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Q: PC Healthcheck ( Answered,   3 Comments )
Question  
Subject: PC Healthcheck
Category: Computers
Asked by: apcs_uk-ga
List Price: $75.00
Posted: 24 Apr 2006 06:23 PDT
Expires: 24 May 2006 06:23 PDT
Question ID: 722262
Hello there

I run a very small PC business in the UK. The only service we provide
is repairs to hardware and software, on site. In other words, I travel
to customers' place of work or business to carry out repairs.

We now have 2000 customers and I would like to contact all of them to
offer a "PC Health Check" either every 6 months or every year.

The service is designed to provide essential 'maintenance' for their
PC and to help prevent potential problems and performance bottlenecks.
Same as you mught do for your car.

I have set the price at 75 because I would like a comprehensive list
of what tasks, checks and tests we should perform on each PC (Windows
XP only), along with suggested software that might help with the task.

Please bare in mind that we intend to charge around 45 for the
service and therefore it shouldn't take longer than an hour and a
half.

Please post a clarification request before answering so that I can be
sure that I've made myself clear enough

Many thanks

Clarification of Question by apcs_uk-ga on 24 Apr 2006 08:21 PDT
Hello there frde-ga,

Ah yeah, I meant $75.

Yes, I made a dumbass mistake with the bear/bare spelling. But you
missed an important apostrophe from "tomorrows" and removeable doesn't
need the E in the middle.

:-)

Thanks for your comment. I take your point in that you can't prevent
all problems with XP because you still have idiots at the controls.
But yes I am dealing with dipsticks (or at least people with
less-then-average computer know-how) and they are willing to pay this
amount for good peace of mind if nothing else. I don't say that it
will prevent computer problems, but I do say that it makes them less
likely - which is true.

I already know what to do to make a PC as robust as possible, but I'm
just after a nice long checklist so that they think they're getting
the best value.

Thanks again

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 25 Apr 2006 09:14 PDT
apcs_uk-ga,


It seems to me there are two categories of activites here.  The first,
are the steps you can take without the need for any user input.  The
second are things that you'll certainly want to get the user's OK on
before going ahead.


There aren't that many items in the first category.  The ones that
come to mind are:


--Virus and malware scan

--Check current security situation:
   --what defensive programs are in use
   --what internet security settings are used
   --what email security settings are in use

--Print out a list of all programs that run at start up

--Print out "System Information"

--Run the "Analyze" option under the disk defragmenter

--determine status of automatic windows updates

--determine status of system restore points



For the second category:

--review start-up list with owner for unnecessary items

--review malware scan with user, delete baddies, and scold them as needed

--recommend changes to internet and email security settings, including
anti pop-ups, whitelisting certain items known to be friendly, etc

--empty cache, cookie, history and temp files *only after* owner
understands the implications (e.g. stored passwords will have to be
newly entered, etc)


--install, with owner approval, latest free Microsoft antispyware beta
program ... currently called Windows Defender:


http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.mspx


It's very good!


--If called for, show client how to run disk defragmenter before
he/she goes to bed...let it run overnight.


--recommend use of auto-update feature for windows security updates,
if not already used; install, if it is wanted.

--explain system restore to user, and make sure there are properly
scheduled restore points.

--Review System Information with user, recommend, as needed, memory upgrades, etc.



I'm sure there are other things, but this is what comes to mind at the moment.


Is this the sort of list you're looking for?

Please let me know what sort of additional information you would like
to make for a complete answer to your question.


Thanks,


pafalafa-ga

Clarification of Question by apcs_uk-ga on 26 Apr 2006 03:27 PDT
Excellent - exactly what I was after.

An expanded version of that would do nicely
Answer  
Subject: Re: PC Healthcheck
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 26 Apr 2006 18:35 PDT
 
apcs_uk-ga,

Thanks...it's nice to hear that my outline hit the nail on the head.

