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Is formatting the only way?

Posted By : of Data Doctors on November 24, 2004

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I keep being told by “tech support” that the only solution to get rid of the problems on my system is to reformat my hard drive and start over. Is this the only way?

- Cathy

This question was answered on November 24, 2004. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

Computers and more specifically, computer operating systems (such as

Windows) have become such a complicated ball of string that many companies have determined that the shortest way to resolving most any computer problem is to wipe everything out and start over.

While this ‘one size fits all’ approach may make it easier on tech support folks, it can create a whole host of issues for the user.

Without a very specific understanding of your actual problems, it is impossible for me to say if that is the proper solution I can tell you that in our service business, it’s the last option not the first, because it ’s so invasive for most users.

Keep in mind, the unfortunate support staffers are tasked with the virtually impossible mission of resolving computer problems over the phone on a system that they have never seen nor cannot ever see while taking direction from a user that is both frustrated and non-technical.

Add to this the ‘cost saving’ measure that is popular in tech circles of ‘outsourcing’ tech support to foreign countries and you have many opportunities for confusion and bad decisions (at least for the user).

To make things even more difficult, tech support employees are often given specific time limitations for each call to increase the ‘efficiency’ of the tech support department and reprimanded when they spend ‘too much time’ per call.

It’s no wonder why so many responses to virtually any problem is to ‘wipe it all out and start over’ (often referred to as a recovery process which is very misleading to the average user).

The reality is that the only way to fix most of today’s computer problems, without having to start over, is to spend a lot of time manually removing all of the garbage that has built up in the system Unfortunately, time is not something most computer manufacturers have to give.

When they sell millions of computers worldwide, spending more than 15 or 20 minutes per call is just not a luxury they can afford.

If you examine the warranty statement on any computer, it will clearly state that the user is responsible for data backup, which includes the reinstallation of any programs that were added after the purchase of the system.

The problem with the ‘wipe it out approach’ is that it solves the problem for the computer company, but creates a major problem for the user.

Most folks don’t have any idea where their critical data resides, much less, how to back it up (See last week’s column about backup options at if this is you!)

There are plenty of service organizations that can provide a manual ‘cleanup ’ solution for you so that you don’t have to deal with all of the issues of starting over, but don’t expect that level of service in a warranty situation.

If you don’t like what your primary care provider is telling you, get a second opinion by taking your system elsewhere.

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of Data Doctors on November 24, 2004

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