Finding the Right Techie
by Diane S. Kendall
I love letting kids of all ages use my computer. I enjoy watching
even the youngest users take on new software, make connections online,
and put the technology to work as a tool making things from computer
crafts to home movies. But recently a close acquaintance and the
parent of preschooler wryly observed that my casual attitude is the
result of a certain amount of privilege. I am very lucky to have
great techie friends and a super local tech support guy who will
quickly come to my aid when everything from my network to a USB port
In contrast, I am constantly hearing horror stories from other
parents and even teachers at my sons school about inept
computer repair technicians. Lost data, fried hard drives, and school
projects irretrievably lost at the last hour are not uncommon.
Its hard to find someone to help you troubleshoot your family
computer without compounding your troubles. So what can you do?
Well, just like every other parenting with technology problem you
should start by asking around to see if anyone else has a good
computer repair person that you can contact to come to your house.
(They might also be able to tell you whom to avoid.) In most
families, one person a parent, relative or older sibling
takes the point on the computer so make sure you are going to
the source for this information.
Dont be surprised though if no one has a name for you. If
that is the case, the next group to ask for a referral is your local
computer user group. These groups are full of enthusiasts and techies
who know whos good. You can find a neighborhood group at the
web site of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups
Google to see if any gripes have been posted on message boards about
anyone you decide to hire. Computer users are more likely to gripe
online than to complain to the local Better Business Bureau.
Look for someone who fixes computers full-time. If it is a
sideline you may not get prompt service or they may not be up on the
most recent viruses and fixes as well as other changes in the
Experience is a plus too. Look for a technician who has been in
business for at least two years and has verifiable references.
Getting help is not cheap. You can expect to pay anywhere from $50
to $150 per hour. Ask if there is a minimum charge in case your
problem is fixed with a couple of clicks of the mouse. It helps to
have a list of smaller problems to be remedied when the person is
there especially if you have been waiting to get them fixed when
something really went wrong with your computer. Always write down
verbatim any error messages you received and exactly what you were
doing when your computer started misbehaving. That will save you time
Dont let anyone intimidate you with incomprehensible techno
jive. A good tech should be willing and able to explain your problem
and how they are going to fix it without it sounding like a page out
of a science fiction novel.
Make sure you get a guarantee for the work. Most repair people
will give 90 days for software fixes, 120 days for network
solutions, and 6 to 12 months for anything hardware related depending
on whether you paid for any new parts. Computers are like anything
else you have repaired. You have the right to expect quality