Open Letter to Non-Technical Friends with Windows Machines


First, I’m sorry about the virus you got.  Viruses, I mean, plural.  I totally don’t mean to kick you while you’re down, but we need to talk.

Yes, I’ll fix it.  Yes, I totally understand that you were just surfing the web for legitimate business needs.  No, I won’t look in your browser history.

Achewood Tells It Like It Is
Achewood Tells It Like It Is

It’s going to take me about four hours to back your stuff up, strip out the viruses, make sure everything’s working okay, run the latest updates, put a real antivirus program on there, put a safer browser on there, and teach you how to use it all.  Go ahead and grab a beer and a couple of Tylenol. No, not for you – for me.  I know you think I love doing computer work, but this isn’t exactly the part that calls to me.

Did you know the Geek Squad charges $400 for in-home service for this, and $300 at the store?  Ouch.  That’d pretty much erase the cost difference between the iMac I told you to get, versus the cheap Windows machine you picked up.  And that’s just one instance – and we both know this is gonna happen again, just like it did a couple of years ago.  Ah, you thought I’d forgotten that, huh?

Now remember, when I give it back to you, you can’t surf any suspicious sites with this thing.  I’ve done what I can by putting a better browser on there, but it’s always an arms race between the good guys and the bad guys.  If you go to bad web sites, odds are you’re still going to get infected, no matter how much I set up ahead of time.  Don’t download movies or music from web sites, because they’re probably not legit.  Don’t open movies people send you in email, no matter who it is – even if it says it’s me, it’s not really me.  I know you don’t understand how that works, but you have to trust me.  And don’t even think about going to any “adult” sites.  Maybe I could install virtualization on your machine and give you a separate instance, but I’m not sure that you’d be able to remember which window was safe and which one was dangerous.  I’d end up coming over to give you regular refresher lessons about how to use the thing, and I know you’d get frustrated because you don’t want to spend any time learning – you just want to go surf and play.

In fact, if you’re going to insist on sticking with Windows, and you’re going to keep your valuable business stuff on there like your accounting, what I’d really recommend is that you get two separate machines: one for business and one for…pleasure.  Although of course, even if you confine your “adult” surfing to the pleasure machine, you’re still going to get viruses on it, and you’re still going to rack up those $400 Geek Squad bills.

Or you could just buy a 20″ iMac for $1,000 or a Macbook for $1,300 and be done with it.  Your call.  You could even pick up a Mac Mini for under $500, but you have to bring your own keyboard, and quite frankly, you need a new keyboard.  This one is filled with stuff, and I don’t mean crumbs.

No, it doesn’t run a lot of software, but all you’re really doing is surfing the web, listening to music & movies, checking your email, and using Microsoft Office, and it’s great for all of those.  Best of all, you can go to all kinds of, uh, “web sites” and you won’t get infected, and I know how important that is to you.  Or at least, I imagine it would be if I’d checked your browser history.  Okay, look, I didn’t even have to check the history, because my anti-spyware stuff scrolled through a bunch of web site names as it was ripping out cookies.  We’re still friends, but let’s just say I’m wearing gloves when I have to touch your keyboard.

No?  You still wanna save money, eh?  Well, here’s where the bad news comes in: this is the last time I’ll fix your computer for free.  Next time, I’m pointing you to the Geek Squad.  I’m not spending my weekends fixing your computers just because you want some free pr0n.

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12 Comments. Leave new

  • But does it run Crysis? Nah, I agree. Winders is for them there power users.

    Actually, I don’t think it is that Mac’s are more secure, there are just less people trying to hack them. If you want a bot army, why go after Mac when 1 out of 50* computers run windows.



  • I don’t know whether they’re inherently more secure or less interesting to hackers, but the bottom line is that my friends with Macs don’t get viruses, and they go to the same, uh, “entertaining” sites as my friends with Windows. Safari’s Private Browsing mode solved that problem a long time ago.

  • Eric Humphrey
    March 29, 2009 6:03 pm

    As for Mac’s being “more secure”, Safari was cracked the fastest at the recent Pwn2Own contest:—safari-internet-explorer-and-firefox-taken-down-by-four-zero-day-exploits

    IE8 and Firefox also fell, just not as fast. Chrome was the only browser that wasn’t cracked, it had a flaw, but didn’t meet the contest criteria.

  • At no point did I say the Macs were more secure. Read through it again – I was talking about real-world vulnerabilities. I’ve literally got three separate Windows machines on my desk right now from three separate friends, all infected with viruses and spyware. This happens over and over. Once I get somebody on a Mac, they’ve never had this problem.

  • It’s amazing the crap that people go through with Windows. For every Windows PC you repair you should at least hand them an Ubuntu Live CD. If you can’t get them away from PC and Windows maybe you can convert them to Ubuntu. It is as close to a Mac experience as you can get with out having an Apple logo on your computer.

    I don’t know if it the differences between the kernels or file systems that help keep OS/X a little more secure than Windows. But eventually as Macs becomes more common place, users will be socially engineered to trust anonymous software that asks for super user access resulting in headaches for Mac users.

  • Despite being Microsoft technologist and stuck on Windows, I do everything I can to use caution. I use IE sparingly and no Outlook, use recommended tools and settings on the browsers I do use, plus anti-spyware and continuous virus protection.

    In trying to pull up some seemingly tame streaming video today (youth spiritual classes), I managed to trigger ActiveX-related virus warnings from GriSoft via Chrome. Quarantined, assuming it was Chrome false warning, opened the URL under IE to receive the same GriSoft warning. Deleted all files, but now my FiOS connection is at 50% capacity, and I am thinking of wiping the box clean. I do that on occasion, so it wouldn’t be an extreme hardship. It is getting ugly out there.


    I do a lot of free tech support for friends and family, but you have to draw the line somewhere. I already had this topic listed for a future post on my site.

    The last time someone I barely knew asked me to fix their computer I told them to bring it over on Saturday morning and to wear working clothes. She asked me why and I replied that I didn’t want her to ruin any nice clothes doing housework for me.

    She was offended that I would ask her to do dishes, laundry, etc; but that’s what would I have been doing if I wasn’t fixing her computer.

    She refused and stomped off.

    Oh well.

  • Hahaha, I’ve got a Dilbert about that. Same exact deal. It’s tough to walk the line between doing favors and doing side work. I cave in and say yes too often because I feel guilty about referring friends to places like Geek Squad because it’s so expensive. The economy in Michigan doesn’t help matters – I know these people just flat out can’t afford Geek Squad rates.

  • The more you push people to macs, the more people that are on macs, and the more reason hackers will have to exploit macs. Be careful what you wish for 🙂

  • Hahahaha, this wouldn’t be so funny if it wasn’t so true! You’re torn between wanting to help friends and family all the while trying not to come off as such a “di*k” about things. Its great to be thought of as a computer expert but, that notoriety only seems to happen, if and when they’ve really made a mess of things. However, when you keep getting the same “self-inflicted” problems repeatedly you have to make a choice, show some “tough love” and some open source operating system alternatives and hopefully they’ll run with it and maybe learn something (don’t hold your breath) or roll over, be a “doormat” fix the problem (….yet again!) and hopefully they’ll stop whinning about their pc and just go away until they need something else from you…..after all this is what we live for, right?


  • Clicks “like” button.

  • I just request that they add me to their will. I am working toward inheriting a lake house.


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