Be careful not to make things worse

What have you done?!

Will somebody please save me from ‘helpful’ friends, relatives, and neighbours? They mean well, but once they’ve messed up your computer and failed to fix the original problem, they’ll walk away and leave you in a right state. This recently happened yet again. A lady whose system would for some reason no longer connect to the Internet, using an Ethernet cable leading from the back of her computer straight into a perfectly functioning BT Smart Hub 2, rather than Wi-Fi, had some ‘help’ from someone who lived nearby. This consisted of reinstalling Windows 10 Home version 1903, thankfully while retaining all of her files. Yes, the lady’s documents and pictures were still there, but all of the installed applications were removed during the reinstallation process. Norton AntiVirus, Google Chrome, Microsoft Word 2010, Adobe Reader, all the printing and scanning software, etc., was completely wiped out at a stroke, and the computer still wouldn’t connect to the Internet after all that. Well, they’d done their best, albeit to no avail, so it was time to disappear and leave someone else to sort out the mess. It would have been better if they’d just called me in the first place, but no, it seemed like a good idea at the time to just ‘have a go’ at fixing the problem (using a sledgehammer to crack a nut), and now, several days later, it was my turn.

Windows 10 Home version 1903 was at fault

I tried to find out what was going on by doing sensible tests. Could I connect to the BT Smart Hub 2 using a laptop? Yes it worked, so there was no problem with the hub’s Wi-Fi or broadband connection. Could I connect using the customer’s Ethernet cable instead? Yes, so there was nothing wrong with the cable or the hub’s ‘number 1’ Ethernet socket, which was the one that the customer was trying to use. I then tried to start up the customer’s system using the ‘Safe Mode with Networking’ option. That made no difference. The connection was there, but Windows 10 said ‘No Internet’. Removing then reinstalling all of the device drivers associated with the Internet connection made no difference either, and nor did resetting all the network components. It all seemed to be a bit of a mystery. Just to make absolutely sure that there was nothing wrong with the hardware, I booted the computer from a USB flash memory device containing Linux Mint. That worked fine, as I suspected it would, and we were able to get onto the Internet with no problem. So Windows 10 Home version 1903 was the problem. No surprise there.

Linux Mint looked interesting

While I was running Linux Mint, the customer looked interested and asked me exactly what it was. I explained that it was an alternative to Windows that still had a traditional desktop with icons, but underneath was completely different, and in practice faster, more secure, convenient, and reliable. After running through all the advantages, including fast updates that were optional, never took long, and rarely required the system to restart, the customer asked if I couldn’t just install Linux Mint and forget about the broken Windows installation. Well, yes, that would be simple. However, I would need to back up all of her documents and photographs first, so I could restore them all once the new system had been installed. She seemed happy with the prospect of having a stable system that wouldn’t fall apart at random times, leaving her in the lurch, so I took away her tower system to do the work over the next couple of days.

Faster, safer, better

After backing up the customer’s data, I installed Linux Mint on the tower system, happily wiping out Windows 10 in the process, and set up an account for the customer. The next step was to restore the customer’s data into appropriate folders, then download and install all the available updates, which was a darn site quicker and simpler than applying Windows updates. After that, it was simply a matter of making the icons and mouse pointer larger than normal, as the customer’s eyesight was not as good as it used to be, and setting up shortcuts to her favoutite websites, including the various card games that she liked to play online. We then recovered her e-mail account, which she had not been able to access for a while, and after that I wrote a couple of documents and printed them out. One explained how to start up the computer, log in, and finally shut the computer down. The other explained how to check for incoming e-mails, and send e-mails, using Mozilla Thunderbird, which the customer took to immediately.