Personal Computer Support From Marc Fowler

ByMarc Fowler

Today, I have been mostly…

There is so much variety in what I do for a living. Every weekday sees me working on all sorts of different things with personal computers, Macs, smartphones and other devices. Sometimes though, I have a day which seems to run on a theme.

I started today with an emergency callout to Hemley, where I quickly restored an existing customer’s wireless broadband connection, renewed their expired Kaspersky Internet Security on three PCs and re-established access to their main Hotmail account both from the computers and BlackBerry.

By 10:25 I was with my next customer, in Hasketon.
They had called me a few days before to ask if I could set up their new laptop and printer. Having helped them many times in the past, I knew their existing computer set up very well and had formed a plan before going, making sure I had all the necessary equipment. Upon arrival I checked their new purchases, then carefully explained what I felt was the best way to set everything up.

Until today, they had only ever had one computer, with a simple modem router which could only ‘feed’ the internet to one machine. This was in an outbuilding, whereas the new laptop would be used in the house. My plan went down well, and the customer gave me the green light to set up a wireless router in the outbuilding (to connect the existing PC and new wireless printer) and a wireless range extender perfectly situated to provide a strong wireless signal for the laptop in the house.

To make best use of the time, I began setting up the laptop in the outbuilding, moving to the wireless router while Windows 7 configured itself. Within 15 minutes both were usable. My brief was to remove the McAfee Internet Security trial which came preinstalled on the laptop, replacing it with the Kaspersky Netbook edition they’d bought with the laptop. It turned out the version PC World sold them with the laptop would not run on it and was too old anyway, being the 2009 version. With a bit of technical know how I avoided a return to the store, and within 20 minutes had the 2011 version running with the subscription they’d paid for.

Once the security was installed, I connected the laptop to the new wireless router. It worked like a charm in the outbuilding, with a good, solid signal. To make sure the added expense of the wireless range extender was warranted, I took the laptop, along with its proud new owner, into the house to test. As predicted, the signal from the wireless router I’d just set up gave a perfectly useable connection around half the house, but it dropped below what would be a reliable level in rooms further away. The customer asked me to go ahead with the range extender. Once that was set up, the laptop reported an 80% signal strength in the furthest rooms, with a very smooth browsing experience.

Leaving the laptop to download important security updates from Microsoft and Kaspersky, I removed their old printer and set up the new wireless Epson all-in-one, showing the customer how to fit the cartridges as I went. He inserted the last two himself so he knew he would be ok in future. I referred to the record I always make for customers of their new wireless settings and set the printer to connect through the air, entering in the secure password I’d made for them. Getting the old PC working with the new printer/scanner/fax machine was straightforward and I taught the customer how to make photocopies.

While he and his wife entertained a guest for lunch, I set about getting the new laptop to work with the Epson. This required a little more effort as the laptop did not have a CD drive to install from. A while after finding and downloading the correct drivers from the Epson website however, the laptop was able to print from anywhere on the premises and scan as well.

As they were still entertaining, I nipped up to my office to have some lunch, deal with a hard drive recovery job, install PDF generators on two of KindWater’s PCs and deal with my mail, before returning to finish off. The laptop was for my customer’s wife who had barely used a computer before. I spent the last hour with them going through all the basics of using the laptop, such as turning it on and off, keeping an eye on the battery level, using the touchpad, typing and so on. We finished by creating a new Hotmail account for her and starting with her first emails. Rather than do too much in the first teaching session, we left it at that and booked a second lesson for next week, where we will go over more aspects of using the computer and cover any questions she will no doubt have by then.

Today, for me, has been all about getting people online, dealing with a lot of wireless equipment, Hotmail accounts and Kaspersky Internet Security. It’s also been about effective communication with my customers, making sure they understand what their options are, putting them in control and ensuring they are extremely happy with the work and equipment I have provided.

While the work I do is so varied, that last sentence is the same every day.

About the author

Marc Fowler administrator

I am an independent computer expert working in the Woodbridge area of Suffolk. I mainly support home users but also help local small businesses. I have been trading as FowlerWeb Computer Support since May 2005.