You can’t go home again (unless you promise to fix the computer)

Image by Danial*1977 via Flickr

We’re going to visit my parents in a couple weeks, and I already know what’s going to happen:

While Thing 1 is off reading and Thing 2 is wrestling Papaw, I’ll be fixing my parents’ computer.

I used to fix my in-laws computer, too, but they found “a guy.”

My parents don’t have “a guy.” They’ve got me, and I’m 7 hours away.

When something goes wrong, they’ll get by as best they can until we get there and I can take a look at it.

I try to offer them tech support over the phone, and Dad tries to follow, he really does, but it’s hopeless.

ME: OK, click “Start,” and then click “All Programs.”

DAD: OK.

ME: OK, now look for….

DAD: Wait. Where’s “Start”?

ME: It’s on your screen, bottom left. It’s not on the keyboard. It’s on your screen. It’s a big button that says, “Start.”

DAD: I don’t have that.

ME: You don’t have it?

DAD: No. Where is it?

In all fairness, my parents do a pretty good job of maintaining their machine — at least they have since I fixed it a couple years ago.

The problem then was malware. They’d let their anti-virus subscription lapse, and they were clicking every link their friends forwarded to them. That PC had more viruses than a kindergarten class in the middle of winter.

I spent several hours removing viruses and installing anti-virus updates, and when I’d finished, I called my parents into their home office (my old bedroom) and explained what I’d done and warned them against clicking strange links.

“Oh,” Mom said. “Well, we didn’t know. (Pause.) Hey, let me show you this website Polly sent me where you can play old songs from the ’50’s!”

Click!

I explained that was exactly the kind of no-name website I’d just warned them about, and I have to say, they listened. They’re getting their oldies these days from Pandora and their classic country from WSM in Nashville. That was 2 years ago, and until just recently, Dad would still make a point sometimes of telling me how well their computer was working.

Lately, though, it’s been acting up again. I did some troubleshooting over the phone over a period of several days, and it sounds like their hard drive is full — they’ve got a 30 GB hard drive and about 200 MB free, according to Dad — so that should be easy enough to fix.

I’ll sit with my parents and we’ll uninstall any unnecessary programs and delete old emails with big attachments — the same folks who like to forward links to suspicious websites like to forward pictures of their kids and grandkids, too — and we’ll probably go to Walmart to get a cheap external drive, for backup as well as extra storage.

With any luck, their machine will stay fixed — at least until we go up for Thanksgiving.