & friends with their PCs:

        Setting up Linux on a PC to stop the infestations (little ones have not worked out how to shag Linux yet), payment in kind was a bottle of wine.

        Reinstalling Vista (against my better judgement, but they really wanted that), after getting them to spring for 4GB memory instead of 1GB it came with, result was 12 bottles of wine.

        1. El Zed

          Re: An even better solution

          '..payment in kind was a bottle of wine....result was 12 bottles of wine.'

          Hmm, interesting

          now, my last payment in kind for a similar service was a bottle of 30 year old Bowmore...if the going rate is 12 bottles for a reinstall of the old crap back, then this is probably the first time I hope and pray they'll want Windowswhatever reinstalled...

      2. Ian Moffatt 1

        Re: An even better solution

        Brother in love?

        Apart from that, cracking idea.

    6. Dieter Haussmann

      Re: Apparel Solution

      "I bought (and wear) a t-shirt to get the message over for this sort of thing."

      They usually think that's an ironic statement.

    7. N2

      Re: Apparel Solution

      Excellent idea, wonder if they do it in French as well?

      My solution is to say "yes, I can fix that, it will only take a minute, do you have it with you? I will put it behind the rear wheel of my Land Rover & reverse over it, as reverse works best for PCs, forward for iPads & anything else..."

      The conversation ends rapidly with a gasp & a "why did you say that" - Simply so I can stop talking about work & get back to enjoying myself/ vin rouge/ whatever I was doing beforehand.

      Works every time

  2. ukgnome

    C'mon Dabbsy - you have had a week off.

    Having 2 is just greedy, unless you're having a spleenectomy or summink.

  3. Simon Harris

    Took ages to convince my parents...

    that an electronic engineering degree was not a qualification for fixing Christmas tree lights.

    1. Tank boy

      Re: Took ages to convince my parents...

      Nice. Are we related? I don't even have an engineering degree and my stepfather wanted me to climb up on a ladder to help him fix his outdoor Christmas lights. I may have been a power generation guy, but no, your power cord is in water, fuck that shit.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Took ages to convince my parents...

      "an electronic engineering degree was not a qualification for fixing Christmas tree lights"

      I think you'll find that it is, in the same way that a brain surgeon is qualified to remove a splinter. :)

    3. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: Took ages to convince my parents...

      >an electronic engineering degree was not a qualification for fixing Christmas tree lights.

      I used to know someone who thought it was TV Repairman School.

      To be fair, if people knew how IT worked on the inside - the solid state physics, the data encoding and encryption theory, the algorithm design, the metallurgy, the design psychology, the maths behind it all - they'd cower in the corner clutching their brains and screaming 'Make it stop!' over and over.

      1. Steven Raith

        Re: Took ages to convince my parents...

        As I told someone today on site, a computer is a fearsomely, terrifyingly complex device capable of doing abstract tasks via the manipulation of mathematics and physics, with a shiny 'user friendly interface' on top.

        If you want a comparison, remember how many critical systems your car has - steering linkage, suspension arms, anti-lock brakes, electronic ignition control taking charge of the hundred of explosions per minute happening a couple of feet from your crotch. And you just get in it and drive.

        Now imagine all that complexity, and multiply it by two orders of magnitude.

        That's a computer operating system.

        So no, I can't just 'make it faster'

        Steven R

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Took ages to convince my parents...

          >So no, I can't just 'make it faster'

          Yes you can.

          1. Uninstall everything from Symantec or McAfee. FInd replacements if necessary.

          2. See what's starting up with the computer. Delete all the crap.

          3. A low-level pass with Malwarebytes or Spybot. Both if you're feeling keen.

          4. ???

          5. Faster! (On probably 99% of machines)

          1. sisk

            Re: Took ages to convince my parents...

            >So no, I can't just 'make it faster'

            Yes you can.

            1. Uninstall everything from Symantec or McAfee. FInd replacements if necessary.

            2. See what's starting up with the computer. Delete all the crap.

            3. A low-level pass with Malwarebytes or Spybot. Both if you're feeling keen.

            4. ???

            5. Faster! (On probably 99% of machines)

            Alternatively, wipe Windows and install some minimalist Linux distro designed to run on computers built in the 90s, which will no doubt run faster than Windows on a modern machine. When they complain point out that you did exactly as they asked and made their computer run faster.

            Or get a bit of G scale model train track, build a track from the computer desk to the nearest window, and add some wheels and a largeish model rocket engine to the computer. That'll make it 'run' faster to.

            There might be a reason people don't bother me with computer problems when I'm in a bad mood.

          2. Steven Raith

            Re: Took ages to convince my parents...


            A: Yes, you are correct that that will improve it's performance, however

            B: This is a machine i've worked on, I've done that already. Twice.

            There is no more for that machine to give. After all, there is only so much you can do with a Turion X2, 2gb of RAM and Vista.


            Roll on a few years time when all old machines need is a cheap SSD to make them go like a rocketship again. Just need the £/gb to drop a little bit...

            Oh, and upvote for preaching, even if it is to the choir - amen brother!

            Steven R

          3. DavCrav

            Re: Took ages to convince my parents...

            "Yes you can.