Here's an expanded version, along with a wee bit of a caveat.  Since
my experience is entirely from the perspective of someone sitting here
in the U.S., there may be a few (presumably minor) differences with
various links, software releases, and so on where you are.

That said, the list is below.  Let me know if there's anything else
you need on this...and best of luck!


paf


===============




Category I -- Steps to take that don't need direct input from the computer owner:


--Virus and malware scan:

You may already have a preferred tool for this, but if not, the possibilities are:

1.  Use a scan that is more than likely available on the PC, since
most systems come with antivirus software these days (usually, Norton
antivirus, which I personally despise).

2.  Install software of your own, such as PestPatrol (only with
client's permission, of course):

http://www.pestpatrol.com/

3.  Use a remote scanning capability, such as Panda ActiveScan:

http://www.pandasoftware.com/products/activescan.htm



There are both short scans and scans that seem to take
forever...presumably you'll want the former, and save the latter for a
more detailed system debugging, if such is called for.


 
--Check current security situation:

   --what defensive programs are in use -- the XP "Security Center"
from the Control Panel will show basic antivirus and firewall
information.  Firewalls can also be part of hardware, such as routers,
but checking that probably adds a level of complexity above and beyond
a routine 'tune up'.

   --what internet security settings are used -- Windows Explorer has
a host of configurations, including a pop-up blocker.  Other browsers
have similar options that should be checked, and you should be
prepared to offer recommendations.

   --what email security settings are in use -- these will vary from
one email program to the next, but there generally should be some sort
of screening in place to try and filter out spam, viruses, and the
like.  Most programs also have a whitelist of known friendly
addresses.  Many users aren't aware of this option, so you have an
opportunity to suggest this to your client.




--Print out a list of all programs that run at start up. 
Ummm!...actually, printing out the list is more trouble than it's
worth, but do at least view the list, by typing in 'msconfig' at the
'Run' prompt, and clicking on the 'Startup' tab.  Some programs
obviously belong on the list, and some may just as obviously be bad
actors that need to be eliminated.  Most others tend to have obscure
names, but Googling a file name usually brings up a quick hit that
tells you what the file is all about.


--Print out "System Information".  From the 'All Programs' list, click
Accessories---> System Tools-----> System Information, and print out
the System Summary.  This makes a good jumping off point for
discussing possible system upgrades with your client.
  

--Run the "Analyze" option under the disk defragmenter, also available
under the System Tools list.  Don't actually defrag yet...just use the
Analyze option to see if defragging is called for.


--Determine status of automatic windows updates and system restore
points.  Right-click on My Computer and click on Properties to open up
a box with System Restore and Automatic Update tabs.  Check each of
these to see the status of these two valuable tools.


Category II -- Changes to make only after client approves:


--review start-up list with owner for unnecessary items and delete as needed


--review malware scan with user, delete baddies, and scold the client
as needed.  Spyware removal is sometimes easy, sometimes
next-to-impossible...you'll have to be clear with clients up front
about how much they can expect from you in the context of a routine
tune-up.

Clients may also need an education in proper browsing and email usage
to protect themselves.  A fairly in-depth primer can be found here:


http://www.malwarehelp.org/ten-steps-to-malware-prevention-part-1.html


though you may have others you prefer.



--recommend changes to internet and email security settings, including
anti pop-ups, whitelisting certain items known to be friendly, etc. 
This will be very individualized depending on what you happen to find
during the course of your digging around, so I don't know that there
are any general rules of thumb to offer here.


--empty cache, cookie, history and temp files *only after* owner
understands the implications (e.g. stored passwords will have to be
newly entered, etc).  This -- along with defragging -- is probably the
best traditional tune-up step that one can take, but it does have
certain repercussions that need to be explained to a client.  XP has a
Disk Clean-up utility (again, under the Accessories list) that you
might want to play around with, as I believe it handles these sorts of
tasks.  However, I don't use it myself, so I can't offer any
particular recommendation about it.


