Believe it or not, I get asked to fix computers a lot.

It turns out that in addition to a degree in computer engineering, messing with computers your entire life also gets you a lifelong position as the free tech support guy.

In an effort to reduce my support calls, I am bringing back the “Fix it yourself” page. Some history… long ago (in “web” years) I had a page with some basic instructions on how to fix your PC. It was great–I would get a call with the usual symptoms (viruses, popups, sluggishness, yadda, yadda). I would then direct the caller to my website. They’d follow through the list and either fix the problem without my direct help or get distracted and forget about the problem.

While I hope that the content on my site is still mildly distracting, I think it is time for the page to come back, albiet in “post” form. So here you go.


First off, if you don’t have WindowsXP, you are in for a world of pain. Most of the tips below will work for you should know that you are using an operating system with security analogous to a straw house with all the doors and windows open…on a windy day…in Kansas…during tornado season…with Dorothy.

So, you should have Windows XP and it damn well should have Service Pack 2. Here’s the easiest way to check: Hold with windows key on your keyboard (b/t Ctrl and Alt) and press the break key (usually above the 10-keypad or the backspace key). This will bring up System Properties window. If you already have Service Pack 2, the first section will say so. DO NOT go poking around in the other tabs–just hit Cancel to close the window.

Whether you have SP2 or not, go on, we’ll get it later if you need it.


Download and install these now.

  1. Firefox (web browser)
  2. Thunderbird (email, if you don’t use only web-based email)
  3. Microsoft AntiSpyware (free, for now)

The above titles are FREE and of very high quality. I suggest installing them and setting them to update automatically. Then, use them in place of Internet Explorer and Outlook Express. Now’s the part where you have options…

If you have a virus scanner installed, update it now. Then, set it to update automatically. If you cannot update because your subscription is over, you have two options. You can either get a new antivirus package, or pay the fee for the one you have. Obviously paying the $20-$40 to keep the one you have is easier.

For the cheapskates out there like me, follow these steps to get you 12 months of free virus scanning:

  1. Uninstall that McAfee crap that came with your machine.
  2. Then, open up that red shield in your task bar–the one warning you about a lack of virus protection.
  3. Click on Recommendations
  4. Where it says, “Get another antivirus program.” click “How?”
  5. Follow onscreen instructions. Note that the CA antivirus comes with 12-months free.
  6. Let the install actually scan your computer–it takes forever but it is well worth it!

Obviously you will have this problem again in 12 months…

Now it’s time to run Windows Update. If you already have windows xp sp2 and it is set to update automatically, you can probably skip this step. If not, this is the singly most important thing you can do. Using Internet Explorer, go to

Install all the critical updates. If you don’t have SP2, it will be listed here. Install that one all by itself. This will take awhile.

Depending on the updates you have available, it might take a few visits to this page to get everything. Keep coming back until there are no more critical updates to get!

At this point, you have accomplished a lot. You should have antivirus, antispyware, and windows updates–ALL of which should be updating themselves automatically. Hopefully, these packages will eradicate your machine of existing problems as well as protect you from new problems.

If you run into problems or have other comments/suggestions please email me or post a comment. For those of you who know my cell number, feel free to call that as well.

While it is never too late to perform these actions, the sooner, the better. Good luck!