back to article Support whizz 'fixes' screeching laptop with a single click... by closing 'malware-y' browser tab

Welcome once more to On Call, our weekly column where Reg readers share their tales of tech support problems solved. This week, meet "Arron", who told us about a user who got in touch to complain about a broken laptop, requesting a replacement. "I love it when they're vague and immediately go for the new-shiny-shiny approach …

  1. TonyJ

    "...Suitably admonished, the user went on their way..."

    What...? Without wiping the possibly malware?

    That bad boy would've had a wipe and reimage before it got more than 4 feet away from me.

    1. DJ Smiley

      Do you like making work for yourself?

      I mean..... it was a dodgy site, no evidence in anyway of infection.

      1. Annihilator

        Re: Do you like making work for yourself?

        "I mean..... it was a dodgy site, no evidence in anyway of infection."

        Maybe. But it was a browser redirect, or hijack of some description. Usually where a user has let something through the gates, there's a high chance that something else followed.

        In a corporate environment, nuking from orbit is normally the standard approach - especially with a BOFH character who would also rip the wifi module out and pour epoxy resin into the network port.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Do you like making work for yourself?

        I'd scan it, just to make sure, but this doesn't warrant a reimage in my book. Especially if the user could have done this on purpose to try to get a new model.

    2. Shadow Systems

      At TonyJ...

      Yeah... and the computer too! =-D

      I'll get my coat, it's the one with the BOFH archives in the pockets.

    3. RyokuMas

      "That bad boy would've had a wipe and reimage before it got more than 4 feet away from me."

      Heck, I'd have gone full BOFH and wiped the entire thing right there in front of him, with a commentary along the lines of:

      "No you can't take a backup, whatever's infected it will just get onto your USB stick... when did you first notice the noise? Ok, well you can't restore any backups from then until now, there's a risk that they're infected..."

      That sort of user is just begging to be reduced to tears and having the fear of god put into them at the idea of trying it on again...

      1. Admiral Grace Hopper

        "Heck, I'd have gone full BOFH"

        Punishment maintenance. Sweet.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Backup? Company policy says no data to be stored locally, everything must be on the servers, so there is no data to lose. /BOFH

          1. bpfh

            Great thing having backups on a central greppable server with everything backed up to a multi tape loader.

            Mines the one with Dial B for Bastard paperback and a neodymium magnet in the pocket.

      2. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Data wipe

        I had a PC at my office years ago that was running okay but the the network card had died and the sound card was also a little dodgy after an office move. At the time I wasn't in support at the time and had to hand over my machine to a support person. I said that it was very important that they left the harddrive alone as there was a set of large files that were too big for a CDR. So the machine was taken away and returned that afternoon and the drives had been wiped. I had words with the head of IT support and the staffer who was mere days into his job with the company was given a talking to. He had apparently thought that the machine was running a little slowly and decided wiping was the best fix. We told him that at the very least he should have contacted the user and asked if any files needed to be saved. He apologised and said he'd pay for a forensic data recovery service on the disk if needed. That was good of him. Unfortunately he then told me off for not storing my work on the server which let him down slightly. The look on his face as he had the words "broken network card" and "do not wipe" read out to him from the ticket.

    4. macjules

      More to the point, you had an IT department yet no anti-virus or anti-malware installed? Interested to know what type of operation it was.

      1. Captain Scarlet

        A webpage with a sound on it is not normally something I would consider a virus or Malware, just annoying

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "A webpage with a sound on it is not normally something I would consider a virus or Malware"

          You've just failed your BOFH examination for missing an obvious opportunity to wipe all the luser's data.

  2. Dave K

    If you completely wipe every machine you find where a user has simply managed to open a dodgy web page, you'd be one-busy chap! So long as the user hasn't downloaded the said "fix" from the hijacked/redirected site, the laptop should be no more infected than any other machine.

    1. Giovani Tapini

      At one place I worked, they had speeded this up

      by occasionally deleting user profiles along with all setting, data, documents etc then insist line manager re-requests all your access from scratch. Far quicker than re-imaging a laptop while creating similar feelings of loss and hopelessness in the user (although that included us techies, grrr)

      I never did find out if this was BOFH behaviour or simple incompetence though.

      1. PickledAardvark

        Re: At one place I worked, they had speeded this up

        Deleting user profiles worked for quite a while -- until drive-by hackers realised that they had to put the payload somewhere else. When Windows 7 arrived, I recall resetting ACLs on a bunch of shared document/photo/video directories accessible to all users. I changed the ACLs before we deployed Windows 7.

    2. Nick Kew

      One busy chap?

      That's good. We need more hands. A new PFY or two (Simon's one has long-since graduated to full BoFH himself). Empire-building, doncherknow?

    3. TonyJ


      If you completely wipe every machine you find where a user has simply managed to open a dodgy web page, you'd be one-busy chap! So long as the user hasn't downloaded the said "fix" from the hijacked/redirected site, the laptop should be no more infected than any other machine...."

      Alas in this day and age of drive-by infection, I'd rather be busy than take the chance.

