The ten "Prime Directives" of repairing and upgrading tech


I've been an avid "fixer" of things for almost four decades. One of my earliest memories is of helping my grandfather fix a broken antique clock (I don't remember what part I played beyond the fact that the job required my expert application of a little yellow plastic hammer). We must have fixed it because it worked for another decade before it finally broke terminally.

As I grew up I progressed onto bikes, then TVs and other assorted appliances (back in the day when all you looked for was a valve that wasn't glowing like the others, which you replaced with another one that looked the same), and then cars (lots of cars) before coming to PCs and consumer electronics, which is where I've been for over twenty years.

Now I'm not going to try to fool you into thinking that I'm some "fixing guru" or "tech ninja". I'm not. While I have a pretty high success rate when it comes to resuscitating things, I've had plenty of failures too, and been responsible for letting the magic smoke out of a lot of devices by doing something daft.

But over that time I've built up a set of rules that I keep in mind when fixing things. I call them the " Prime Directives," not because I'm a huge Star Trek fan, but because they're important, and bad things tend to happen when I violate them.

I present them here in no particular order.

#1: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

This one belongs right at the top.

If something is working, leave it alone. Don't mess with it. Don't try to make it better. Don't fiddle with it.

Just let it do its thing.

I've lost count of the number of times I've come across someone who read or heard about some "tweak" that would make their PC or router or network faster (most of the time pursuing some snake-oil nonsense someone made up), dive in with the best of intentions and then break the thing they were trying to make better.

My philosophy nowadays is that when I buy something, I set it up and then leave it to do its thing until it needs updating or it breaks.

#2: Never say "I'll have that fixed in five minutes"

At least until you've troubleshooted the problem and know what the fix it. Even then, expect the unexpected!

Like Star Trek's Mr Scott, I'd much rather give a pessimistic timeframe and go on to impress, than an optimistic one and go on to disappoint.

#3: Just wait a minute.

You would be amazed how many problems go away if you give it a minute or two. This is especially true of network and internet-related issues. Yes, it might be worth having a quick look through the logs to see what happened so you can perhaps stop it happening again, but unless you promise (or demand) high reliability, don't start chasing it.

Give the problem a chance to catch its breath and it might just fix itself.

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