--install, with owner approval, latest free Microsoft antispyware beta
program ... currently called Windows Defender:


http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.mspx


It's very good!  I've used this for the past few months on all my
computers.  It appears to be very effective, unobtrusive, and an all
around excellent tool (and believe me, I don't compliment Microsoft
all that often!).  There are certain options that are offered when one
first signs on to Windows Defender (such as, eg, Do You Want to Send
Information Back to Microsoft?).  I don't remember all the choices
that one is asked to make, but you'll have to be familiar with these
before suggesting this tool, so your client can make an informed
choice.

Of course, you could simply recommend the program instead, and let the
owner install it if they choose.


--If called for, show client how to run disk defragmenter before
he/she goes to bed...let it run overnight.


--recommend use of auto-update feature for windows security updates,
if not already used; activate it, if it is wanted...again -- and if
memory serves -- I think there are options here as to just how
automated the updates will be.  Be forewarned, that some of the
auto-update options will actually download new security software
without any user interaction, and then reboot the computer -- losing
any unsaved information!!!  It's a terrific tool, but use it
carefully.


--explain system restore to user, and make sure this tool is on (I
could have sworn there was a function to schedule restore points, but
I didn't see it when I looked around).



--Review System Information with user, recommend, as needed, memory upgrades, etc.



I trust this fits the bill, but again, if there's anything else you
need on this, just let me know, and I'm at your service.

Best of luck with your ventures.


paf
Comments  
Subject: Re: PC Healthcheck
From: frde-ga on 24 Apr 2006 07:34 PDT
 
Actually the price is $75 - about fifty quid

And one 'bears in mind' - and 'bares ones butt'

One gets pedantic as one gets older, and one is satisfied to see
former slovens getting even more pedantic than oneself.

It sounds to me as if you have an interesting little setup, 2000
punters is about a max load of 8 per day (2000 / 250) given travelling
time I doubt that anyone could cope with more than 4 per day.

It would be nice to tithe your clients for one or even two visits per
year, guaranteed income is rather useful.

Somehow, I think that you would be better off providing a remote
support service, possibly offering on-line backup and fixes for simple
problems.

You could also get the lot on ADSL (find and sub-sell an ADSL package)
which looks good to the punters and allows you to control the hardware
(on a good day).

With a mere 30 years of coding behind me, I am at a loss to find a way
of providing even near certain data security or roll-back on an XP
machine, for software that I did not write.

I certainly cannot anticipate tomorrows security flaws, as generated by MS.

Also, with punters, you never know what CD or DVD they will stick in,
let alone installations from the net.

If you are dealing with 2000 dipsticks, then it might be worth looking
into some totally standard kit with easily removeable drives, set up
so the main drive re-images itself on bootup
- you could rent it to them

An alternative would be to run a number of obvious packages (ad-aware
comes to mind) look smart, give a nice line in chat, and jump to it
when they have a real problem.

What I am saying is that pre-emptive maintenance is pretty much
impossible on the average XP machine.

Look up Pareto - he might have been wrong about Mussolini, but he was
spot on about the hassle/income ratio.
Subject: Re: PC Healthcheck
From: frde-ga on 25 Apr 2006 06:17 PDT
 
Good to see you know your onions.

I was intrigued to find this question locked, but no answer
- that is a sure sign of a really tricky question

Yours is roughly : 'how do I herd 2000 cats ?'

I think there is some scope in building machines with disk caddies,
eg: user replaceable hard disks - inexpensive and a fallback.

Mostly, I would look at the 1920's economist Pareto, who said that 80%
of your aggro comes from 20% of your clients - and that 80% of your
'profit' comes from 20% of your clients.
Subject: Re: PC Healthcheck
From: frde-ga on 27 Apr 2006 02:24 PDT
 
I'm really impressed with that answer

It will need a bit of translation into simple terms for the clients
- but it is good stuff

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