    4. Dr Dan Holdsworth

      If this is a corporate machine, then the user should not have had the admin rights to install anything, and should not have any data sitting on the (encrypted) machine in any case; furthermore the local antivirus and anti-malware software should also have been active.

      In such a case, I would quarantine the machine for "further tests" and proceed to scan the hell out of the local drive to make certain that nothing actually got onto it, whilst making the user cool their heels waiting for this to run. Kicking about for 20 minutes is generally unpleasant enough to get the message about not visiting dodgy sites over to users without actually harming anything.

      1. ROC

        Well, AV software has been known to miss some baddies (zero-day, etc), and legitimate sites sometimes are compromised, so don't be too quick to blame a user when they may well have been following SOP....

    5. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      If you completely wipe every machine you find where a user has simply managed to open a dodgy web page,

      First, let me fix this for you: If you completely wipe every machine you find where a user has successfully managed to open a dodgy web page,

      That is called "perimeter defences lacking"

      Second, depends what are you working on and in what security regime. A wipe may be the right approach in some environments.

  3. Lord Lucan

    My user reports upon powering-up their laptop that it shrieks: "Set fire to the rain, set fire to the rain..."

    They think it's a Dell.

    1. DuchessofDukeStreet

      I know it's early (at least in this time zone) but.... >>>>>

      Dell deserved.

    2. The Nazz

      Is this the resulting outcome?

    3. RyokuMas

      See icon.

      "They think it's a Dell."

      God dammit, that was a a fresh cup of coffee too!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Was on a cruise ship, when my laptop fell overboard into some choppy waters. It was a Dell, rolling in the deep...

    5. TomPhan

      I think the first time I heard that pun was on I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue - "Colin Searle has been working with Adele - he says it's better than his old laptop"

    6. Wayneh_nz

      Set fire to the rain?

      That would be a Samsung device, not a Dell. Remember when there was the recall on Samsung washing machines because there was a malfunction in the rinse cycle. Where the machine would catch fire. Only Samsung can set fire to water like that.

  4. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Hell is other people

    We got three calls from the same user complaining her headset was not functioning... three times we told her it would work better when pressing the button "On" :doh:

    1. Nick Kew

      Re: Hell is other people

      But could she hear you on the non-functioning headset?

    2. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: Hell is other people


      I've been there... My headphones are broken. Make the visit only to find the headphones are plugged into the MIC jack! That was a quickly closed ticket! That was long ago, and the user is still sheepish when I have to assist ;-}

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hell is other people

      Problem is that now it may not be that simple as having a headset turned off ... I have to do regular meetings via a conf system using my laptop (I work remotely) and in initial meeting with new laptop people complained I kept on dropping off halfway through sentences and had to revert to using phone to call in ... fortunately found solution relatively quickly ... my laptop (HP) has directional microphones and, in default settings, assumes any sound not from directly in front of it is "background chatter" that is to be cancelled - I sit with monitor in front of me and laptop beside that so as far as laptop was concerned I was speaking from a slight angle to it so was background noise to be cancelled which it did very effectively! Simple soultion was to switch to "conference room mode" where it assumes people can talk from any direction!

      1. Scott 53

        Re: Hell is other people

        We regularly had conference calls with one colleague where the sound from his end would fluctuate from 100% to 0% throughout the call. We eventually discovered he kept his laptop right on the edge of his desk and when he leaned forward to emphasise a point, his stomach covered up the microphone on the computer. He uses a headset now.

        1. Alien8n

          Re: Hell is other people

          We have a lovely Barco presentation system that has now been made redundant due to the fact that if you try to do a Skype call and route the video through the Barco the sound very rapidly starts lagging behind the video. The solution? Remove the Barco and just plug the laptop directly into the projector system. Now everything is back in sync. Weird thing is it only affects Skype.

        2. MJI Silver badge

          Re: Hell is other people

          My car the seat is a bit close to the wheel, I have had surgery so belly SLIGHTLY numb, steering was heavy.

          Fluid OK, leant in turned wheel, fine.

          Took for drive then noticed if I pulled forwards slightly, I was touching the wheel.

    4. macjules

      Re: Hell is other people

      I could write a book about IT problems with governments and where nothing beats HM Government junior ministers for sheer, stubborn human stupidity, as in this example:

      "My government-issued laptop keeps making a beeping noise, even though I know for a fact that it is switched off. It is very annoying indeed and will you please send someone asap to fix it at my house?"

      Next day's engineer report:

      "Subject's laptop was checked and found to be in full working order with no errors. However, this can not be said about the subject's smoke alarm which was situated almost directly above the laptop. Recommend that this member of HMG be sent several 9v batteries with instruction on how to fit them"

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Hell is other people

        "I could write a book about IT problems with governments and where nothing beats HM Government junior ministers for sheer, stubborn human stupidity"

        Yes Minister: The IT Story.

        It should be a good read.

  5. Nick Kew

    My most memorable story of fixing not-broken technology comes from when I was about thirteen-ish and had never seen a computer. My granny told me, if I could fix her old radio, I could have it for myself. I changed the batteries, and it worked!