            1. Uninstall everything from Symantec or McAfee. FInd replacements if necessary."

            My girlfriend's new computer came with Windows 8 (I know) and some pre-installed anti-virus thing, McAfee I think, and it was a 30-day trial. After two days of trying I managed to get rid of the anti-virus but there's still some HP encryption thing which isn#' even switched on but still won't uninstall. I just gave up in the end and told her to install Linux, a clean copy of Windows 7, or live with it. So far she's living with it.

          4. Zog_but_not_the_first
            Thumb Up

            Re: Took ages to convince my parents...

            Thumbs up for the Underpants Gnomes reference.

          5. David 14

            Re: Took ages to convince my parents...

            Depending on the specific products installed, If you uninstall Symantec or McAfee instead of simply changing the settings to make it perform better, you are doing a dis-service. These products are great in terms of cabability, but shite in terms of "out of the box" settings.

            My $0.02,


            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: Took ages to convince my parents...

              No, the out of the box settings ARE the optimal settings. Tweak ANYTHING and you'll only make it worse. Change it back to the original settings AFTER tweaking them and they still won't return to their original speed. No, you HAVE to nuke them from orbit. If nuking's not an option, I just declare the machine SOL. "That's as fast as it's going to go, it'll slow down over time, and not even nuking it will make a difference." I find Linux is a non-option because EVERYONE has some piece of software that MUST run on genuine Windows (WINE doesn't work on them), and they make THAT piece of software a prerequisite for a completed job.

        2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          If you want a comparison, remember how many critical systems your car has

          I'm male, so people automatically assume I "know about" cars. No! It's a magic box that I understand how to give instructions to and how to avoid damaging. When people start talking to me about offset linkage and CVS cams and dip rates or whatever, I glaze over.

          "My car's failed it's MOT"

          "So, are you going to fix it"

          "What?????? Do I LOOK like a car mechanic????"

          "Oh, it's easy, you just need to remove the spelunks, and drop off the widgets and then replace to goonwashots, and then go to a scrap yard and look for a sling plunker".

          1. Steven Raith

            Re: If you want a comparison, remember how many critical systems your car has

            I'm a bit more up with the cars - I can tell when a bush is knocking - but I can't fix it because I'm hamfisted with anything bigger than a DIMM or a HDD.

            I'm often also wrong with my diagnosis. I thought a knocking noise was a bush, was actually a dead top mount.

            My mechanics loves me because I give him money and hilarious ideas of what's wrong.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Took ages to convince my parents...

          In my experience, explaining what an order of magnitude is makes this exercise largely futile. Although I also suspect that as soon as I talk about anything other than football, all the other party interprets is:

          {~!@"£$&!$*&!("*%£...he's just saying something techy...try will stop soon...!)~@{}"!{$%}~!}

          1. Steven Raith

            Re: Took ages to convince my parents...

            I do find that around the point where the eyes start to glaze over/wander/etc, telling them that if they want me to perform The Ancient Rites of Computery Magixx, they will have to furnish me with pieces of precious metals that I can trade for oxen.

            Normally snaps them out of it and gets them to either pay up (if they're interested), or fuck off (if they are looking for freebies).

            As I say, it's rare I get the option to go for gin and hickeys - although I'm hoping an opportunity is arising soon...

          2. sisk

            Re: Took ages to convince my parents...

            {~!@"£$&!$*&!("*%£...he's just saying something techy...try will stop soon...!)~@{}"!{$%}~!}

            I see you know someone who uses the same geekese translator as my wife.

      2. JulianB

        Re: Took ages to convince my parents...

        Wife's grandmother got some other grandchild to call me to fix her TV remote over the phone, because "Julian's in computers". Yeah, former mainly mainframe programmer, now a technical writer. To be fair, said grandchild knew I'd be no help and was happy to agree with me that going to a TV shop might be better.

      3. razorfishsl

        Re: Took ages to convince my parents...

        Yep ,

        I just make shit up….,( my bank still thinks I'm an airline pilot)

        Because otherwise you end up being told that their little Jonny is such a genius with computers and he did not even need to spend as many years studying electronics and computer science as us 'old timers', not to mention he is a genius programmer…..

        You can bet little jonny's code looks like he suffered from some sort of norovirus whilst writing it.

    4. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Took ages to convince my parents...

      >that an electronic engineering degree was not a qualification for fixing Christmas tree lights.

      Have the standards for EEng degrees dropped that much ?

    5. A Twig

      Re: Took ages to convince my parents...

      To be honest, if you an electronic engineer and can't fix a set of christmas lights I'd be worried ;) Although my standard response in the same situation was "Sorry, I only deal in mV".

      As a fellow Elec Eng, my parents now think that I am an Engineer of Everything - any problems with anything mechanical, electrical, plumbing, gas etc - you can fix it, you're an Engineer!

  4. Tank boy

    Nicely played

    That was funny. I tell people that I know fuck all about computers and they leave me alone. Except the Mother-in-law, she's got a tin can on a string for interwebs, has every anti-virus software ever invented booting up with XP, wondering why her 'all in one' computer takes a day and a half to boot.

  5. Stuart Ball

    At least it isn't the Pox

  6. not_equal_to_null
    Thumb Down

    That's actually quite offensive...

    "...all I’m really doing is stuff that any retard could do..."


    How about you reword that particular sentence so it isn't so offensive, and I'll continue reading this otherwise fantastic site.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That's actually quite offensive...

