I can’t count the number of people who either beg me for computer help or tell me I should be fixing computers as a side job. Truth be told, I could probably keep busy at it, and bring in a few bucks.
But I’d be miserable.
When someone hands me a computer, they’re not just handing me a chunk of metal, they’re handing me their headache. Sure, I may have a better idea of how to soothe that headache, but it’s a headache for me nonetheless. That computer is just as slow, just as broken, just as virus-riddled for me as it is for them.
People compare computer repair to automotive repair, but this is a bad analogy. Most of the time, the problem with an automobile is mechanical: the mechanic swaps the brakes, replaces the alternator, maybe rebuilds the transmission, and the car’s ready to go. If it were truly like computer repair, the mechanic would swap the brakes and they’d fly apart in a week. He’d replace the alternator, and the battery would stop holding a charge. He’d rebuild the tranny, and third gear would be inexplicably missing. See, when we take out some viruses, they sometimes take part of the system with them. Or they just won’t go away and we have to reinstall from scratch, which is like tearing everything out from under the hood and replacing it all just to fix a funny noise.
There may be Zen in motorcycle engine repair, but there’s nothing Zen about computer repair. There are things that work just fine on one computer, but refuse to work on an identical system because one file you’ll never find got corrupted. It becomes a time suck because you have to reboot every time you try something, and you have to sit and wait for system updates and virus scans to finish (which the user often couldn’t be bothered with). Troubleshooting isn’t detective work, it’s searching Google and praying some poor bastard smarter than you already ran into the problem and found a solution.
Then comes dealing with the human element. Sure, most of them are thrilled their computer’s fixed and are happy to write a check, but every so often you get the assholes. They tell you to go ahead and reinstall Windows and assure you there’s nothing on the system they need, then flip out because junior’s graduation pics were on there. They get the computer back and threaten to throw it out the window because it’s still slow. They expect you to work miracles with their eight-year-old piece of shit and threaten to tell everyone they know that you don’t know what you’re doing.
I deal with enough of that in my day job. Why would I want to invite that into my personal time?