    To be fair, at the time I was pretty handy with electronics, and fixed a few less-trivial things. Come to think of it ... no, you don't want to hear that one.

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      My flatmates once replaced a burned out bulb with another burned out bulb, then sat in the dark for a week waiting for me to come back from a trip, as they wanted me to call the electrician.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        I have "repaired" a mouse that would work properly.

        A Bluetooth mouse.

        One with batteries, don't you know

        A few months later, it broke down again. Guess what? They complained it must be broken

        1. ChrisC Silver badge

          Well, if it had simply stopped working due to dead batteries again, even though they'd only been changed a few months later (and by "few" I'm assuming a value small enough to be less than a years-worth), then it's not unreasonable to assume *something* is broken... The Logitech wireless mice I use have such an aversion to using power that their batteries easily last a few *years*, so if one of those suddenly started chewing through a fresh set of batteries in just a few months then I'd definitely be wondering what the fault was beyond the batteries simply being flat.

        2. macjules

          One up on the Apple mouse then - you can not use it while it is charging as the lightning port is underneath the mouse.

          Not one of Jonny Ive's best designs.

        3. Lilolefrostback

          Not technical, but typical.

          I generally count the offering at church, with another fellow (for accountability). We have a nice little box that contains all the kit for counting, recording and preparing for the bank. Included in that kit are several ball-point pens. I cannot count the number of times that the other fellow has pulled out a pen, found it non-functional, and put it right back in the box. I presume he's expecting a miraculous recovery.

          I usually grab the pen and drop it in the bin.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          A few months later, it broke down again. Guess what? They complained it must be broken

          They probably said that -

          "it's never worked properly" or "It's always going wrong"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I'm a half generation older than my cousin, but she had no qualms about asking me to fix her vibrator when I was once round at her flat doing some odd jobs (sorry no euphemism there)

      She was also very happy to tell her flatmate how pleased she was to have it working again - I suppose it is just another 'appliance'

      I'm not prudish but I was quite surprised.

      New batteries.

      1. OzBob

        Re: Batteries

        Please tell me you a least gave it a sniff, just for research purposes of course.

      2. Chairman of the Bored

        Re: Batteries

        Ive said it many times, "The greatest threat to man is an independently wealthy woman with battery operated toys"

        Unless you're the one with the batteries I guess.

        Mine's the one with the hydraulic apparatus in the front pocket.

  6. Richard Gray 1
    IT Angle

    Foodie Friday

    Not really IT as such, but since it's about simply fixing stuf....

    There was an advert on a local group for one of those really expensive food processors, you know the ones you see on all the cooking shows. saying that it only worked on pulse not properly hence {really low price}.

    As She who must be obeyed, washer of socks and cooker of meals wanted one I thought why not..

    I bought it, took it home and looked at it. The on switch had a bit of "gunky food residue" (tm) on it.

    A bit of cleaning spray, a cocktail stick and a good hard 5 minutes of work, one fully functional food processor and one VERY happy She who must be obeyed, washer of socks and cooker of meals.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Foodie Friday

      On a similar "note" heard an interview with Rick Wakeman some time ago relating that when Moog synthesizers came out and were really really expensive he got one off another musician who'd bought one and decided it was faulty as it would not play two notes at the same time ... think Rick said he started to try to explain the difference between "monopohonic" and "polyphopnic" but got nowhere and ended up getting the "broken" Moog for free.

      1. GlenP Silver badge

        Re: Foodie Friday

        I acquired a decent laptop in a similar way. The user had managed to load it with so much malware he just gave up and bought a new one.

        Admittedly it wasn't the easiest wipe and reinstall I've ever done (it took a while to get the thing to boot of CD) but a free £1,000+ worth of laptop and extras for a few hours work seemed a reasonable return.

    2. Sgt_Oddball

      Re: Foodie Friday

      That's like my external sound card. Spotted cheap on world's biggest tat bazaar for a 20th of the new price with the note that it'd stopped working but owner liked it enough he'd already bought a replacement. Quick check online and apparently they can burn out a cap if headphones are too high an ohmage.

      Duely purchased and shipped it arrived and I took it to bits to discover a perfectly pristine circuit board. Put it back together and thought I'll plug it in as I've nothing to lose. Worked straight away off default drivers.. Until I pressed the volume dial, cue a blue flashing power light and no sound. Turns out the volume dial when pushed in is a mute. 6 years later its still sat under my monitor doing sterling work. Best fiver I ever spent.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Foodie Friday

        Turns out the volume dial when pushed in is a mute

        Thats the stupidest fucking idea i've ever heard!

        1. gotes

          Push volume button to mute

          It's fairly normal on vehicle audio systems, aka the "car radio".

          1. Dr Dan Holdsworth

            Re: Push volume button to mute

            On older Vauxhall cars, the headlight control was a rotating dial on the dashboard. The interior light control was there at all; to turn the interior light on, you pulled the entire headlight control towards you.

            You could always tell a Vauxhall that had been a hire vehicle, because it would always have a dirty mark around the roof light where people had tried feeling for the control switch, and hadn't found it...