      Get a grip man....


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That's actually quite offensive...

      Been on Twitter to complain about comparing girlfriends and Java apps lately?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That's actually quite offensive...

      "...all I’m really doing is stuff that any person of limited intelligence who gets offended at the drop of a hat could do..."

      Fixed it for ya

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That's actually quite offensive...

      Totally agree. I almost choked seeing a word like that on the Reg. Profoundly offensive.

      1. GhostSeven

        Re: That's actually quite offensive...

        Oh god a word.... no save me ... honestly context my man / woman / transgender / alien / not specific gender / twonk

      2. sisk

        Re: That's actually quite offensive...

        Totally agree. I almost choked seeing a word like that on the Reg. Profoundly offensive.

        For context I spent half a decade working with mentally handicapped people in a place where the higher ups were horrifyingly politically correct (even the word 'client' was taboo when referring to the people who were paying us for services).

        Retarded is a medical term, as is the noun form of the word. Both were splashed all over our paperwork in that place, along with a veritable dictionary of other jargon from the world of medicine, because we had a complete medical diagnosis of each person we worked with. It's no more offensive in and of itself than 'leper', though using it as an insult is pretty uncool.

    5. John Sanders

      Re: That's actually quite offensive...

      Shoo PC man shooo!!!!

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Re: That's actually quite offensive...

        @ John Sanders: Shirley the correct response to "A PC man" on this thread is to ask him to set up your eyepad

    6. David 14

      Re: That's actually quite offensive...

      To be fair, the vast majority of people do not even realize that "retard" is considered insulting to people with mental retardation.... probably because the term does NOT refer to people with real mental retardation, but rather to people who choose to not use their fully functional brains out of laziness.

      I avoid the term, not because I would be offending persons with mental development challenges, but because the Politically Correct police are always jumping down people's throats for reasons that are mostly benign.

      There are a couple of expressions used in my "neck of the woods" when a cashier short-changes you.... well, the one that is most common is that you were "giped" (gip, rhymes with tip)... I have also heard people say "jewed". I immediately found the second very offensive because it was an obvious slight on jewish folks and their supposed frugal money-management ways. So, I used "giped".... opnly to be informed after using the term for a decade, that this was a slight on Gypsies, and I was a horrible person for doing so.... I ask, though, how could I have been insulting to a group of nomadic people for 10 yeaqrs if I didn't even realize that the term was in reference to them?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: That's actually quite offensive...

        Frankly, I'm getting tired of political correctness. You don't like a name? Tough. Freedom of speech. How about I give a "politically correct" term for "politically correct": "emotionally emasculated". I'm surprised some people don't take these old terms and adopt them with pride. The best way to blunt an insult is to turn it into a compliment.

        1. Martin Budden

          Re: That's actually quite offensive...

          The best way to blunt an insult is to turn it into a compliment.

          Or take ownership, as demonstrated to great effect by N.W.A (Niggaz Wit Attitudes).

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You have to tell them

    that you fix computers. Then they ask how much you charge. Make it high enough and you won't be bothered much, but when you are it will be lucrative AND they'll accept you coming round when you can fit them in. Or believe you when you say they need to buy a new one. And not bother you thereafter when you tell them you're quitting the business so won't be fixing any more computers. That'll leave just the core 'customers' you'd be helping out - free-of-charge - anyway regardless.

    1. 404

      Re: You have to tell them

      That will backfire on you one day.

      I had a client years ago ask me if I could teach her Excel on a housecall and since I am not the most patient of teachers, I pulled a number out of my ass: '$250 a hour'. She says' 'Well, if that's what it costs'...

      I truly wish I asked for more.

      I'm pretty sure I suffered a minor stroke the Day of Excel Class.... oy... better just to say 'No, they have places for that'.

  8. vmistery

    It does seem like very event I turn up to I get asked about PC problems and I often wonder if Plumbers or Electricians get the same sort of attention. These days I tell them to call me about it sometime which gets rid of at least 2/3rds of them. I am beyond caring if a few people feel I have been a bit short or rude to them, it might surprise them that although I enjoy my job when I get home a lot of the time I just want to forget about work and have fun.

    And to those who wonder why I don't know how to do this particular strange thing in Word - I am a network engineer - I do a lot of typing but in Word it 'aint!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And to those who wonder why I don't know how to do this particular strange thing in Word - I am a network engineer - I do a lot of typing but in Word it 'aint!

      Indeed. I do infrastructure support, NOT desktops. But you do realise that to most people "IT" is that box they type things into and see pretty pictures on.

    2. Martin-73 Silver badge

      Electricians DO get the same attention, but then people often bugger off somewhere like B&Q when they find out how much doing it properly costs

  9. SuperTim

    It wouldn't matter what you tell 'em...

    My wife still asks me to sort out all of the computers for her family by saying "You're in I.T.". The only problem is that I haven't been in "I.T". since I worked as a producer in a software company in the 90s. Everything I know about the modern I.T. world is entirely from outside of work and due in some part to me being the master of my own fate. I hate asking for help if I can possibly sort a problem out myself. So if my own wife doesn't actually know that I am a financial audit analyst who merely uses a computer to do the donkey work, then what chance do I have? I wouldn't mind but her CV states that she is proficient in MS office. She isn' all. She can use excel a little bit and can't write a letter on word to save her life. She has never used Access, Visio, powerpoint or pretty much any of the rest of the suite, but knowing that you can write =sum(A1)+sum(B1) and it comes out with the right answer, means that she has mastered excel.

