This is an expensive and necessary part of computer ownership. You can save yourself some time and money if you attempt to diagnose the problem on your own. Also, by explaining everything that happened to the machine.. including what you did to it.. will help us with the repair.
The most important thing you can do to keep your machine out of our repair department is to install a good virus and spyware scanner. Keep it up-to-date and run a scan regularly. Also, make sure that you check the Windows Update site and install all the Security Patches. Finally, remove any software that you no longer use.. and do not install any program unless you intend to use it. Bad things will still happen, but at least you have done your best. We will be here when you need us.
There are some links at the bottom that will help you diagnose some other problems. If you have run one of these scans, and it has found something, make sure that you print out the results page and bring it with you.
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PC Tune Up
Online Virus Scan
Online Spyware Scan