            1. Waseem Alkurdi

              Re: Push volume button to mute

              Can you specify which one in particular?

              We've had a couple of Opels in the family (Vectra, Kaddett/Astra) and I don't recall such a feature xD

              1. MJI Silver badge

                Re: Push volume button to mute

                I remember, may be Cavalier or Carlton, one of those

                1. Jess--

                  Re: Push volume button to mute

                  Astra (late 90s new shape one)


                  both had the pull the headlight switch for internal light

                  1. MJI Silver badge

                    Re: Push volume button to mute

                    Omega as well

                    How we forget, I have had a few.

                2. Kremen

                  Re: Push volume button to mute

                  The Mk I Vauxhall Cavalier (Opel Ascona?) had this interior light control feature.

                  The control was conventionally located in the Mk II.

              2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

                Re: Push volume button to mute

                Corsa. When I first got mine I ended up pulling into the side of the road and opening the door to turn the cabin light on so I could check maps. When I eventually went online to track down how to turn the light on my response was exactly: WTBF???

                Also, the dashboard light adjuster is an anonymous dial under the light switch that is easily nudgable and does nothing when you experiment with it with stationary with the headlights off. Took me ages to work out why my dashboard was dark when I had the headlights on.

                1. cutterman

                  Re: Push volume button to mute

                  And on Tigra 1.8 (Corsa in a pretty dress)

                  Took me a few minutes to work out...


            2. tony trolle

              Re: Push volume button to mute

              American 70's cars have this as well

    3. Andre Carneiro

      She who must be obeyed, washer of socks and cooker of meals

      And Buster Of Balls, I suspect, if she ever reads this... ;)

  7. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge

    Had one user who fessed up on clickee onna linkee inside a very suspicious email - but who deemed it fit to only let IT know a day or two after that incident.

    I went full retard when said luser did not want to hand in his laptop for "processing" and went all the way to the top, and luser was forced to hand over his laptop. He was not too happy.

    Boohoo. I don't care. If *you* don't take care, I won't be able to help you if your laptop get cryptolocked.

    Unfortunately salesweasels are a nice, plump target for ne'er-do-wells as salesweasels will open any email from any sender, even if it looks highly dodgy, and click on allsorts of links just because of shiny and flashy stuff.

    It's been a long while since and nothing bad had happened yet. Think my anal sphincter can take a rest now.

    1. Dr Dan Holdsworth

      Back when I worked for a rather dodgy ISP in Accrington, we had continual virus problems. Strangely though, these always followed a fairly well defined infection pattern which led me to believe that the user has a lot to do with computer virus infections.

      Virus trouble always started in Sales or Marketing, and spread from one to the other. Then the same few senior managers would get infected machines, then some of the Web designers. Not all, and always the same ones.

      Over in the NOC, the database engineers on completely susceptible Windows machines never got viruses. Neither did any of the engineers, but then we were using RedHat Linux.

    2. Fungus Bob

      Many years ago, when the Anna Kournikova virus was making the rounds, I was working in a very small company. One day the boss said "...Uhhh, I think I got a virus" . A quick check proved nothing bad happened. I told him this was why we were using Pegasus and that he was a pervert.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Unfortunately salesweasels are a nice, plump target for ne'er-do-wells as salesweasels will open any email from any sender, even if it looks highly dodgy"

      Because they lack any ability to recognise dodgy emails they can't recognise that the emails they send also look dodgy. The same seems to apply to the fund-raisers currently employed by

  8. Chairman of the Bored

    Darned tech!

    A bunch of us were fighting a Windows problem; lots of BSOD. Naturally in the course of fixing it we did an awful lot of rebooting.

    Our Windows tech walks up and says, "Hey, you guys don't understand what's going on. Just rebooting the machine won't fix anything."

    Me: "OK, smartass, YOU fix it."

    Tech: "Sure!" He reboots it and it works.

    Me: "WTF??? We just did the same @#$&*! thing half a dozen times!"

    Tech: "Yeah, but I understand what's going on"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Darned tech!

      "Just rebooting the machine won't fix anything."

      Happened to see an episode of one of the air accident investigation programs on TV once which covered the BA flight that flew through a volcanic plume causing all the engines to stall. In their reinactment they showed how the crew had spent the several minutes (while the plane was losing height and seemingly heading for an inevitable crash) repeatedly going through the engine shutdown and restart process (a lot more compicated that just tunring it off and on again!) until eventually one engine restarted and they were able to stabilise the flight.

      1. Ozumo

        Re: Darned tech!

        That worked because as the aircraft lost height it entered denser air, increasing the chance of a successful relight.

        1. Updraft102

          Re: Darned tech!

          That worked because as the aircraft lost height it entered denser air, increasing the chance of a successful relight.

          Not exactly. The volcanish ash had re-melted in the hottest part of the jet engine (probably the combustion cans, but they didn't specify) while the engines were running, coating the surfaces therein with volcanic glass, blocking the flow of fuel, and causing a flameout. The engines would not restart, obviously, because there was no/insufficient fuel flow.

