Ten Things — No, Eleven Things You Say That Drive Your Tech People Crazy


Ten Things — No, Eleven Things You Say That Drive Your Tech People Crazy

It’s okay — we all do it sometimes


Photo by author

Yes, of course people sometimes say or do silly things, even outright stupid things. We all do.

Look me straight in the eye and tell me you have never done anything dumb with a computer and I’ll look you straight in the eye and tell you the same thing and then we’ll both try not to laugh.

However, there are certain things that happened frequently in my computer tech support life that really did cause me to shake my head just a little.

“There was an error message that said something”

Would you go to your doctor and say “I had something wrong last week but I wasn’t paying attention so I can’t tell you what it was”?

Of course not. If your computer shows an error, get a screenshot or write it down if you have to.

You don’t know how to get a screenshot? Don’t feel bad — we don’t do that often so I often forget myself, and honestly both windows and Mac make it unnecessarily difficult. Google “screenshot Mac” or “screenshot Windows” or ask a teenager if you can.

If you have to write it down, be thorough. Write down EXACTLY what it says, not what you think it means. If it has a bunch of numbers like ‘Error F875AA in module DB578", try to copy those accurately — your support tech will be ever so thankful!

“It’s ‘www dot xyz.com backslash foo dot html’ “

Nope. This is a backslash: “\”. It’s okay, we know what you mean, but it’s wrong.

This — “/” — is just a slash. Yes, I know you sometimes hear people on the radio and TV saying “backslash”, but they are wrong. Very, very wrong.

But while we are talking about this, there is one more thing: Most of the time you do not need to bother to type “www”. Try leaving it off — it will almost always work.

“It has 128 Gigabytes of RAM”

There are computers with 128 Gigabytes of RAM (Random Access Memory) , but few of us have those because systems like that cost a LOT of money. They are getting cheaper, though, so someday soon we might say that and mean it.

But for now, that 128GB iPhone you bought has 128GB of storage. It’s RAM is 6GB or less.

Your disk drive may have 512 GB of storage space, but that’s not RAM. A 128 GB disk drive is small, 128 GB of RAM is not.

“I don’t have an email password”

Yes, you do. You may not remember it and if someone else set up your email, you might never have even have typed it even once in your life, but trust me: you have an email password.

It was probably stored in your email program. Maybe you got a new computer, maybe your email program changed, whatever, something happened and now you can’t get mail until you know the password or until the email administrator changes the password for you.

You HAVE a password. What you should be saying is “I don’t know my email password”.

“That IS my password!”

Sure, maybe. But unless there is a broken key on your keyboard or you forgot to turn on Num Lock, if it’s not working, you probably aren’t remembering it correctly.

Or, something I’ve done more than once is type my password perfectly but I had mistyped one character in my email address.

“I don’t know how to cut and paste”

You should shoot whoever taught you how to use your computer, because you have wasted a lot of time retyping things you did not need to retype.

Try this “How to cut and paste”. It’s full of annoying ads, but it does cover the basics.

Please, please learn how to cut and paste. You’ll be happy for it.

“The Operating System is Microsoft”

Yes, that helps. But your operating system is “Windows something” or “macOS something” or IOS 15 or even “Windows 95” (I hope not!). That’s what the tech needs to know.

“I put it in Word and attached it to the email”

Why? Why in the world didn’t you just type it into email? Unless what you want to say has tables, pictures, or very necessary formatting, just type it in the email.

I get particularly crazy when I get a Microsoft Word attachment that just says something like “Can you call me later today?” Seriously, people have sent me that!

People use Word for too many silly reasons anyway, but to use it to send a text message in email is beyond silly. Don’t do that.

“I always remove all the cookies!”

Some people have acquired the idea that browser cookies are always evil and dangerous.

They are not necessarily so. All that these are is files that your browser has stored on your computer. They usually contain information about preferences you might have at a particular website you have visited in the past.

It is true that cookies can be used to assault you with targeted advertisements, but that by itself is usually not a good reason to remove all the cookies from your browser every day and modern operating systems have ways to prevent that.

“I tried it but It doesn’t work”

If you tell your doctor “I can’t walk”, I bet he or she would want to know just a little more. Do you mean it hurts too much to walk or that you physically cannot get up to walk? If it hurts, what hurts — your foot, your knee, your back?

It’s the same thing with computers. I like to remind people that what we techs really want to know is this:

  • What you were trying to accomplish? “I wanted to print a file”
  • What did you do? “I pulled down ‘Print’ from the menu”
  • What did you expect to happen? “I expected it to come out on the printer”
  • What exactly happened? “It didn’t print” or “it printed garbage”
  • Has anything changed or has unusual happened recently?

That third thing (“What did you expect to happen?”) is usually the most important, but too often it gets left out because you assume we know what you wanted. Yeah, it might be obvious, but say it anyway. It might really make a difference.

“I’ve printed it over and over but nothing comes out”

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result.

Yes, I can understand trying it twice. That’s OK. But don’t you think ten or twenty times might be a bit excessive?

Here’s the problem: almost always, what you have done is actually created 20 print jobs that WILL come out of the printer once the problem is fixed. If each job was a forty page document, you’ve created quite a stack of paper, haven’t you?

Or maybe in an office environment you accidentally sent it to another printer and somebody has twenty copies of your document.

Big multi-floor office:

User: “I can’t print”
Me: Which of the 30 computers, 15 applications, and 10 printers can you not print from or to?

If they remember to, a tech geek can clean that up so all those copies don’t print. Or you could not try the same thing twenty times over the next time it doesn’t print.

I wrote an article similar to this at my old aplawrence.com site years ago. I updated it extensively for this version.


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