    I currently work for a large international mobile telco. Guess what people's first question is when they find THAT out!

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: It wouldn't matter what you tell 'em...

      I have a friend who constantly asks me for this sort of help. But then he fitted my new hob for free. But I don't mind spending time helping genuine friends anyway. My brother's mother-in-law who made herself a cup of tea while I fixed her laptop, and didn't get one for me, hasn't had any help since. She's the only time I've genuinely seen this. I asked, "I know this is a stupid question, but is it plugged in?" And it wasn't.

      Anyway no.1 friend is a very funny man. He used to do stand-up as a bit of a sideline. And he's done MC-ing and comedy for various events and fund-raisers for well over 30 years. One of the acts he's been doing forever is a magician act. Well to be honest it's a stand-up act. The schtick is that the props haven't arrived, so he tells you how good the tricks would have been - jokes. The magic is basically an excuse to put on a silly italian accent, and wear a cape.

      So he's at a party and someonone who's known him as long as me, and has seen this act over ten times, comes over to him. "I'd just like to introduce this chap, he's looking for a magician for an event, and you do that."

      He's a cabinet maker/furniture designer and yes, they all get asked for help by friends/acquaintances too. Along with plumbers, sparks, mechanics, doctors.

      I wonder if police do? "I've just stolen this TV - would you mind nicking me in your spare time?"

      1. Darryl

        Re: It wouldn't matter what you tell 'em...

        I think it's universal. I'd be willing to bet cops get a lot of "My neighbor's dog keeps crapping on my lawn. Can you do anything about it?"

        1. Allan George Dyer

          Re: It wouldn't matter what you tell 'em...

          I'd guess a good response for the neighbour's dog problem is, "Its a territory thing, if you like, I can get the dog handlers to bring the police dogs round to crap on your lawn, then your neighbour's dog won't dare."

      2. zb

        Re: It wouldn't matter what you tell 'em...

        Reminds me of a pal who is a consultant gynaecologist. His reply, when asked for free advice at a social event his reply is:

        'I could not possibly answer without making a thorough examination, if you could loosen your clothes and lie down on the carpet I will do what I can'

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Despite having the word Software in my job title, I was regularly asked to help with various hardware faults. Having the ability to not give a **** about the feelings of those I worked with, meant I had no problems in saying no.

    Persistence eventually worked on their behalf, and I gave in and tried to un-jam a printer. Opened a few flaps, slide out a tray or two... then.. Snap! Amazing how standing next to a now buggered printer with a large piece of it in your hand, saying "Is this supposed to come off?", stops all future requests for assistance.

    And no, I've never had a problem removing jams from my own personal printers.

    1. SuperTim


      I find it too sticky for use in printers...Marmalade also has the same problem.

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: Jam...

        Try some Marmite - the Devil's very own lubricant.

        1. zb

          Re: Jam...

          I don't know about using Marmite as a lubricant but Vegemite has its good points when used as thermal paste

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    An Excuse!

    But now we have the awsomest excuse in the history of awsome excuses.

    Family Friend: Can you fix my new Windows 8 PC?

    Me: Nope, I've never seen it and know nothing about it.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: An Excuse!

      If I get asked that I will give the a choice,

      XP, Linux Mint, or some other victim.

    2. Wibble

      Re: An Excuse!

      I've been plagued by people asking me to sort out their computers for years. But thanks to the nice people in Redmond, that's all stopped now: I have no qualms in declining anything whatsoever to do with Windows 8. "Sorry, I know nothing about it and cannot use it"

      I never thought that I'd see a reason for the world using Windows 8 until the nice Mr Dabbs pointed that out. Funny how unintended consequences have positive outcomes.

  12. RyokuMas

    Straight from the BOFH bible...

    My normal trick was to protest vigorously that I am a programmer, that I know nothing about hardware and that I'll probably end up doing more harm than good.

    If the person in question then refused to give up after what I felt was a reasonable time span, I'd poke at their machine until it ended up in a worse state than when I started. Two or three completely bricked machines, a couple of beers in apology payments and the odd friendship ruined forever (no real loss - they'd bugged me about fixing their computer) is a small price to pay for relative peace and quiet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Straight from the BOFH bible...

      And if they drag you to a small claims court and sue you for a new machine?

    2. Dr Dan Holdsworth

      Re: Straight from the BOFH bible...

      The standard reply I give when asked what PC/Laptop to buy is "Anything made by Apple"; this normally elicits protestations about the heinous cost of the kit. When I merely say "Quality costs", they normally shut up and go away. Seriously persistent people get told all about the marvellous qualities of secondhand Sun kit; they rarely bother me twice.

  13. Longrod_von_Hugendong

    I do the work...

    Then Bill them afterwards, bad news like that travels really quickly.


    1. SisterClamp

      Re: Duck & Cover - Generalizations Follow

      That's TANSTAFFL not TINSTAFFL. "There Ain't..." not "There Isn't..."

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Duck & Cover - Generalizations Follow

        How about "There Is…"? There, see? Double negative is completely redundant.

        1. 404


          'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress' -> Robert Heinlein

          Don't mess with it.