          After a while of not running with cold air rushing through the engine as the plane continued to glide, the coated bits of the engine cooled enough to contract. The coated metal bits of the engine had a different contraction rate than the glassy coating, which shattered and unblocked what had been blocked, thus allowing a relight.

      2. Chairman of the Bored

        Re: Darned tech!

        Was that BA Flight 9?

        In an act of truly epic British understatement the pilot announced: "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress."

        Too much distress? I'd be drinking myself into a coma!

        1. tony trolle

          Re: Darned tech!

          Ctp Eric Moody . class

    2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

      Re: Darned tech!

      First seen as one of the "AI koans" from the Jargon File:

      "Tom Knight and the Lisp Machine

      A novice was trying to fix a broken Lisp machine by turning the power off and on.

      Knight, seeing what the student was doing, spoke sternly: “You cannot fix a machine by just power-cycling it with no understanding of what is going wrong.”

      Knight turned the machine off and on.

      The machine worked."

    3. Mooseman Silver badge

      Re: Darned tech!

      /Me: "WTF??? We just did the same @#$&*! thing half a dozen times!"

      Tech: "Yeah, but I understand what's going on"/

      I do this every day - the users know enough to try a reboot, then they call me. My first response is usually the same, and 9 times out of 10 it works. Cue grinding of teeth.

  9. Ikoth


    Once took a call from a user who's PC was showing a "301 Error" on boot (it was a long time ago).

    I told her that usually meant there was a problem with her keyboard. To which she exclaimed "My Keyboard!!! It's gone!!!" and promptly hung up.

    Turns out one of her colleagues had "borrowed" the keyboard and she hadn't noticed in her early morning, pre-coffee daze.

    1. Dr Dan Holdsworth

      Re: TUBE

      I remember the tricks of getting PCs to ork with dodgy peripherals. Some places had but one keyboard that was fully working, and this keyboard travelled around the room being plugged into machines to let them start without error, after which the usual keyboard got swapped back in again. Keyboards that threw errors on start-up check quite often worked perfectly otherwise, you see.

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

        Re: TUBE

        "I remember the tricks of getting PCs to ork with dodgy peripherals."

        Interesting... care to expand on that? Too many of these maybe :)

      2. Norman Nescio Silver badge

        Re: TUBE

        I remember the tricks of getting PCs to ork with dodgy peripherals.

        I guess you got used to composing documents sans the use of the letter in the English alphabet that precedes 'x'.

        Ernest Vincent Wright could have been a member of staff.

        That and the use of Alt+<number entered by the numeric keypad>. I suspect you used Alt+0119 and Alt+0087 a lot. That and the Character Map utility.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    3 or 4 years ago I upgraded my home PC (either new GPU or new CPU+cooler), closed up the case and started using it. Was disappointed to find PC was now much noisier than before and put it down to the new cooling fans on the GPU or CPU. I lived with this irritating noise for many months (reasonming that it was a necessary downside to the improved performance) until I needed to do things inside the PC again and while testing it with the case open I went to press the reset button on the motherboard and as I did I brushed against the rats nest of wires that connect to all the front panel swirches/LEDs. As I did the noise stopped - I realized than during the initial install (or posisbly "tidying up the wires" afterwards) I'd managed to push one of these switch/LED cables onto the case intake fan so each of the 6 fan blades was hitting the cable 1800-2400 times per minute and generating the irritating noise!

    1. BoldMan

      My PC was making an irritating noise the other day, so I closed the browser tab that was playing the Chris Evans Breakfast show and the irritating noise miraculously stopped...

      1. Admiral Grace Hopper

        [Long set up about test driving car with a voice-controlled radio]

        "I said, 'news', and it switched to Radio 4. Half a mile down the road a van cut me up and I shouted, "stupid f*cking bastard"m and the radio switched over to Chris Evans".

      2. Lilolefrostback

        Not technical, but appropriate ...

        Have you noticed that (bag) pipers often walk around whilst playing? Do you know why? They're trying to get away from the horrible noise.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "They're trying to get away from the horrible noise."

          I thought it was to present a moving target

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Build your own PC

      I've been building my kids gaming PCs for a couple of generations of machines.

      A few years ago, I was building one to wrap an put under the tree at Christmas for my youngest son.

      The build went fine, and the system was working perfectly, so I checked and tightened all the screws, and put the cover on, and then wrapped it.

      Christmas morning. Wrapping paper comes off, and the system was connected up. The power button was pressed, and... nothing. No lights, or fans. Nothing. I spent the rest of Christmas day going through the build, including replacing the power supply and removing all of the adapters. Nothing. A disappointed son returned to using his really underpowered old machine that struggled to play his games.

      Eventually decided that the motherboard must have failed between testing and unwrapping (unlikely, but the only thing I could think of). Online on Christmas evening to order another motherboard, with the most expensive delivery option to get it as soon as they could get it to me.

      Day after boxing day, it arrives (yes, really). Out with the first board, in with the second. this would fix it! Only it didn't. No change.

      I was baffled. I ended up doing a case-less build on the kitchen table, using a switch wiring set from a decommissioned case, the new power supply and the first board, Surprisingly, everything powered up without problem. Put it back in the case, nothing.

