Monday, February 12, 2007

What to Take to a Service Job

PortableApp reviews are coming, in the mean time read this...

Every service job a take shows me at least one more tool to bring to the next job.

Here is the list so far:
  • Small tool kit (Screwdrivers, zip ties, etc...)
  • Software Tools (On CD & USB Flash Drive)
  • Live CD
  • Patience
The small tool kit was the most obvious, I brought that to my first service call and it wasn't even needed, but when it is, it is hard to open some cases with out it. ;-)

Software tools was also obvious yet over time the make-up of this kit has changed. Many of the calls I get are to support older operating systems so it is important to have tools that work on them. I have found that some old computers have no CD-ROM and no USB drivers so I also carry a floppy disk with the drivers needed to get the flash drive working.

Most recently I have added many common installation files to a seperate CD. Things like AIM, YIM & MSN Messenger all of the Google Pack tools and many Windows updates. I added these to avoid having to take a computer with a dial-up connection home. (or having to wait hours on site for it to download updates.) I have found that many problems can be solved with a fresh install of the offending program.

If there is a cd drive and the operating system is toast, then a live CD is a must have. With most live Linux distros you can recover and back up the data on the computer before you reinstall the old operating system. You can additionally test most of the hardware and find failures that a dead system won't show. (Dead Systems Tell No Tales... ;-) )

Patience is probably the most important tool to bring to any job. If you are impatient, your client will be as well and that will never end well for you.


Anonymous said...

I must admit this article has helped me a little as i am hoping to one day get into the tech field soon and i was not aware that all operating systems or computers were not flash drive ready, care to share th link to the flash drive drivers you keep on the floppy ?

thanks for creating this blog looks awesome ;)

Decoy Flyer said...

My particular drive is a SanDisk so the drivers are here:

Anonymous said...

Yup, thanks alot bro so i'll check out the manufactors website for the drivers just in case as i have heard this problem mostly accurs on win98... i just got back from enrolling into a local A+ training program so this info will come in handy, keep up the good work man :)

App said...

As I sit here at an 11 year old computer that has no USB at all, I can tell you that bringing a floppy with the drivers to use your flash drive wouldn't be of much help if you ever get a call for a PC like this one. (And I have, plenty of times)

You could bring a PCI USB card to temporarily add some USB ports, just in case an older PC doesn't have any, but you could run into a situation where you have some old PC that the PCI slots don't work. (some old NEC computers are like that)

So instead of bringing that card, a better idea would be not to use a typical flash drive and opt for a standard PATA (FAT32), no larger than 80G, in a USB enclosure (purchase them seperately and bring along a ribbon cable), just in case the CD-ROM drive is so old that it doesn't read burned CD's (this would make just about any live CD useless, as well as your CD's with the common installations & updates), there is no USB ports, and there is no other way to access the software tools you brought along.

Make sure it's not over 80G because Win9x could go wonky on it if it's too large, and possibly destroy all your data and leave you with no software tools to work with, or you could run into a situation where the BIOS won't even recognize it because it's too big.

The reason why you want PATA in an enclosure, is because you may have to disconnect the CD-ROM drive (or maybe not if it has a free EIDE connector available), remove your drive from the enclosure, and connect it to the pc directly, to access anything that's on it.

There may be no other way. And as long as you have thought of this ahead of time and prepared for it, the chances are greater that you'll be able to fix issues without having to take the computer home with you or returning another day with the hard drive you should have had with you to begin with.

Decoy Flyer said...


All very good and valid points.

However, now that I have been working my business full time for over a year, I can tell you that I have only seen four clients that have had computers that old. Two of them opted for new computers as even the $299 special, on any given weekend, will run circles around any such system.

While the other two did feel the need to keep their old computers, the slow speed that they ran made even the simplest tasks time consuming enough to require taking them to the shop.

I have found that it is a lot easier to keep the price reasonable, especially on a 10 - 12 year old computer, if I am not sitting in their living room, where I can do nothing else, for 3 - 6 hours. At the shop I can have several systems working at once thus cutting the hours I need to charge for waiting.

App said...

Maybe the reason why I see more of them than you do, is probably because I volunteer my services for people that wouldn't be able to afford to pay anyone or buy a new computer. Many of them aquired their computers from the curb on trash day.

I often get paid in cups of cheap coffee.

For the PC's I am servicing, the $299 special could mean a whole family barely eating for 2-3 months or having to give up telephone service for the next 6 months to a year.

That's not something I would want to see and it's not something they would be likely to do. There is a greater chance of them having no computer in the home at all.

I'd like their children to have a working PC for their school work, even if it is a slow one. A slow PC is better than nothing at all. And nothing at all puts these kids at a greater educational disadvantage.

And I don't take anyone's PC home with me. If you saw the homes I have visited, you would understand why. I don't need any of their critters coming home with me.

But I suppose if I were doing this for profit, I would feel much the same way you do.