      2. Helldesk Dogsbody

        Re: Duck & Cover - Generalizations Follow

        Actually it's TANSTAAFL. Just had to say, sorry.

  14. Greem

    We've all been there

    When I'd just got together with my now wife we were both invited to a house warming party by a friend of hers. I dutifully rolled up for the first time to a new (to me) town, knowing nobody, and being generally referred to at the party as her "new bloke". There were lots of interesting new people to talk to, and lots of beer being drunk.

    Eventually someone I'd never met before asked me if I was her "new bloke", and went on to ask if I could have a look at his laptop. I told him I'd just go get my invoice book out of the car; I have *never* seen such an indignant, offended reaction in my entire life. Apparently that was a dreadfully rude thing to say - but he never did bring his laptop, and I continued getting happily drunk :)

    1. Steven Raith

      Re: We've all been there

      I did something similar while crashing at an old friends house and she was introducing me to her new mates (since I knew her anyway).

      I, however, did the clever thing and charged in gin.

      I still don't remember how I got that laptop to boot up, must have had a Windows disk on me or something, but it was working in the morning. I also got a hickey from one of the lasses there (I'm told - I don't remember). What am I, twelve??

      Anyway, context is important. I prefer cash, but booze and floozies works well, too.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: We've all been there

        Sorry, that downvote was unintentional..I was reading this on my blasted phone, went to scroll down, fat finger accidentally hit the downvote arrow.

        'Anyway, context is important. I prefer cash, but booze and floozies works well, too.'


        (Though, sadly, I get more booze than flooze..)

  15. Eradicate all BB entrants

    No matter how they approach ....

    .... me or phrase the question the response is always '£500 day rate'. Been using it a little while now and it is quite effective.

    When they say PC World will fix it for £50 I wish them good luck and walk away :D

    1. Wibble

      Re: No matter how they approach ....

      Just like fixing their bloody websites... Can you do a website for me (I develop them for a living). Yes, but it'll cost you. How much they say. Well, I don't know what you want, but lets say between 10 and 20 days, so somewhere between, lets say £2 to £5k but could be more. Eeek, that's not like the adverts for One and One on the telly.

      Yep, please do.

      I do get pissed off as they don't do that for their accountants, lawyers, surveyors and other professions, yet they do do this for us "IT" people. FFS we have to defend our reputation for being overpaid geeks...

  16. Piro Silver badge

    I sympathise entirely

    I was sat around at home after work, and suddenly had an unsolicited call from someone who had a problem with their laptop.

    I swear my reaction was almost one of PTSD, and I refused to take the call until I had more information and had calmed down.

    The idea that people may keep calling to ask about any and all problems is an idea of personal hell.

    Maybe when I was 14 or so, when I was enthusiastic still about cleaning crap from people's computers and helping them out, but now, embittered by time and work, I don't want to fill up my own time with a stream of petty issues.

    I imagine car mechanics have the same problem - so I suppose at least we don't have to climb underneath oily, greasy cars out in the cold.

    I do feel sorry for them, because they're usually old and poor, but that makes it worth my time even less, because there's no point me charging a huge amount they won't be able to pay.

    Oh, and that anecdote about "what laptop to buy?" is a good one, because you then have to ask them their requirements, because to be honest, any cheap shitty laptop these days is more than good enough unless you want to game. People also get confused when 15.6" laptops are cheaper than smaller ones.

    But the best part is, the time you actually consider the question properly, and give a good suggestion, they end up buying some other piece of crap anyway, and wonder why it's not much use.

    That said, I've had my advice requested a few times and it has been adhered to, so it's not all bad.

    Keeping completely old pieces of crap is another problem these people have - I don't think they realise how old their machine is, and how much better one for less than £300 would be if they just opened their wallet. After all, it saves you time when you're using the machine.

    I've seen silly examples where people have spent money fixing/upgrading ancient shitty machines when they would have spent a similar amount if they just replaced it completely and achieved a far superior result.

    I'm glad you also touched on inkjets, which are a bloody trojan horse. Don't let one in your home.

    A cheap mono laser for printing out your flight passes and instructions and so on, and an online print service if you actually want quality photos produced.

  17. deadlockvictim Silver badge


    Just think of the fun to be had, when women come to ask you to fix their computers.

    'It's probably all of the porn that's on there', you reply, knowing full well that her husband, sons, lover have spent the last 10 years looking at sites that have not been good for the system.

    'I don't look at porn!' she will reply indignantly. If she is really certain that it's clean, she'll press you to come have a look at it. If she's not, she'll probably let it drop.

    If she's clever, she mutter that she's going to kill «male relative of her who also uses her computer» and ask you to come and perform an exorcism on her machine.

    1. Crisp

      Re: Porn

      I've seen things... things that would turn you white.

      1. Dr Dan Holdsworth

        Re: Porn

        So has anybody who has looked at the webcache of even a small ISP. Honestly, you really, seriously do not want to look at the jpegs in an ISP webcache; they've got nothing on at all.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Daily rate

    I apologise and point out it wouldn't be fair to charge them my normal rate, given how high it is (contractor for banks - fill in the gaps yourself), especially as I'm rather out of date on home systems, assuming they are not running a cluster of unix servers as their desktop.

    I then give them the phone number of a young lad I know, still in college, who only charges £20/hour, plus some travel time if he comes to you.

