So early last week one of my co-workers, B, comes up to me and wants to know if I have a moment. She wants to run a computer problem by me for a second opinion, to help her sister out. Sure. Talk is cheap, so since we’re both on break I start asking for details.
B tells me her sister has a laptop that is her life-line to the world. She takes online classes while desperately looking for work, and she can’t do either without a working computer, so B is trying to help her get the laptop fixed as soon as possible, without it being too expensive, since it’s refusing to boot. The sister is on a borrowed netbook for now, so she can get her classes done, but that is obviously not a good long term solution.
Instead of booting the laptop goes to a black screen with white writing that says, “A disk read error has occurred; press Ctrl-Alt-Del to restart”. When you press Ctrl-Alt-Delete, the laptop restarts back to the exact same error message, and stays in that loop until you cut the power.
B is one of our customer service agents. She is not a computer whiz by any stretch at all, but she does know all the basics of how they work simply because she has to know that in order to do her job, and that’s how she got involved in this laptop situation to begin with. Her sister asked her to come with to meet with a computer tech she found via Craig’s List, who promised to charge only a meager $75 to diagnose and fix any computer problem. The sister apparently has about as much computer knowledge as Homer Simpson’s grandpa, and she wanted B to come with and make sure she wasn’t being scammed by someone trying to take advantage of her desperate need for a working laptop. (So while the sister might be ignorant, she obviously isn’t stupid.)
They arrived, with the laptop, powered it on, and the tech looked at the black screen with the short error message and the reboot loop, and then declared that the problem was due to a conflict between Norton 360 and Windows, and they needed to do a repair install, and he’d be happy to sell her the recovery disks.
That’s where I interrupted B with a “Please tell me she didn’t pay him…!”
B shook her head and scoffed. “I got us out of there before they tried to charge us for that kind of crap. I mean, I’m not an expert, but I thought that message meant the hard drive is bad?”
The laptop is on the floor behind me as I type, and failing a disk diagnostic test more spectacularly than I’ve ever seen a hard drive fail. I doubt I’ll even be able to get any data off of this thing. So when I see B again tomorrow I get to tell her that the good news is that she was right. The bad news is, her unemployed sister will need to spend some cash on a new hard drive and a couple of Toshiba restore disks.