“Before you rush to call for outside help, conduct an online search for your problem. Type in the exact wording of the error message you receive or describe the trouble you’re experiencing. Then look for results on message boards run by computer companies such as Microsoft and Apple. If you would rather not solve the problem yourself, ask someone who works for your company’s IT team (or the consultant who handles your workplace tech issues) if he does freelance fixes outside the office. Since he doesn’t have overhead costs, he may charge 25 percent less than a repair service, and you can rest assured that your equipment is in good hands. If you must use an outside IT service, bring your computer to the shop rather than having the technician come to your home. The inconvenience will cut the cost of the repair by at least a quarter.
“Additionally, it’s wise to use a low-cost automatic backup service, like iDrive.com or Carbonite.com. These cloud-storage sites are located in secure data centers and allow you to maintain a second set of all your files for as little as $5 a month. That way, even if your computer crashes, you won’t lose everything—and you won’t have to pay a few hundred dollars for a repairman to bring all your data back.”