How To Become a Tech Support Superhero

Category: Software

A well-prepared adventurer never leaves home without his trusty Swiss Army knife. Similarly, you need a portable arsenal of troubleshooting tools to solve the most common computer problems. Load these tech support utilities on a USB flash drive and your friends and family will think you're a tech support superhero! Read on for your tech support toolkit...

Your Tech Support Toolkit

When writing this article, I was reminded of an old friend at IBM who was an avid spelunker (cave explorer). He always wore boots to work, because, he said, "You never know when a cave might pop up in the machine room!" It's also true that you never know when your laptop, or a friend's computer, may start acting up.

All of these handy programs are free, but they also share another important common factor. They don't require any installation, because they're designed to be portable. The ability to run them directly from the USB drive is important for several reasons. First, on a badly infected system, sometimes you can't even install new software. A virus may be blocking the introduction of new software, or the Windows installer may be broken. Also, some programs require administrator privileges to install, which presents a hurdle if the admin password is unknown.

#1 -- Malware infection (viruses, spyware and other nasties) is one of the most common problems. Some malware even disables the security software found on the infected hard drive. In such cases, a portable antimalware program stored safely on a USB drive is a lifesaver. Emsisoft Emergency Kit Portable is a free malware scanner and remover for Windows 7-11 that can be run from a USB drive without installing it on the target system. Emsisoft Emergency Kit will scan your computer for viruses, spyware, adware, keyloggers and other malicious programs.

Tech Support Software

#2 -- If you run into a problem that Emsisoft Emergency Kit can't fix, check out my article Offline Malware Scanners for details on a class of anti-malware tools that will clean up malware infections on systems that won't even start Windows.

#3 -- One form of malware that's particulary difficult to detect and remove is the rootkit. On infected systems, it can't hurt to use a dedicated rootkit removal tool such as Kaspersky's TDSSKiller Portable. Just remember this isn't a substitute for a full anti-virus tool.

#4,5 -- If your hard drive appears to be mangled, don't give up hope before trying TestDisk. This powerful portable utility can recover lost hard drive partitions, and fix problems with drives that won't boot up. TestDisk will analyze your disk, partitions, boot sector, and can help you recover deleted files, and even rebuild scrambled file systems. Another file recovery program I've found useful is Recuva.

#6,7 -- Some programs cannot be uninstalled by the Windows "Add/Remove Programs" function. For those stubborn clingers, try the Revo Uninstaller program. If you are trying to rid a brand-new system of all the unnecessary junk programs that came installed on it, try the free Bulk Crap Uninstaller utility.

#8 -- In cases where Internet Explorer or Edge is not functioning, and no other browser is installed, the portable version of Chrome or Mozilla Firefox will help you get access to the Web, so you can find diagnostic information, updated drivers, or any additional software you may need. Since they run from your flash drive, the portable browser won't leave anything behind (cookies, history, cache) on the machine where you run it. You can also customize the portable version with your bookmarks and extensions.

#9 -- In a similar vein, if Microsoft Word or Excel is totally hosed (or no office suite is installed) the portable Libre Office will do very nicely as a substitute. Libre Office is drop-in replacement for MS Office, including a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation tool and other utilities. It can even read and write MS Office files.

#10 -- I can't count the number of times I've been away from my computer, and needed to edit a photo or other type of image file. IrfanView is a handy graphic viewer and editor, supporting many file formats, basic editing (crop, resize), effects (sharpen, blur), screen capture and other image management features.

#11 -- CCleaner helps you cleans up unused files, settings, resource-hogging applications, and out-of-date drivers which can make your PC faster.

#12 -- TeamViewer is an app for remote support, remote access, allowing you to assist friends and family members remotely.

#13 -- Speccy Portable is a helpful system information tool that can tell you what's under the hood of your computer. Knowing the specs of your processor, RAM memory, video card, hard drive and more can sometimes help with diagnosing a problem.

#14 -- And just for completeness, I recommend that you add NirLauncher to your tech support arsenal. It includes over 200 portable freeware utilities, such as AppCrashView (Displays the details of all application crashes), BlueScreenView (Shows information about blue screen crashes), CurrProcess (Displays a list of all processes currently running), WhatInStartup (disable/enable/delete programs that are loaded at Windows startup), and many more.

Hit the Reset Button

For badly borked systems, you may be tempted to just hit a big red Reset Button and start from scratch. It's possible to restore your computer to that shiny just-out-of-the-box condition, but I recommend caution. See my article [RESET BUTTON] Restore Your PC To Factory Defaults? for details on that process.