    Most people are unwilling to admit straight out that they wanted it doing for free and the matter gets dropped.

    The only person I have often done free fixes or advice for is my father. On the other hand being a central heating fitter when I bought a new place he fitted a new system and only charged me for parts, at trade rates. If someone is willing to offer me useful services in return then I'm more than happy to start negotiating.

  19. John G Imrie

    Alistair Dabs is unwell

    Though apparently he's felling better than Jeffrey Bernard.

  20. tony

    "I don't use Windows just Word...

    ..So I deleted windows to get some space and now it's not working"


    "I've got a project I need to hand it tomorrow"

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Linux is the saviour.

    I find that since I stopped using windows, ooooh about 7 years ago, and dedicated my computing life to just using Linux, the slow attrition of my Windows skills has resulted in me not being that useful to the Windows brigade.

    "Ohhh , you're not running XP ?" I say. "Windows 8 is way too new and fangled for me" I continue. Before I say "Do you want to borrow an Ubuntu 14.04 disk ?" by which time , with all of the intervening conversation they've got the idea I really don't want to work on Windows, and they should try someone who does.

    This strategy works for me very well.

    When I meet someone who knows about Linux, they usually know more than me, so I'm the one learning :-D

  22. frank ly

    I tell them I'm a Systems Engineer

    If they ask me what that means, I tell them about a massive, commercial, computer monitored, site-wide HVAC system I worked on for testing/verification many years ago; in great detail since I did find it fascinating at the time. I'm sure I'll be dead before anybody in the UK gets a domestic HVAC system that needs looking at.

  23. Tanuki

    I find it useful to deploy phrases like:

    "Tell me the contract details of your support-partner and I'll raise a service-call with them for you"


    "You need to speak to one of my consultants - let me have your phone number and I'll get them to call you to arrange an appointment. You *are* VAT-registered, aren't you?"


    "Would you ask the chief-executive of British Aerospace to book you a package-holiday? No - so why are you asking me about your iToy?"

  24. Miss Config

    And what lurgy's That ?

    So exactly what lurgy is it you do have ?

    And can you swear on your mother's life/grave that when introduced to a doctor at a party you have NEVER started discussing your then current medical problems ?

    So doctors and computers nerds share an occupational hazard.

    ( But at least if you're lucky, nobody will treat you as if you are a character out of The IT Crowd. )

    1. Lost in Cyberspace

      Re: And what lurgy's That ?

      At least we can quote hourly rates, I wonder if any GPs would try that one.

  25. Mike Moyle

    "Alistair Dabbs is recovering from the dreaded lurgy..."

    So the trombone therapy is working, then?


  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Have you tried turning it off and on again....?

    No - Well I would try that right away

    Yes - Well sounds like its got X problem, that's normally X hours to put right, Hourly rate is X

    Which results in £££ or results in no further questions until the come back to ask why their manufacture or x has used their system restore partition / disk and no all their files have magically disappeared and want to know if they can be recovered.

    Like someone else said i never ceases to amaze me that people think because all your doing is pushing button and moving a cursor to make their machine work again it should be free... I find if you lead with how much and then in rare occasions but say but to you mates rate is X, people are willing to pay when they realise there is no free lunch...

  27. Rick Giles

    At a family picnic one time

    and one of the extended family members worked, at that time, in the same office location I did.

    She starts whinging about her work PC and my wife looks squarely at her and just says, "NO!"

    I'm glad she did, because I was about to go off on her as it was the weekend and they didn't pay me enough to think about that place in the off hours.

  28. Richard Altmann

    IT and conferencing

    I feel for the IT guys who get put in charge of the conference facilities in their companies.

    Just because a presentation laptop is connected to the conference system, it does not mean its all IT.

    In 99% of SMEs the conference technic goes to either the IT departement or the guy who changes the bulbs and mows the lawn. They hate doing it because it keeps them away from the job they´ve been hired for. What with all the hussle with coke fuelled managers insisting to show their 1024x768 slides in HD.

    The companies are blowing out megatons of cash for conference facilities since they want to look posh in front of their clients. Which is often very embarassing, since there is noone there to operate that shit properly. Who gets the blame? The IT departement (since a presentation laptop is involved and the ever failing videoconference system runs over IP). I bet, many IT guys would rather happily fix uncle Herbert´s slow internet then having to cope with systems in their company which are not their field of experties and they don´t want anything to do with.

    I salute you and raise a pint for everyone concerned

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IT and conferencing

      It's worse than you would believe. I had to arrange for the contractors and oversee installation at a few of our sites. Even had to lift the damn TV's onto a wall at one in the U.S and I was there managing a bloody migration!

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: IT and conferencing

      My solution to the presentation problem was to fit a dedicated PC, configured and locked down to the resolution of the projector. Audio went through dedicated speakers, all connectors were screwed in place.

      Users could either access their presentation across the network or plug in a USB stick, which is usually daft when they've saved the presentation to a network location, and with non-embedded embedded content always causes fun and games.

      I still had some users busily unscrewing everything in order to present a high resolution (aka stupidly large amounts of small text) presentation using a low resolution laptop. They could have configured a secondary display with the correct resolution, or even aspect ratio, but then they wouldn't have been able to see the presentation on the small screen at the same time. Staring at which defeated the entire concept behind delivering a presentation in the first place, which is to present, not to sit there mumbling at a laptop keyboard. To make it worse, I even had a dedicated external connector which users who couldn't understand that they could use a dedicated PC for the task, or were external visitors, could use... but this didn't stop the attempted disassembly of the main system at times.

