Computer acting up? Backhand it with an anti-static wrist strap

As a last resort, you may chose to place you computer on top of a trash receptacle and threaten it at gunpoint. Remember: Threatening the monitor is a waste of time. (And yes — sadly, this is a current photo of my computer system)
Today, we will be covering basic troubleshooting techniques for your computer. By the end of this column, you will know how to identify a problem within your system, and then determine whether you can:

a) Fix it yourself, or

b) Save yourself the trouble by taking your computer somewhere and shooting it.

To begin with, most of us have absolutely no idea how a computer works. This is illustrated by the fact that, when there’s a problem, we get really mad and yell at the monitor. This is sort of like yelling at the refrigerator because the container we thought was “Cool Whip” actually turned out to be refried beans left over from last year’s Cinco De Mayo party.

The fact is, refrigerators and computer monitors are just boxes filled with stuff coming from somewhere else; over time, improper maintenance can result in something that really stinks.

One of the reasons we know so little about computers is because they keep making them easier and easier to use. This in turn makes them harder and harder to understand because, as technology makes things smaller and smaller, there’s less and less actual STUFF inside. Right now, you can still look in and see a few wires and some solder melted onto a plastic motherboard, which makes it possible to at least PRETEND you understand what’s going on:

You see! If I take a piece of aluminum foil and touch this part to that shiny blob over there I can AAAAAGH!

At the current rate of technology, that’s all going to change as ever-increasing macro technology scales down the internal components of personal computers to little more than a $5 coupon for Windows 14 — and air. This means we need to take better care of our current computers so that we can pretend to understand them for as long as possible. It does not require being able to tear apart and reassemble your entire PC system. In fact, a recent study conducted by Falcon Safety Products, Inc., showed that 70 percent of computer malfunctions are simply caused by …

You guessed it: People shooting their computers.

No. Actually, according to a nationwide survey of 1,300 computer technicians, most computer malfunctions were caused by things like food, dead rodents, cockroach nests and, in the case of one Pittsburg, Calif., technician, “a stash of marijuana” that mostly effected the computer’s memory.

This brings us to how to clean your computer. You will need an antistatic wrist strap, a can of compressed air and, if at all possible, a drug-sniffing dog.

Once you have these items, you can remove the housing from your computer and use your antistatic wrist strap to begin cleaning. Depending on what you find inside, you can utilize the alligator clip attached to the wrist strap as either 1) a conductor to keep static electricity from discharging into the sensitive internal circuitry of your computer, or 2) a way to keep from burning your fingers.

Once this phase of cleaning has been completed, use the can of compressed air to blow out particles in some of those hard-to-get-to places — such as the nostrils of a drug-sniffing dog.

Repeat this process at least twice a year or, depending on your situation, as often as you’d like for the next 3 to 5 years.

By then, of course, it will be time to get a new computer.

(You can write to Ned Hickson at, or by mail at Siuslaw News, P.O. Box 10, Florence OR. 97439)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

No one is watching, I swear...

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