The PC-Tuneup, Alchemy and other myths

Alchemy (wide)


al·che·my   [al-kuh-mee] Show IPA
noun, plural -mies for 2.

a form of chemistry and speculative philosophy practiced in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and concerned principally with discovering methods for transmuting baser metals into gold and with finding a universal solvent and an elixir of life.
any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value.


3. taking a five year old computer and for free or a relatively small amount of money make it significantly faster bringing it to new performance (see definition 2)

Everyone is offering “PC Tune Ups” these days. Some big box stores offer it for free, some offer it for a small fee and many programs install themselves by accident or on purpose. Correct me if I’m wrong, but did that barista just offer me an extra shot of espresso and a PC tune up when he rang up my order (It’s just a matter of time after all)?


A computer that is 3 years old is getting near end of life. I blogged about this before and my opinion is backed up by Consumer Reports, which is the magazine of the Consumers Union which accept no advertising (translation: unbiased). You can’t take something of low value and suddenly make into a computing powerhouse. That doesn’t stop people from trying to sell you miracle cures.

When stores offer free or low cost speed boosts, it’s often just incentive to get you in the door. Here is a confessions of a former Geek Squad (Best Buy Tech). Once they have your computer in hand, they can and will often find things that need work. They always find something wrong and it’s a way of convincing you that you need their service. How about the vacuum salesperson that used to show you the amazing cleanup power? Water test? Alignment check. Shall I go on?

Sometimes the sale pitch is over the phone: you call tech support about a simple problem and all of a sudden they offer to run a free scan to determine if it’s something else in your computer. iYogi, which provides tech support to many companies is a key perpetrator of this. Companies like Avast have terminated their contracts for support because of this, but iYogi is still very much in business and providing tech support for other products. Once they get a hold of your computer either remotely or in their shop, they’ve got you on the hook. I’ve written about the dangers of giving the keys to your computer to someone. Symantec has been accused of the same thing.

These hard sells usually involves telling you that there are critical problems with your hard drive, your registry is damaged, and a slew of other mumbo-jumbo. Sometimes this is true, but often it is not. Frequently, it’s just the signs of age, but they use your hopes of saving money combined with your lack of technical knowledge to sell you something you don’t need. Shameful.

What can you do to protect yourself? Primarily, work with someone you trust. If it’s not our team, find a team or an individual you trust not just with your private and confidential data, but to be honest, with you. Always consider if they have a vested interest, especially if they try to sell you something. When we find a problem, we always give the client a choice of what to do. We don’t try to sell them a product or service, we try to find them a solution. Also, don’t give the support person the opportunity to go on a fishing expedition. Instead of saying “find what’s wrong with my computer” tell them about specific problems you are having and work with them to set realistic expectations. If you don’t give them direction, then you’ve lost control of the interaction. No matter what they tell you, they can’t take your computer and make it “good as new” with a simple software program or a checkup. Exception: if they have a lightning bolt scar on their forehead or their certification comes from Middle Earth you can trust their magic; however I’d suggest asking for winning lottery numbers instead.

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