      So, thought I maybe the switch set? Left the board in place, and used the set I'd used in the case-less build. Everything worked!

      Finally I had a clue, so I checked the wires in the case. Remember when I said I had tightened the screws? Well, I had been careless, and the wires to the power button were caught between the case and a flash card reader that was where the floppy would normally be. During the build, everything was working fine. As soon as I tightened the screws, the sharp metal edges scissored the wires to the power switch, cutting them both. Result, no contact to turn the power on. A quick swish of the soldering iron, some heat shrink, and a happy son that could finally get his new gaming rig running.

      So the moral of the story is, even if it was working before closing the case, check that it still works before re-packaging.

      Still, I found a use for the extra motherboard building a franken-machine from spare parts I had knocking around (which included the case from my son's old machine), which with a wave of a Ubuntu CD (no unused windows licence available), became my first machine that I didn't have to share with my family!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I once had a senior user at an important client complain that their laptop was making a similar noise.

    I walked in, removed the large stapler from their keyboard, and walked out without saying a word.

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: LOUD NOISES!!!

      Yep, used to often diagnose those over the phone.

      User: My computer* is beeping all the time.

      Me: Remove the file that's resting on the keyboard.

      User: How did you know that?

      Me: Years of experience!

      *Or terminal, I do go back that far!

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: LOUD NOISES!!!

      "I walked in, removed the large stapler from their keyboard, and walked out without saying a word."

      Strange, sometimes random strings or repeated strings of characters on the screen caused by well endowed ladies leaning across the desk.

      1. ROC

        Re: LOUD NOISES!!!

        From the ladies directly, or the guys they were leaning towards losing track of what they were typing?

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. Andrew Moore

    At this point you hand the user an Etch-A-Sketch and tell them that they will not be getting another laptop until they have completed retraining.

  14. M E H

    I was that luser

    Not that particular one but I remember early on in my IT career being issued with a hand me down laptop.

    It didn't play any sound, which was annoying as I wanted to watch training videos.

    I did what every self respecting would be techie would do and made sure the Windows volume mixer wasn't at zero, reinstalled drivers and tested it with headphones to see if the sound car was broken. As a last resort I called IT Support.

    4 days later they came to my desk, muttered that they hoped it was the simple solution, and pressed the mute button on the side of the laptop. Bingo, the red light went out and the sound came on.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: I was that luser

      I've had that happen on a friend's laptop before. WiFi isn't working, so they bring it to me. I can't get it to go through Windows - and there's no glowing red light to tell me it's switched off. There's no shortcut button on F8. Or obvious switch.

      Then I put on my glasses and check the sides of the laptop, and lo! I find it. The 5mm long black slider, with no telltale LED and a tiny WiFi symbol etched in black on a black background.

      Bastards! Have these fuckers never heard of UI design? The owner had never noticed the switch before, it wasn't in an obvious bit of the casing and they've got normal eyesight. The only reason I found it, is that I suspected it might be there.

      I also hate those things because they seem to be switched off by default and only turn the WiFi on when the driver boots up in Windows. So when fixing another friend's laptop I couldn't get the Linux rescue CD to download up-to-date virus definitions - and had to do it manually.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: I was that luser

        i too thought of wifi switches reading M E H 's story , and having to explain to a user over the phone where it is, after googling the model myself to see if it even has one

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: I was that luser

      "I wanted to watch training videos."

      As opposed to having been told to watch them?

  15. wowfood

    Firewall woes

    Most common for me, fixing a family members computer.

    Bought a new online game, and he couldn't get it to work, no matter what he did it refused to login, sometimes not even letting him get to the login screen, it would just freeze.

    Went round, started the game and he was correct, only odd thing was a tiny flicker in the bottom corner. Alt-tab out, nothing.

    Started the game again in windowed mode. as soon as it started up his Bullshit (sorry bullguard) firewall was kicking in and blocking the connection. And being the wonder that is bullguard, it appeared for a whole 3 seconds before closing itself so you couldn't whitelist it.

    Had to restart the game again and use ninja reflexes to allow the connection.

  16. steelpillow Silver badge

    For old times' sake

    Back in the day, PCs had no hard drive and an OS like MSDOS or CP/M had to be loaded from floppy disk on startup.

    Neighbour had an Amstrad PCW. The main program for it was the Locoscript wordprocessor, which was integrated with a modified CP/M so that the whole shebang booted off a single disk: clunk, click, whirr, and you were away. You could also get other programs, such as spreadsheets, which ran on CP/M.

    Talking one weekend, he says he's bought a spreadsheet but it won't run, so he'll have to send it back on Monday.

    I offer to take a look, he shows me the PCW and the offending spreadsheet disk.

    I ask, "have you got the CP/M floppy which came with the machine?"

    "Somewhere probably, why?"

    "You need to load the OS before programs can run on it."

    " * "

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: For old times' sake

      But in the manual it had the instructions to create a "Start of Day" disc, that had the OS and whatever software you wanted to use on it, so you could just chuck that in and work.

      Although I never created on for Graham Gooch's Test Match Cricket, for some reason - and loaded CP/M first.

