I'm sure many people here do some basic tech support for friends and family, so... got any horror stories?
Today I discovered an unknown laptop on the kitchen table. I asked my sister where it came from and what should be done with it and she told me it was her boyfriend's system and that he wanted to re-install Windows XP, but couldn't get it to work. I offered to give it a try. I regret that.
The laptop, an FS Amilo Pa 1510, was a complete mess. Parts of the casing had been broken off and it was held together with cheap tape. There was a wire protruding from an USB-port. I later learned that it was attached to the sound card, because the original audio ports were fried (why not use USB speakers then?). Frankly, the thing looked stolen, because it was in such a poor state and the locks were removed with force.
Anyway, I look at what he wants installed: some illegal version of Windows XP. Okay, not something I would recommend, but if that's what he wants... So push the power button. First a regular boot screen, no problems there. Then...
"smart failure predicted on harddisk 4"
Okay, so the harddisk is a goner. It may still work, but is completely unreliable at this point.
I continue anyway. Next is a XP install screen. Apparantly it was halfway through the installation, but messed up somehow. It asks for some files from the installation CD. I try both illegal discs, no result.
At this point I'm not even sure the CD drive is working. I can feel it spinning at times, but it's hanging from the casing and doesn't open and close properly. I rummage through my CD pile, I might have a legal OS somewhere, afterall. I find Windows 98. I insert it and hey, an actual reaction! I manage to undo the FUBAR XP installation and move on. The harddisk is now clean, but still nearly broken.
So... now I need an actual OS. The crappy XP cracks aren't working. I discover a legal Windows 2000 in my laptop bag. No response. CD drive broken? Nope, it still recognises the Windows 98 CD. I make an Ubuntu image CD. Owner isn't going to like it, but owners of hobo laptops can't be choosers. No result. Perhaps the laser is too weak to recognise burnt CDs.
After a while the owner comes back. I ask him where he got the laptop. He tells me he traded it for some desktop computer he had build. He explains that he had replaced the keyboard and had inserted the audio wires. I am wise enough to keep my mouth shut. It's not nice to call your sister's boyfriend an idiot. I tell him the harddisk is on its last legs and that it was unwise to invest any more time or money in that old, broken system. He then told me he had ordered a new soundcard for it. Eh, why?
After another ten minutes of playing with the BIOS and trying to make it read OS installation CDs I called it a day. That things needs to be recycled ASAP and be replaced with a reliable system. Or the owner should stop using computers, that would work too.
Sometimes it's the tech guys that aren't that smart. When my parents got a new internet provider the company send a tech guy over to install the modem and set up one of our computers. He thought Explorer was an OS.