So what's in your tech support toolbox? Post your comment or question below...

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This article was posted by on 6 Jun 2024

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Most recent comments on "How To Become a Tech Support Superhero"

Posted by:

06 Jun 2024


You usually recommend we only download from the actual apps own website. Many of your links in this article take me to portableapps dot com.

Is this website how you are now recommending we get our downloads from?

If so, I wonder the reasoning?

Posted by:

Joe Farkas
06 Jun 2024

Hi Bob, Your proposed collection of the service and repair utilities sounds impressive. In the past, I found some computers infected with very malicious items so that anytime any USB Drive was inserted, it immediately erased it. Thus, I found that either putting the utilities on a bootable CD or USB formatted perhaps with Rufus and make the USB "Read Only", could make the cleaning more robust.

Posted by:

06 Jun 2024

Hi Bob,
Old article. CCleaner no longer downloads from anywhere. Avast bought it out. Sad if you ask me.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Not true! Even though Avast bought Piriform in 2017, the product is still active and various versions (including the Portable one) can be downloaded at the link I gave.

Posted by:

06 Jun 2024

Ccleaner has been called into question by a number of other reviewers recently?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Link please?

Posted by:

06 Jun 2024

Why the Browsers Chrome and Firefox? There is only 1 browser I will use on my computers (I have 9), Brave! Other browsers CLAIM to be safe, Brave is closest to that claim. No, it is not completely safe, you still have to exercise caution, but it will save you in cases other browsers will not.

Posted by:

Ernest N. Wilcox jr. (Oldster)
06 Jun 2024

I see several useful comments here. I have one question: Am I the only reader who ran into multiple security warnings (I use Microsoft Defender for Windows 11) when I attempted to install NirLauncher? Based on my experience, I strongly recommend that no one install this tool set, or do so at your own risk. Additionally, I suggest that Bob check out the current version of NirLauncher to ensure that it's safe to download and install. If it is, then perhaps he should add commentary indicating that all the threat warnings are false positives.

Ernie (Oldster)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, definitely a false positive.

Posted by:

07 Jun 2024

This is an informative article, and I also found the comments very helpful. Yes! I am cautious with many of the software download sites, and I go directly to the main business site, being very cautions of most secondary/alternate download sites. There is always a danger that some of those sites could be compromised, and any authentic software may have some malware "attached" to it. I say, do the research before downloading anything. I would prefer to err on the side of caution. Sometimes "free" software can also be compromised, or it may install advertisement software. I'm also very leery of NirLauncher. In summary: There is good information presented here; however, always exercise caution!

Posted by:

Hugh Gautier
07 Jun 2024

Boy, are you behind the power curve, when I retired from the Navy, back in 1996 I was already doing that. Folks would call me with their Windows problem, and I'd ask a few questions basically to get some background of when this "problem" had first manifest itself.
Then by asking if the person (his or her) could use the mouse, the tab key. the CTRL, ALT, and Windows keys, along with the arrow keys. If their response is positive then I ask them to go to the control panel.
I did this to a guy who later became a very good friend. He called me at home and said that he'd lost the mouse. He was typing a contract it was there and then it was gone and he didn't know how to fix it. I walked him through the steps to refresh his mouse drivers, what he should do, and then what he'd see as the response from the computer. At one time he asked if I was at my computer, and I responded no I was watching 3 squirrels playing in a tree in the front yard. I found out later he had an FHP Officer having a contract for his move to central Florida when that mouse problem arose. Needless to say, he hit the wrong key and it reverted him back to the beginning of the mouse driver renewal. I got him back to where he ought to be. When we were finishing I gave him some news that he didn't want to hear, He'd have to reboot his computer for the change I'd had him install to take place. He was not in the least bit happy, but, his client said better do what he told you to do, or your dead in the water.
So while he was talking to me on the phone I drove over to his office which was about 3 minutes from my home, put a finger over my lips to the FHP man so that he wouldn't let Joe know that I was in his office as well until I tapped him on the shoulder. I asked if he'd like to speak to me face to face, his mouse was working correctly now. I asked leading questions, and he did the repair of his system and didn't realize it at all. This happened about 1998, the OS was Windows 95 and the location was a Penske Truck Rental in Fort Walton Beach, FL.

Posted by:

jerry owen
07 Jun 2024

Defender flags everything I get from NirSoft, not just the recommendations in this article. However I have not had any other issues with NirSoft software. It works just fine.

EDITOR'S NOTE: False positive, and Professional jealousy! :-)

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- How To Become a Tech Support Superhero (Posted: 6 Jun 2024)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved