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Monday, September 8, 2003          
With Computer Columnist Sue Braiden
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Sick Computer Got You Down?  The FREE Doctor is In! CBC Radio Computer Columnist, Sue Braiden.

Did you survive the worst virus week ever, only to find out that one of the little nasties deleted your budget, the hockey pool, that bestseller you were writing, and half your hard drive in between?

No Worries!

I've got a line-up of superhero software ready to rescue your ailing home and small business computer, and the best news is that it's FREE. Missed the show? Here's where you can get those no-cost utilities I suggested might help you diagnose your computer's problems, offer solutions, and recover lost and deleted files that even expensive commercial software can't find.

FREE Diagnosis & Repair Tools

PC Pitstop
CyberTech Help

If the only thing standing between you and a healthy computer is your budget, then here's a few alternatives worth giving a try:


PC Pitstop

PC Pitstop is to a home computer what a mechanic and garage are to your car. Take your computer in for a tune-up at this online one-stop shop, and you'll not only be treated to a free diagnosis of what ails it, but offered instant "auto fixes" to boot. Rob Cheng's site is easy to use, as thorough as many expensive commercial software utilities, and yes, I did say it was free.

Some of the tell-all tests you can help yourself to? Reports on:

  • your internet connection,

  • viruses that may be infecting your machine,

  • any spyware that may be lurking in it's belly,

  • the health of your hard drive,

  • and even an "XP Readiness Test" for those Windows users who may be clinging to older Operating Systems in fear of upgrading.

You can store the results of the tests that you've run, and return to get advice on various problems diagnosed and fix them incrementally as it suits you. Not feeling too sure about the "do it yourself" approach? This handy website also gives you a chance to share your reports with others, including a local PC repair shop where you may need to access assistance with solving some of the more persistent problems diagnosed. All round terrific diagnostic and repair tool, and you can't beat the price.



Oh, joy! You just let loose that itchy "delete key finger", and managed to wipe out your entire hockey pool database in one fell swoop. Banished it, even, from the sacred depths of the "still might manage to save it" recycling bin. Now what?

Never fear. This handy little salvage tool is just what the doctor ordered. Whether you've accidentally deleted files and want them back, or let "ScanDisk" have at it finding lost and damaged clusters and converting them to single and singularly useless files, there IS a way to rewind the clock and get your precious data back.

PC INSPECTOR's free File Recovery tool may not be the most intuitive little tool you've ever used at first glance, but you can be sure that it's going to find what even some of the more expensive commericial recovery utilities seem to miss. Added bonus? It digs up files that may have been lost or deleted years ago, finding different versions of the same file, and even keeping them intact with their original date and time stamp, and recognizing which folder they belonged in. The thing I found most surprising of all was this tool's ability to recover even those files for which there was no longer a header entry available. (Oh, boy -- there she goes speaking gibberish again. Translation please? This tool's like your mama -- can fix even the most dastardly boo-boo's!)

But wait -- there's more. (No, it's not the ginsu knives this time). The PC INSPECTOR TM File Recovery tool comes in 17 different flavours. It's native German tongue is also accompanied by 16 other languages, making the absence of a price tag on this powerful utility even more surprising.

Besides the sometimes less-than-user-friendly face this tool puts on for PC novices, it has another Achilles Heel in it's ability to tackle NTFS file systems. Offered as a data recovery program supporting both the FAT 12/16/32 and NTFS file systems may be a little generous based on some of the less-than-satisfying experiences a number of users reported with the latter, but it seems those with the FAT format are generally quite happy with the results.

If you're willing to be patient with getting a handle on the "how to use it" part of unleashing this tool on your own PC, it's well worth the goldmine of lost and supposedly unrecoverably damaged files that it digs up along the way. A PC user's best friend in a pinch, and this gal's favourite secret weapon while defending the consumer computing universe.


CyberTech Help

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Okay, so you've unleashed those two big cans of whoop-butt on your PC. You've used PC Inspector to find your digital lost sheep, and PC Pitstop to diagnose a host of other electronic demons, but you're absolutely stumped about how to exorcise that one last little nasty that keeps hanging around. Now what?

Off to the CyberTech Help desk to throw yourself at the mercy of the pro's, or at least at the hands of a couple of sage old computer gurus who seem to find nirvana in hanging out at this digital water cooler doling out advice to the legions of electronically lost souls.

Whether you're struggling to understand the jargon that your repair tool has just thrown at you, can't find the right drivers to solve the argument between your printer and scanner, or just don't know where to start when it comes to tackling some hangover that's still haunting you from that last virus, you will do well to bring your shaking of fists and knashing of teeth here. offers free computer help and support for all Windows, Linux & Macintosh Operating Systems, Computer Hardware, PC Networking, Computer Software, Web & Graphic Design, Internet / Browsers / E-mail, Computer Viruses & Trojans, and Game issues.

The cost to you? Zilch. Zero. Nada. As a member you can access any number of tutorials and How-To Guides designed to walk you through some of the most common issues and complaints, or head straight to the forums to challenge any of the other 10,000 members to step up and offer a little advice.

CyberTech Help is a great example of how powerful an online community can be in supporting the consumer computing population no matter how critical or seemingly unsolvable the challenge. My first personal experience lead to an answer from a knowledgeable community member in less than 5 minutes. He directed me to a tool (a free one, nonetheless) that provided a fast and efficient fix-up on a problem I'd been batting my head on for more than a week.

So if you're stumped by PC Pitstop reporting a problem you just have to fix, post a link to your diagnosis on these boards, and you can bet help is on the way.


Viruses, and Trojans, and Worms -- Oh My!

Missed the last show on dealing with the host of new viruses and worms that announced themselves in the worst week for computer viruses in computing history? You can still help yourself to the tips and the tools here ...


A Note from Sue ...

Click here to visit Sue Braiden's personal website So you're wondering who won the "Favourite Family Resources" contest?

gentle listener :)

While no one entered to win the "Fun & Skills Pack", we do have a winner for the "Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 for PC" software. Deborah Russell and her family will be enjoying the dynamic game pack. The resource suggested by our winner?

"Our family loves to learn about the environment and explore our world through its plants, animals and marine life. One of our favourite websites is the Discovery Channel. It is rich in resources and activities which inspire and encourage learning. I hope you will enjoy it as much as we do."

I know we will, Deborah. Thanks for suggesting such a terrific family resource!

Paul Vasey drew Deborah's name from the eligible contest entrants live on the air during my last show on August 25th. Congratulations Deborah!

Have some thoughts on what you'd like to see covered in future shows? Be sure to visit the Listeners Picks forum to tell me about it. I'm always looking for great new stories to share.

Have a terrific Monday morning, and let's keep talking!



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