      All this and there's still the point that's most often forgotten: PowerPoint is not a presentation; PowerPoint is merely a tool that allows you to enhance a presentation. [but frequently used to kill one]

  29. Haku


    Two days ago a friend emailed me (from his phone) that his laptop has gone wonky again.

    Fuck him.

    I've not contacted him back because I've spent literally hours removing shite from that and past PCs of his for no tangible reward. I'm thinking I should tell him to call my brother in future for such stuff, he charges £30/hour for that.

  30. Benchops

    "You work with computers don't you?"

    .... "ye-es"

    "Do you know how to work the microwave in the kitchen?"

    Trouble is, of course I do, it's a microwave!

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Repair charges

    As an absolute minimum, for a home visit I require a decent 3-course home cooked meal. No ready meals, no takeaways. Obviously I don't expect them to hand-make dessert. Sunday roast is ideal.

    If you are dropping a machine around to me, you had better come bearing gifts - ideally a big bag-o-weed. Also expect to do most of the work yourself while I play games and smoke the weed. If I do not feel that you are making an effort to learn what I am telling you, then I will rapidly come to the conclusion that I do not know what is wrong - and still smoke your weed.

    Of course, supporting your family is non-negotiable and there are the odd few friends in trades that suffer in a similar way (car mechanics, plumbers etc) for whom I feel some solidarity, but in general most people expect a free lunch when they hear that you work in IT.

  32. Tim Almond


    I've never minded if neighbours/friends are reasonable about it. Don't treat me like I'm on call, don't get snotty with me because it's still not working after my free labour. Don't knock on my door asking for me to look at a PC that you bought from PC World after I expressly told you NOT to go to PC World. If I'm there for a short while, offer me coffee or a glass of red.

    And to be honest, it's something I can give to the neighbours and they do nice stuff for me too. I get a fair amount of free rhubarb, they don't hesitate to offer assistance if I need a sofa moving. I'd much rather be working on a PC than digging a fruit patch.

  33. stu 4

    I can beat that….

    My father (70) tells everyone in the village he can fix their PCs…

    you can guess the rest…. basically he is like a remotely operate me…. he just goes round there house then calls me… 'er… ok I'm at Jim/Bob/Mary's and the printer isn't working….


    7 years ago I moved to mac. My line is now - I don't do win doze - if you want support get a mac.

    this has so far worked well with my sister, whose support now is purely hardware (dog eaten through cable, wine spilled on laptop, etc)…

    But with an uncle it has backfired, as I am now seen as solely responsible was EVERYTHING that goes wrong or he can't do.. since I was the one that (at gunpoint I assume) made him buy a mac.

    - he's deleted all his emails by accident. my fault.

    - he forgot his password. my fault

    - he upgraded the OS (and somehow managed to set up a completely new account -'arrr. all my emails are gone…all my documents have gone… its all your fault with this apple shite…'

    My current solution that is still working, is that Logmein stopped being free at beginning of the year - so I notified them at unfortunately it would not be possible to support them anymore as it was no longer free - however if they wanted to pay the 60 quid a year or whatever it would be on again…

    so far silence.

    I must have spent 100s of hours fixing, building and upgrading their computers for free… say it costs money and total silence.

    The other thing I find weird is that it does seem to be reciprocated for IT knowledge for some reason.

    for example I have mate that is a joiner. He thinks nothing of asking me to spend 4-5 hours rebuilding his laptop, and yet when I mentioned I needed new doors hung, he offered to come around and 'give me a quote'.

  34. heyrick Silver badge

    I don't mind fixing computers for "free"

    I'm nice like that. Plus most of the ex-pats around here prefer somebody that speaks the same language.

    But there is a catch. I do a paid full time job. This claims rather a lot of my life. Accordingly, I value the time that I have left. Specifically to the tune of 85 euros per hour (or part of an hour). Which counts from the moment I leave my house. I also state that I will ask you to sign a form to state that the fault that I was asked to fix has been resolved, and that your computer appears to be functioning correctly. This is to dissuade people from saying "you were the last person to mess with it!", somebody pulled that crap on me and went rather quiet when I ran a little VB app I threw together ages ago that prints out every file created after a given date. Oh look, your little tyke has been installing random crap on your machine and you are trying to pass it off as MY fault to get free support? Nope, not falling for that line again.

    So. There's the deal. Eighty five hourly, with a signed form at the end.

    I seem to be somewhat less in demand now. Oh well, I guess Bob's cousin's uncle's friend will have to do it instead. Can't say it bothers me much. I can waste my time writing messages on forums instead.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I don't mind fixing computers for "free"

      And if they counter, "You're just making that stuff up and you forged my signature!"?

  35. Red Bren

    Can I just check

    Is El Reg rerunning the same comments from the original article?

    1. Red Bren

      Re: Can I just check

      I think I answered my own question. Or I've forgotten that I presciently asked this question last time...

