I was just getting over a cough that had persisted for more than a month when a virus hit ─ our PC. It took over a week, all of my husband’s non-working hours, input from our network of connections on Facebook, LinkedIn and elsewhere, and consultation with an uber-geek before the virus was banished. (Excuse me for a moment while I throw salt over my shoulder, knock wood and spit three times; I’m leaving nothing to chance.)
The virus hijacked our search returns and redirected them to ad sites. This made searching a royal pain, but it didn’t shut us down. The applications we use daily, like Word and Outlook, soldiered on, seemingly unaffected. I say seemingly because there was no way to know what we didn’t know about what else the virus might be doing. Fortunately, we have several computers, so I switched to the Mac while the infected PC was quarantined and coaxed back to health.
In our household we have over 50 years of combined high tech employment experience. Many of our friends work in high tech, and a number of relatives. If there’s a problem we can’t solve, we can reach out for help. What do other people do? Home computers are ubiquitous, but that does not mean that every home has someone who knows what a dll is, or what the registry is for. How do families without built-in IT departments (technically-savvy computer-literate spouses) handle these situations?
Getting rid of the search hijack virus wasn’t easy. We (by which I mean my husband, Andrew) installed and ran multiple anti-virus programs, including some that specialized in rootkits, those hidden problems that even anti-virus software can’t find. Some scans took minutes, some hours, some had to run overnight. The temptation to reformat the hard drive got stronger with each one. Every scan report beckons you down a different rat hole, unearths things that might be harmful, but they can’t be sure, brings you closer to the edge of despair. Finally, you hit the right combination of software, run in the right order, and magically, the problem goes away.
If you did not spend most of your career in high tech, and you know you don’t know what to do, you might purchase high end software to remedy the problem. Or, you might sign up for a maintenance contract with a company that provides IT services for home computers. Or you might decide that the iPhone does all you need after all and simply walk away.
But could you walk away? What about the things stored on your hard drive; photos, taxes, your unfinished novel? Are those things backed up? What? You don’t know how to do that? My friend, you need to get your priorities in order. If your partner can’t maintain your computer, it’s time to get a new one; partner or computer, you decide.