      Simpler days... And better manuals.

      1. swm

        Re: For old times' sake

        "And better manuals"

        The computer manuals from the '60s were great. They actually told how things worked. The early IBM manuals and, of course, the LGP-30 manual were all you needed to start using the computer. Nowadays manuals tell you how to do something but refuse to give you a model of what's happening. So you have to reverse engineer everything to do something slightly different.

    2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      Re: For old times' sake

      Locoscript was its own bootable program; it wasn't implemented on CP/M.

      CP/M Plus did come with the PCW, and was pretty decent.

      Fantastic machines, the first I really cut my teeth on. Nowhere near as flexible as a PC, but perfectly suited to its given purpose, and an awful lot cheaper.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: For old times' sake

        I rewrote a lot of my notes from C&G224 on the PCW.

        Happy Days!

        1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

          Re: For old times' sake

          Telecom Technicians, if I remember right.

          ... been downhill ever since.

  17. AIBailey

    In my early days as a PFY I was summoned to a director’s office by a frantic secretary. The Director had been on a trip to Hong Kong and couldn't get any audio on his laptop, neither for work purposes or for listening to music or watching films. He'd spent ages trying to fix it, but with no success, and it was still broken now he was back in the country.

    A quick check confirmed that no sound was coming from the speakers. However, this was the mid 90's, the laptop was a Toshiba, and had a thumb wheel volume control. One quick twiddle later, and the laptop worked perfectly again.

    Cue one embarrassed Director, and one smug IT support guy.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "One quick twiddle later, and the laptop worked perfectly again.

      Cue one embarrassed Director, and one smug IT support guy."

      Embarrassing the Director isn't necessarily a good career move. Avoid it and give the impression that you've worked a miracle. There are a couple of alternatives. One would be to take it out of the room to work on it and wait at least 20 minutes before returning it with an exhausted look on your face. If you're not allowed to take it away do something distracting and technical-looking whilst nodding wisely such as bring up the command line and scroll through few directory listings while surreptitiously twiddling the volume.

  18. Anne Hunny Mouse

    Have you ever fixed a non-problem for a user?

    Have you ever fixed a non-problem for a user?

    Every F**king Day

    Joys of the NHS.

  19. Tom 35

    Fixing things before they break

    Sales and marketing were competing for who had the newest laptop, by breaking there almost new laptop.

    New policy: You get a loaner while your laptop is repaired (it had duct tape holding the battery in).

    New laptops go to the person with the oldest laptop, no exceptions.

    Funny, no more broken laptops.

  20. Florida1920

    Not quite IT

    I got an expensive commercial ham radio power amp for free. Didn't work on one band, returned to mfr, who found no problems. User (licensed ham, as am I) gave up. When I went to get it, he had an expensive transceiver, with a microphone hooked up but no keys in sight. Correctly assumed the radio was accidentally in CW mode, so the transceiver went into Transmit when he hit the PTT button, but there was no audio and thus no RF. Sure enough, got the beast home and it worked perfectly. Could have straightened the guy out at his house, but sometimes you just get on that gift horse and ride it away.

  21. adam payne

    I remember a particular person coming to me with malware on their laptop, I asked him what he had been doing, did any dodgy sites open up in the browser etc. He said he didn't look at pron or anything like that. Hmmm..too much information there and now i'm suspicious. Nuked it and gave it him back. A few days later i'm walking past his office and the whole screen is flashing multiple colours with a a single word in the middle of the screen. The word was SEX.

  22. Matthew Anderson

    A local farmer a few years ago (still using dial-up) called me to let me know his computer was broken and could I help. We live in a friendly little countryside area and he snowploughs my drive each year so off i popped down to see what was wrong. "Can't connect to the internet, i think the computer is broken"

    Well, he had managed to rearrange the icons on the desktop, and all that had happened was the dialup shortcut was now in a different place. I pointed this out to him, and he thought it was an actual "fix" I had done, tried to pay me and I gladly accepted his thanks but not payment...

    A few months later, the phone rings, the same farmer... Similar problem...

    Modem cable had become unplugged.... Still tried to pay me for plugging it back in.. This time I exchanged a small bale of hay for my chickens :) (Not as in I gave him chickens for hay though)

  23. Nick Gisburne

    Dim advice by the dashboard lights

    Someone I know, who looks a lot like me but definitely isn't me, drove a Vauxhall Corsa and over time the dashboard lights were getting dimmer and dimmer until finally they went off altogether. He was just about to take it in to be fixed when his significant other, who looks like my significant other but also definitely isn't, wondered if it was simply the dashboard dimmer dial (I believe that's the technical term for it). Not having heard of such a thing, he wondered where this was.

    "Down by your knee."

    He being 6'9" and driving a Corsa (I refer you to Hightower, Police Academy), his knee not only obscured the dial but regularly brushed against it, gradually dimming the lights. Once fixed, never forgotten, and constantly reminded of it.

    I'd also once turned the fog lights on that way. Or he had. We no longer talk about it.