      1. Alistair Dabbs

        Re: Can I just check

        I'm thinking El Reg may as well just keep reposting this specific column and let everyone get on with it. It would be cheaper than asking me to write a new one every week.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  36. Truth4u

    Before I move into a house

    The neighbours will see men installing network cable and racks of equipment for about 3 days before I move in. Then I'll move in as a single guy my belongings are mostly computers and servers. When I'm done moving in, if any neighbours knock on the door asking for computer help I just say I don't know what a computer is and have never used one then close the door.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Before I move into a house

      Then they jam their foot in the doorway, point to the obvious machine you couldn't hide and yell out, "Then what's THAT?!"

      1. Artaxerxes

        Re: Before I move into a house

        Carpentry set

  37. td97402

    We're not all incompetent scammers!

    I run a small repair shop and I try to do right by my customers. I get their computers fixed right pretty much every time, the first time. I don't charge and arm and a leg either because a lot of my customers really can't afford much. I will occasionally make a mistake or miss something and I will fix it for them. At the end of the week (usually Sunday about 3PM) I take some time off to run a few errands and unwind a bit because the week starts all over again on Monday morning.

    Some of us repair people are HONEST, COMPETENT and HARD WORKING. Maybe the author should look around a little more before painting us all with the same brush! It is also true that I fix a lot of computer gear that was "fixed" by neighbors or friends first!

    1. Lodgie

      Re: We're not all incompetent scammers!

      There are honest ones out there but there are lot of completely useless twats too. You're right about the friends and family fixers, they done an evening class course on using Micro$oft Office and they are up there with Tim Berners Lee. A little knowledge is very dangerous here.

  38. El Presidente

    Zombie Thread!

    Kill it!

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Get the BFH's help

    My prized possession for many years was an official BOFH t-shirt with "Your PC's broken, and I've got a problem?" - worked for most people but there were a few that read it as an invite rather than a warning ....

  40. bafj

    Specialised help only.

    I used to get asked for help all the time, then I made it clear to people that I would only help for worthy causes and for things related to what I actually do.

    Cue me, taking a week off work and spending it in a field, building a site wide network for a festival (in aid of a charity) complete with audio streaming infrastructure. Yes I lost £1,500 taking the week off. Yes all the kit I used was mine (including a load of newly bought stuff for the event). But I tell you what, it was fun and I'm glad I helped.

    (I've done similar things at other UK music festivals, including Glastonbury, purely because there is nowhere more fun to make patch cables, than on top of a portakabin at 3am after a bottle of wine).

  41. MatsSvensson

    Whatever the device is,

    just hold up to your ear, tap it, shake it twice, and say

    "yep that broken alright, better get a new one".

  42. (AMPC) Anonymous and mostly paranoid coward

    Obligatory Oatmeal comic reference

    If you haven't seen it before you will love it

  43. Hazmoid

    Whenever we meet new people my wife makes a point of telling them that I work in IT. My response is to tell them the story of when I was laid off by my last employer. I told my old boss, half joking, that my consulting rate was AUD$500 per hour, minimum 2 hours, no guarantee of a fix but I would do my best. Strangely don't get many requests after that.

  44. Michael 28

    Nice article

    ... also appreciated the "Bicycle Repairman" monty python pics. I hadn't noticed before that they used a 1970's Raleigh Gran Prix in this clip.

    Can't help thinking , however, that the "working class playright" clip might have been appropriate.

  45. jhml2011
    Paris Hilton

    I'm a PC and Windows 7 was MY idea

    Ye gods - I get this all the time. I decided quite some time ago that I would charge a (fairly nottional) sum for doing work but ONLYif I was offered payment.

    I would then quote an amount based on my estimate of what I thought was appropriate based on work done and who the work was for - i.e more for a (seemingly) well off work colleague for a complete rebuild of Windows than that for an elderly neighbour who can't get her mouse to work.

    If someone doesn't ask if I want anything for my trouble then they are consigned to the "never do work for again list".

    Paris, because she loves dining rooms full of faulty laptops.

  46. mark1978

    My mother in law just got a new shiney Samsung Galaxy smartphone, so my wife has been getting battered with "how do I do, this" "how do I do that". She eventually just had to lay it out "I've only ever used an iPhone, I've got no idea how to do anything with your phone!"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      How soon before she responded, "At least you've used A PHONE. Please help me, please please please please please please..."

  47. fearnothing

    On the other hand, when you need something from them, it's not such a terrible idea. I fix my neighbour's computer problems (they're relatively simple ones) and she agrees to look after my cats while I'm away. She also invites me round for tea while the footie's on and makes sarcastic comments about the players when they cock up. Winner all round.

  48. montyburns56

    Does this article seem familiar to you...

    One of the best things about about being an IT journalist is that you can get paid for publishing the same article twice!

    1. Keith Caley

      Re: Does this article seem familiar to you...

      Well, that's only to be expected if you read the preamble at the beginning of the article: -

      "Something for the Weekend, Sir? Alistair Dabbs is recovering from the dreaded lurgy, but still none too chipper this week, so we’re happy to let him linger in his bath chair and tartan blanket once again. No doubt his neighbours will be concerned though, if this repeat publication from 2013 is anything to go by." ;)

  49. axemanrj

    I hear you're a doctor

    I usually get bottles of tequila or guinness in kind. I wonder if any of my neighbours are doctors. I'm sure they would be able to fix my liver for free.

This topic is closed for new posts.