calling all annoyed helpdesk people
September 16, 2021 2:32 PM   Subscribe

My mother-in-law's very old laptop died. She took it to a local repair shop and they replaced the hard drive for around $200. When she got the computer back, her Yahoo mail "didn't work." This is on the website through a browser; she doesn't use a separate email client or software or anything.

She said it was telling her the username or password was incorrect. Prior to the computer being repaired, she typed the username and password out every time - it wasn't saved in the browser. I recommended she try to log in via her iphone to see if it worked there. No dice.

She took the computer back to the shop today and "they fixed it in less than a minute." Naturally she has no idea what the problem was or what they did as she is very very very technically inept. My husband and I are 1500 miles away and are dying to know what was actually going on here, but we can't actually ask her any questions because the answers will be useless - I don't think she even know what the word "browser" means, for example.

Anyway, does anyone have any idea what might have been going on here? My best ideas (caps lock, etc.) were rendered moot by it not working on the phone, either.
posted by something something to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
yeah that's weird about the phone check....but given she's very very technically inept, I don't think you can relay on her as a reliable witness !

Could it be something like those awful "accept all the cookies!" footers blocking the normal flow until 'accept' is clicked?
posted by dance at 2:44 PM on September 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

It's a lot harder to type in a password on a phone than on an actual keyboard, especially since normally you can't see what you're typing. Did she try more than once?
posted by praemunire at 2:48 PM on September 16, 2021

I am a librarian who troubleshoots tech issues on the regular. One thing I have seen is “my password is xcvbn” is what is written down, but in reality the user always has the caps lock on (function lock, shift lock, number lock, etc) or always uses the shift bar reflexively so it’s really XCVBN. If this is the case, I bet you she showed her password /username to the tech, and they tried a few variations, logged in, and changed it to what she thought it was all along.
posted by holyrood at 2:50 PM on September 16, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Alternatively, if she's just typing it wrong now, you can ask her to type it in notepad or something, so she can (a) see that she's typing what she thinks she's typing, and (b) copy paste it into the password field.

Is she definitely logging in to the same site/email provider?

Can you try something like TeamViewer with her to help her if needed? Or, if that's not possible, even have her take photos of the screen in between steps and send them to you with her phone?

Finally, if this was recent you might possibly be able to call the repair shop and ask them to describe all the steps they took. (It seems unlikely that replacing a hard drive while replicating her old setup would have taken anything like "less than a minute", so it might help to find out what they did do.)
posted by trig at 3:32 PM on September 16, 2021

One more thought: it might be her user name that she's entering incorrectly. It might previously have been auto-filled or auto-completed, in which case she might not be used to entering it correctly.
posted by trig at 3:35 PM on September 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

trig, I think the minute trip was the second one to fix the "unable to use email" problem, the first trip to "replace hard disk" probably took longer. I'd guess the caps-lock thing or maybe even username vs full-email in the box to login...

That's if they 'cloned' old drive onto the new one. In that case they would have the same browser, cookies, bookmarks, everything else. If they installed a fresh system on the new disk and copied some things over... they could have missed something or the browser really was auto-filling-in stuff before. Since they got to the "wrong password" bit, the browser, network, blah seems OK.

Dunno about the phone check, that seems coincidental and hard to make related. I could come up with a few if I tried. All sorta implausible (the tech wouldn't have been able to fix it in a minute).
posted by zengargoyle at 4:50 PM on September 16, 2021

Was she able to use other browser windows? Is it possible that it was in “admin mode?”
posted by SLC Mom at 5:23 PM on September 16, 2021

Best answer: Call the shop and ask them. Then come and tell us. She may have been going to the wrong site.
posted by theora55 at 5:50 PM on September 16, 2021

Turned off the caps lock key?
posted by slidell at 6:09 PM on September 16, 2021

There’s a story I recently read (saw on TikTok?) about how someone put in an IT request because they had a stand/sit desk and whenever they stood up, they couldn’t log in. They went ahead having various people from the office try it out and low and behold others had the same issue. I believe the result was something along the lines of “because the body position was different, people didn’t have the muscle memory and had to actually hunt and peck on the keyboard resulting in entering their passwords differently.” I’m trying to remember, it was something a little different than just caps lock being on/off, perhaps a different language input keyboard being triggered? But basically, it could be that something like that had changed for her
posted by raccoon409 at 6:28 PM on September 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

_IF_ she showed her password to the shop and they got it logged in correctly, then she needs to change her password because it has now been revealed to people she doesn't know. It might be hard to convince her to do that, though
posted by TimHare at 8:58 PM on September 16, 2021

trig, I think the minute trip was the second one to fix the "unable to use email" problem

Ah right, sorry!
posted by trig at 1:00 AM on September 17, 2021

Response by poster: Thank you to those who suggested calling the store! Such a simple solution. We did that, and it turns out she is in fact using some sort of mail client, not going through the website. This is the explanation of the problem and how they fixed it.
posted by something something at 7:05 AM on September 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Thanks for updating; I'm glad it worked out.
posted by theora55 at 7:40 PM on September 25, 2021

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