    Bonus points: the red paint had faded to pink over the years. Loved that car, and I still see it parked outside my house on Google maps.

    1. swm

      Re: Dim advice by the dashboard lights

      My son had, as his first car, an old junker. He called me up one day and said his car wouldn't work. "Is there gas in the gas tank?" I asked. "Oh, I'm sure there is," he replied. Turns out that he and his sister shared this car and he was extremely parsimonious about putting gas in the tank. Putting gas in the car magically made the car work again.

  24. Gareth Holt

    Brightness - or lack of

    Many years ago I worked for a company running a dial-up information system. We used to give out terminals (Wyse or similar) and modems to clients.

    One day a client calls saying they've switched on the terminal but the screen is blank. Tech support guy asks can you try the brightness dial on the side of the terminal?

    Hey-presto one working monitor and one suitably embarrassed client.

  25. Montyzuma

    I regularly have people bring me iPads that are "frozen". While they are describing the problem I am holding the iPad with fingers pressing on the power and home buttons. When said iPad reboots I hand it back to the surprised owner saying I have fixed it with "the laying on of hands"

    1. Ghostman

      RE:- Montyzuma

      About 20 years back a customer brought back a computer someone had "fixed" for him. his complaint was that the computer wouln't turn on.

      Told him it wold take a couple of minutes, laid my hands on the top of the case and said "HEAL" in my best faith healer voice.

      Plugged in the computer, turned it on, and there was his start screen.

      When he offered to pay me for the quick fix I told him next time to make sure the switch on the power supply was on 110, not 220 (being in the US, ya know).

      Since then I've had customers swear that all I have to do is touch their computers and they work.

  26. Nematode

    Confession time

    OK, so, in the days we used to have huge CRT monitors on top of horizontal desktop boxes on the real (wooden) desktop (this was about 1992 or so), keyboard in front, I was also wielding a project data lever-arch file that we also used to use "back then". I managed to whack the CRT with the corner of the lever arch file. I mean, this was a heavy file, and it was a heavy whack. The screen went blank. Oh c*ck, I thought, and thought I had better not do anything but call on the support guys who were very good and one had for exampled secreted some extra memory in there for me once, by getting round "the system". Anyway, aforesaid technie turns up, takes a look at the set-up, leans over, and turns the brightness control up, which was one of the line of controls at the front of the CRT. CRT now working normally. Face red.

  27. Stu_The_Jock

    Technical equipment, user, not quite so.

    Back around the turn of the millennium, a regular customer called to report a dead printer. Job duly handed to me as the local techie. Call customer for the usual pre-visit checks and talk to the insurance firm's IT manager.

    Machine dead, "Have you confirmed it's correctly plugged in ?"

    "Of course I have" she barks down phone...

    "No problem, I'll be in tomorrow morning first thing with a new power supply"

    next day, arrive, escorted to machine, glance at machine, test with power switch (proper hard switch, no soft switches then), dead . . check power lead firmly inserted, yep, trace cable back to socket, turn on switch on socket - machine whirs into life.

    Never again did she doubt me and answer a query without going to double check.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

      Re: Technical equipment, user, not quite so.

      Shame on me - You know I'd really forgotten that UK plugs have a power switch (Also easier to fit as it's all plate into the wall box).

      1. Olivier2553

        Re: Technical equipment, user, not quite so.

        While not in the UK, and not switched power plugs, many of the power outlets in this building have individual circuit breakers, outlet and breaker both installed in a trunking, at hips level...

        And it is not only the hips; as the trunking runs just under the windows, if you pull the curtains, you could accidentally activate the lever on the circuit breaker.

  28. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Whilst on a contract as Unix/Database support and fixer I was just leaving for home one afternoon when the client's director buttonholed me because his PC wouldn't turn off - this was in the days of Win95 and software power-down was a new and not reliable thing. Leaned over, pulled mains plug out of back of PC & went home.

  29. d3vy

    At my first IT job I worked repairing PCs in a small computer shop in the north west, we had a guy demanding a new graphics card because solitaire wasn't doing "that think when you choose a card"

    After he had screamed and shouted at a colleague for half an hour... With his PC plugged in on a bench to demonstrate the problem AND had his graphics card swapped I overheard what the symptom was and asked if he had ticked the "show animations" check box... Sure enough that was it.

    Hours of wasted time because he unticked a box.

    1. defiler

      Ah retail - how I don't miss that at all...

  30. ICPurvis47
    Thumb Up

    Beyond Economic Repair

    When I was working for a small publishing house, I was friendly with the IT guy (George). One of the Field Reporters returned his 386 laptop with the complaint that only the right hand side of the keyboard worked, the other half was completely unresponsive. George spent quite a long time booting and running some diagnostics from floppy, and declared that it was BER. I said I was looking for a laptop, so George gave it to me. On getting it home, I opened the case and found that only one of the two keyboard ribbon cables was connected to the motherboard, the left one had snapped off just above the socket. Teased the broken stub out with needle nosed pliers, stripped back the insulating varnish off the broken cable, and plugged it back in. I still have that 386 laptop, but don't use it, even though it gave me good service for several years until I could afford a better one.

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