Sometimes your computer breaks. It happens. You spill something, or drop something, or you try to boot up and nothing happens. Many of us resolve the issue with a liberal use of Google, and others take the failing device to a person trained to fix computers. And some people thoroughly screw up their device trying to fix it themselves, and then take it to a repair shop.
We reached out to some tech support agents around the country to learn some of the worst ways people have tried to fix their computers. Don’t do what these people did.
Some people have really good intentions when they try to fix their computers. They actually go and watch some YouTube videos and make an effort. But if you lack a basic understanding of how electronics work than you can end up being the victim of a very silly prank, like the one tech support agent Peter Lopez from Brooklyn ran into on a call.
He arrived at the client’s home to find that they’d taped AA batteries to an ethernet cable. “I asked why they did that,” Lopez told Gizmodo. “They told me the batteries on the cables triple their internet connection. I was surprised by how strongly they stood by this opinion, but then they showed me why… This video is a prank, but a good one, and they thought it was real!”
Just because a guy has a nice clean setup, a pressed shirt, and a fancy mic on his collar doesn’t mean he should be trusted. A quick search of Google would have saved Lopez’s client a lot of embarrassment.
Instead, if you want to improve internet speeds than invest in better equipment, move your router, or find an ISP with better speeds.
I worked tech support in college dorms, sharing the same spaces with my many clients. Usually, I knew a client needed help because they would knock on my door at 2am or call me just as party weekend was kicking into high gear. But once I actually found the client because of the stench of roasted laptop.
Perhaps seeing the success others had had by using the oven to dehydrate food to produce crispy granola and chewy fruit leather, this particular client thought a quick turn in the oven would dry out her damp laptop.
It did not. What it did do was destroy the screen leave some sweet melted burn marks in the case, and make the dorm kitchen smell terrible for half the weekend.
And I haven’t been the only one to find an enterprising repair enthusiast availing themselves of the over.
From a tech support agent in Texas:
One customer put his motherboard in the oven to heat his computer chips. This is obviously a bad thing to do to fix a computer and extremely dangerous. This can ruin an oven by leaving traces of hazardous lithium as well as begin emit poisonous lead vapors from the soldering.
“Baking the motherboard” is a common DIY solution to fixing a computer with a bad soldering job. It can on occasion work, but the chance of poisonous vapors or blown capacitors is high enough that it’s probably a really bad idea to risk it.
Ovens aren’t the only way people have tried to quickly dry out their laptops. Laptops in rice comes from an earlier, sort of good idea that you can save a wet phone with a rice bath.
“Don’t put your computer in rice,” William, who didn’t want to give his last name, from a Portland, Oregon based-tech support shop told Gizmodo. He pointed to times he had to replace fans jammed with rice and USB outlets ruined by the grain.
While rice, a known desiccant, doesn’t necessarily help, it usually can’t further harm a phone, which has few points of ingress for tiny particles of rice starch. But the same can’t be said for laptops, with big gaping vents, ports, and the slots between keyboard keys.
Umer Perez from TechSupport MS in Fort Worth, Texas also finds the process silly. Pointing out that it would be virtually impossible to draw all the moisture out of some bigger laptops without opening them and drying them by hand.
Rice is not a potent enough desiccant to dry out a super soaked computer. Instead, if your computer is the victim of an accidental drenching, immediately power down, unplug, and, if possible, remove the battery. Then absorb as much water as possible with a towel and let the device dry out for 24-48 hours. If all goes well, your computer should be working. If all goes poorly, you’ll need to visit your tech support guy, but at least they won’t have to fish rice out of your logic board.
Once upon a time sticking a hard drive in the freezer was a good way to give some dying hard drives enough life that you could copy important data off of them. The idea was that chilling the hard drive would constrict the metal platters inside enough that they could spin their ways through a quick backup. But changes in hard drive designs, and the rapid rise in popularity of solid state drives—which have zero platters—means this old hack is better off put to pasture.
That hasn’t stopped people from still making the attempt, as a tech support shop in Texas learned:
A rogue DIY client read an article online that he could recovery his data if he put his hard drive in the freezer. He was looking to save some money so he gave this a try. Needless to say, this did not work and he had to utilize our services to retrieve his data.
And that shop wasn’t the only one.
Laptops are not meant for extreme temperatures—either hot or cold. So try and keep them out of any appliance found in your kitchen.
We all like to assume we know everything about our electronics, and that anything can be fixed with a little elbow grease and a quick perusal of Youtube, But that is not always the case.
A little humility goes a long way towards keeping you from breaking something. As I say this as a person who once tried to replace the power supply on a computer and started a small fire instead.
Computer surgery is best left to professionals, and in some cases avoided all together. Such as this call Ryan from New York City (he did not want to give his last name) went on:
One of my repeat clients (we’ll call him “RTFM”) has a habit of ripping out wires, destroying connectors, and breaking stuff further in an attempt to get his things to work. I get a call that his Bose Wave Radio remote is acting up, only to show up and find the proprietary connector cable on the unit completely sliced in half. He admitted he didn’t know what to do, but I’m still wondering why he resorted to that...
After swapping in a new coin cell battery in his remote (and stripping/taping his severed cable), he was back up and running.
If you’re not sure what you’re doing, why are you doing it?
Do you have a really bad, awful tech support story? Share it in the comments or feel free to hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org.