Most of my clients are intelligent people. They don't blame me for their problems. And most call me when it's still "minor", before it becomes an emergency. But like all geeks, now and then I get one of these.
Spending my days trying to repair the damage people do to their computers (and themselves!) led me to write this. Hope it helps someone:
1. GOOGLE IS YOUR FRIEND. And the best possible teacher. You can learn almost anything sitting in your own bedroom, just from Googling around the Web. Think about it! For the first time in all human history, a near limitless ocean of information is right at your fingertips. No need to seek out some Collegium in Rome, or Temple in Mecca, or trek to some guru on a Himalayan mountaintop in search of wisdom. From Astrophysics to Zen, from Zenobia to Aztec, it IS out there on the Web. But it may take a little patience and tenacity to find it.
If you have a question, Google it. Then search it again a little differently, and keep right on searching and trying links and reading until you get the answer you want.
2. BACK IT UP!! "Backup" is not mysterious, not difficult nor high tech nor intimidating. It simply means make a copy somewhere OFF of your computer, so that if the computer you are on right now suddenly blew up or disappeared, you would still have what is important to you. You can backup to a Flash drive, External hard drive, Carbonite, Dropbox or Google Drive account, even burn a CD or a DVD. These and many more options are all valid. It actually doesn't matter too very much HOW you do it, just that you DO it! And remember your backup can fail, too. Look at it this way: ALL hard drives/computers/storage media absolutely WILL fail, someday. The only question is when. So, backup your Pics, docs, music, videos, spreadsheets, presentations, bookmarks, favorite wallpapers... anything you created or really love, and would be upset if it was gone.
And make fresh backups, often. If it's been "awhile" since you backed up last time, then it IS time.
Contrariwise, if you didn't create it with your own 2 widdle pinkies or love it alot... don't bother to back it up. Programs, apps, games, etc... Backing up such things, or worse, backing up your entire hard drive, is a waste of time and space for most people. There are exceptions, of course. And some folks don't care about wasted time/space as long as they know ALL their stuff is backed up, and I certainly won't argue that! But for programs and apps and games and such, you can almost always download it again, install it again, or a better one will likely be on the next computer you buy.
3. WWW ALSO STANDS FOR WILD WILD WEST. Obviously, the World Wide Web is a HUGE force for good, for freedom of information, for leveling the playing field, and making real knowledge and education available to all. If repressive regimes like China and North Korea ever finally fall, it will be partly due to the Internet.
WWW also stands for Wild Wild West. No laws, no police, no protection. The Web, by its very nature, cannot be easily controlled or made "safe". Porn of every kind is 2 clicks away from Disney and Nickelodeon. Predators, molesters, psychos and sickos of every imaginable variety roam free on Facebook and Twitter and a thousand other sites. Protect your children! Until your child is old and wise enough to deal with what IS out there... if you love them, say NO, and make it stick. If they are allowed online, make damn sure they are in the same room as you, and you can see their screen at all times. And be prepared to answer the questions when they land on XXX. Because they WILL. This also includes smart phones and iPads and such! If it can access the WWW, it IS dangerous to your child, and you can't make it safe! If this seems like too much trouble... don't have kids.
And the same is true for you as well, adult or not. Remember.. Wild Wild West, only worldwide. Governments, agencies, hackers, greedy corporations and more, from every corner of the globe, all prying into your business, eager to know every detail of your private life. Scam artists both large and small, hungry for your money. If you get ripped off, you probably won't get it back. If it seems too good to be true, it absolutely IS!!!! The cooler it looks, the more likely it is to hurt you, or your computer. Install it today, pay to get it removed tomorrow. If you Tweet it or take a picture of it and post it on the web anywhere, it absolutely WILL come back to haunt you someday, sooner than you think. Remember Nancy Reagan, and just say NO.
Read twice, THINK twice, click once.