Santa Fe Computer House Call
December 28, 2014 6:01 PM   Subscribe

I need a reliable, competent, trustworthy computer tech who does home service in Santa Fe (NM) to help a (pretty frantic) older relative.

Sooooo getting my relative a Kindle for Christmas has revealed that they have internet but have no idea how they're connecting to it (apparently not wifi), it takes five minutes to boot up their computer, and they have never -- never -- run a virus scan or defrag or anything. The one who's better with technology is in ill health; the other finds technology terrifying and just wants to be able to e-mail and shop on amazon (and maybe skype). We're at quite a distance and can't do this over the phone, so we'd like to send them a technician to their house to clean up their computer, figure out if they have wifi, maybe get the sucker booting up again in under 60 seconds, that sort of thing.

We obviously need someone who can deal with an older computer and clean up a big mess, and is calm and patient with older people (and has an aura of trustworthiness), but ideally won't cost us more than the computer itself is worth!
posted by Eyebrows McGee to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
I'll ask around at work - I don't live in Santa Fe, but I work there and my co-workers might know of someone.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:35 PM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think the best bet is to get a local to look, but if they can follow basic written instructions, I would consider emailing them a link to download a program like Team Viewer, have them install it, and then you can log in and noodle around.

This also may be insane, but I was in the same situation once and based on the hourly charge for a local to come in and figuring it would be 4 or 5 hours, it was cost effective for me to fly there in the morning, fix the computer and stream line the setup, buy them a dinner, stay overnight (in their house) and fly back the next day. It was actually a pleasant 2 day visit with family. YMMV.
posted by 724A at 6:48 PM on December 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Teamviewer it is. East download, only need to tell you a few numbers and you can connect, not even an install. Just an exe.
posted by nostrada at 8:42 PM on December 28, 2014

I am the person you're looking for apart from being on the other side of the world from Santa Fe, and I would not even begin to consider attempting such a job via TeamViewer. No way, no how. Cleaning up old computers that have never had competent technical attention is a strictly hands-on job.
posted by flabdablet at 10:21 PM on December 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is a good part of my line of work, too, and it very easily could cost more than the computer itself. We charge $80/hour, and our rates are on the low end in our area. Cleaning up an older computer that has had no maintenance for years is not so much labor intensive as it is time consuming. Virus/malware scans, defrags, hardware tests can each take hours to run and can't really be done concurrently. A better idea might be to find a good computer repair shop that has a pickup/delivery/setup service. They'd have to take the computer for a few days at least, but it'll be much less expensive.

Unfortunately, I don't know of any in the Santa Fe area, but I think that sort of thing will be a better route.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 10:51 PM on December 28, 2014

I think your best option is to just copy off any important documents/pics/files/etc, nuke the drive, and give them a fresh install (assuming they have recovery disks for their machine). That would take the least amount of time and you're guaranteed a clean machine from that point forward. I live in Los Alamos and could do the following:
  • Show up at your relative's house, pull the drive out of the machine and copy off any important files (should take anywhere from 10 - 30 minutes)
  • Try and troubleshoot home network (at least write down set up and get you any passwords)
  • Pop the hard drive back in, reformat/reinstall OS and applications, copy back files (about 3 hours depending on OS, internet connection speed for updates and age of machine)
Three and a half hours is a best case scenario for time spent working on their machine based on the info you've given. I charge $75/hour and since it's a bit of a drive for me, any portion of an hour is charged the full hour (e.g. 3 hours and 15 minutes is charged 4 hours). I've been doing Windows/Mac tech support since 1999 and I'm pretty good at translating tech speak to layman terms. You can MeMail me or send me an email (view my profile for address) if you'd like to talk about having me go out and service your relatives.
posted by inviolable at 12:06 AM on December 29, 2014

I think your best option is to just copy off any important documents/pics/files/etc, nuke the drive, and give them a fresh install (assuming they have recovery disks for their machine).

Please don't ever do this to an elderly person unless you're prepared to visit them several times over the course of the next month on very short notice and at no extra charge. Elderly folks are really, really good at coming up with idiosyncratic workflows that depend on the kind of thing that usually gets badly disturbed in a nuke and pave.
posted by flabdablet at 2:37 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I live in Santa Fe and may be able to help if you get desperate - I am just barely computer savvy, but could probably help with some guidance. Feel free to memail me. You could try calling local computer shops and see if they are willing to help or know some one who may help?

Santa Fe Computer Works
posted by backwords at 8:00 AM on December 29, 2014

Maybe try contacting the Santa Fe Senior Services Program at the City of Santa Fe? Surely they've got a roster of nice helpful folks who do this sort of thing, either employed by the city or as volunteers.
posted by juniperesque at 8:37 AM on December 29, 2014

Since it's been mentioned twice here already: don't defrag your hard drive anymore. It's no-longer necessary with modern file systems and especially wasteful on SSD or other flash memory where it'll waste the limited number of writes available.
posted by TimeDoctor at 9:32 AM on December 29, 2014

It's become quite fashionable to claim that Windows doesn't benefit from defragging any more. There's been a background defragmenter built in since Windows Vista, and it's quite true that after one or two years of normal operation, running an explicit Windows defrag will most likely yield no improvement; after all, it's only duplicating work the background defrag has already recently done.

But the simple fact is that the defragmenter that comes with Windows is actually pretty rubbish. Using a decent third party defragmenter can restore a heavily used Windows system's boot speed and responsiveness to something very, very close to what you'd get from a fresh install on the same hardware. Turning off the inbuilt Windows defrag service and running another MyDefrag pass every couple of months will keep it that way.

On an elderly person's computer that's probably still running Windows XP, defragging every couple of months is still an excellent idea.

Here's what the MyDefrag developer has to say about using MyDefrag on SSDs.
posted by flabdablet at 10:14 AM on December 29, 2014

Response by poster: Probably too complicated for us to manage ourselves remotely or even in person ... if they were local we'd send our guy who rescues us but they're not! I know we can just call around, but we think they may be more willing to agree to the project if we can say that we got recommendations from local people, and I'll feel more comfortable sending them someone (or some company) that I know people have good experiences with.

A pickup/fix in shop/drop off might be a good option for us too! I'm not sure if they'd agree to it or not but we'll definitely offer it as an option.

(If we thought they'd agree to a new computer we might just bite the bullet and do that, but we'd still have to have someone go in and get them set up ... physically setting up the machine probably requires a guy, or several frustrating hours on the phone with us.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:38 AM on December 29, 2014

Just adding on to what others have said:
* This flat out can't be fixed with TeamViewer. At a bare minimum, the machine is going to need to be booted into Safe Mode to do a virus scan, and that isn't going to work with TeamViewer.
* It's going to be a LOT faster and easier to wipe the machine and reinstall everything, assuming they still have the DVDs/licenses/downloads for the software that's installed on the machine.
* That Dan's Data stuff about not defragging your machine is nonsense. SSDs don't need defragging. Mechanical hard drives do, and modern versions of Windows do it automatically.
* You don't necessarily need a new computer. If their PC is a Core 2 Duo or better, I would recommend buying a new hard drive, installing that with a fresh copy of Windows and then installing their apps and migrating data. If you can afford to buy an SSD (and they don't need a huge amount of drive space) their machine will be ultra-fast, even without a fast CPU.
posted by cnc at 11:41 AM on December 29, 2014

Response by poster: Okay they are declining computer help for now, having gotten their Kindle working, but THANK YOU to everyone who memailed me, we have a list for when we are able to talk them into it. Probably in six months or so!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:44 PM on February 1, 2015

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