Someone who helps you but leaves with without access to passwords isn't helping you at all.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


Make sure you know how a 'helper' set up your computer

April 29, 2012

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2012, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2012, The Post-Standard

We all need somebody to lean on. But don't do it without a pen and pencil in hand and an inquiring mind.

I'm talking about those trying computer times when you end up being "rescued" by your niece or your smarty-pants 14-year-old neighbor or maybe your brother-in-law, the one who never returned your coping saw. You know the type.

They're Johnny and Jennie on the spot when you need them. But if they touch even a hair on your computer's head, make sure they tell you exactly what they did -- and never forget to write down everything they tell you.

Such as the password for your new network. Or the location of the Microsoft Office installation disk (and the box it came in!) so you'll be able to come up with that pesky 300-digit Microsoft code if you ever have to reinstall the software. Or the name and icon location of that new web browser your rescue maven installed when you got a lecture about using that unsafe Internet whatchamacallit.

We let our friends and neighbors do just about anything to help us. That's good. And that's bad. It's good if you know what they're doing, so that you can fix things if they're not around. It's bad if you're left in the dark.

So here's my list of what you need to know.

-- Your passwords for the computer (if you have to type a password to log on) and the password for any connections your computer has to make -- in other words, for your Internet service, if it uses a password, and for your home wireless router, if it does.

-- The name of your computer and your home network. Don't laugh. Computers always have names, even if you didn't choose it. And networks usually show their names when you log on, but sometimes rescue mavens hide a network name for security, and you might be left with no obvious way to figure it out.

-- The address of your router. No, not "221 Main Street." The router address is a series of numbers, like "" You put those numbers into your web browser's address line to reach the router so you can change its settings (to make it safer, for example).

-- Finally, instructions on where to find out the vital statistics of your computer. On Windows, this can be difficult; on Macs, it's easy. But on both systems it's not obvious. You need to know where to find how much memory and disk storage space your system has -- and especially how much disk space is still available when it's running low. Make sure your rescue pal tells you how to find out.