Software

20 off-the-wall emails from the technically clueless

Help my computer

Here at TechRepublic, our editors get lots of email--questions, compliments, criticism, and plenty of spam. We do our best to respond.

But sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we just can't decipher what the sender is asking for. And other times, what they're asking for is illegal, impractical, or just bizarre.?Here's a look at some of the more interesting ones. I've blacked out the names and email addresses to protect the innocent (or clueless).

Just know that my goal is not to discourage people from asking questions. Rather, I hope these emails encourage those with legitimate questions to do a little leg work before hitting the Send button. Browse the TechRepublic blogs and forums. Use our site search to find material relevant to your query. Or at the very least, enter your question into a search engine. If you're still unable to find a solution (and you're not asking for an Windows XP CD key), then by all means, ask away.

Image by Bill Detwiler / TechRepublic
Captions by Bill Detwiler

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

311 comments
jjocke
jjocke

3 year old re-used content, c'mon guys don't be so lazy.  Maybe version 2 of this story would be more relevant (and amusing)

malvailk
malvailk

Funny stuff... :)  It's obvious to me that a lot of these people are not native English speakers (btw, neither am I...), which makes it sometimes difficult to get the 

Joey Indolos
Joey Indolos

Most of these are not just technically clueless, as the title puts it, but just plain clueless, period.  No matter what subject you write about, or even just personal correspondence, to write in that manner is just plain mind boggling.

And some of them are downright lies.  A system admin who doesn't know how to back up?  Really?  That's like claiming you're an expert driver, but you're just good at using the pedals and gear shift, but don't know how to use the steering wheel.

But I was amused by the love letter.  Who knew?  Somebody has a nerd fetish!  :D

sakosky1
sakosky1

While the questions are amusing, I find the utter lack of communication skills demonstrated in the emails to be deplorable.  Especially considering that some emails are coming from individuals in a "professional" occupation.  One might wonder what their resume looked like: "I was learned it skills from the ie6."  Most of the skills that are lacking are taught in elementary school.  So sad.

jfa20733
jfa20733

These are a riot. They cracked me up. I love it.. You got to have a sense of humor in the computer business.

it.helpdesk100
it.helpdesk100

Some of the e-mails are really Scary :)

Merry Christmas !

RobertMoore12
RobertMoore12

The one asking about a Gateway user name and password is real simple. Either they jumper the motherboard to reset the password in bios if hardware password or use the NT password reset program that works for all versions of windows from NT onward, including XP and win 8. That can be downloaded directly from MS.

krisoccer
krisoccer

I have been the recipient of similar emails in the past that make little or no sense. With written communication more important than ever (as we all spend more time online in email, social media, et al!), I don't understand how people with poor communication skills ever get anything done!

bmongm
bmongm

I didn't read all the comments but it is obvious to me that most if not all these emails came from non American members - like from India, or east European countries where their command of the English language is lacking. So some may not be as "clueless" as they seem, but that can't be said for all of them...

budly
budly

Talk about being technically clueless, your slideshow doesn't work in firefox 26.
Go clean your own house before you start trashing others.

sgamby_joejr
sgamby_joejr

With all due respect, the slideshow really demonstrated the lack of grammar most people have in regards to composing a coherent correspondence.  I am quite surprised.

jayohem
jayohem

A few of the letters sound like the type of poetry that would warm the heart of Gertrude Stein. Others do seem to be language problems, and some of them sound like something their teacher made them write.

dhlund
dhlund

Such is the price of your fame and apparently global reputation for knowledge of all things beginning with bits & bytes on up that you receive solicitations to be a "computer friend" of one correspondent and the object of affection of another. I realize that formalities are somewhat compromised in online verbal communication but it boggles the mind that many of these writers have no concept of basic sentence structure or that the syntax of their communication is so garbled or non-existent as to make themselves incomprehensible. It is frightening to glean from these emails that many of the authors hold relatively high level positions with broad responsibilities. I fear that the emergence of the internet has exponentially increased the numbers of examples that "The Peter Principle" is alive and well in the 21st century.

radar_z
radar_z

Premise: I don't think all these people are stupid. What I do think is that our public education system has failed many of these folks. Computer/social networking shorthand has further ruined whatever these people may have learned about sentence construction, spelling, grammar and clarity of thought. Not everyone needs a college education, but the three Rs are still essential, basic, building blocks for learning other subjects and for communication. President Bush wanted no child left behind. Unfortunately he and Congress and our state education leaders don't know we are leaving millions of children behind. These emails are proof of that opinion.

Frank_Boston
Frank_Boston

Wow, I'd completely forgotten EDLIN. Even in the DOS days, I didn't use it...! (PC-Write was way better...)

ClintonEv
ClintonEv

This is the kind of person that tells everyone that they built there own awesome machine from scratch, but fails to mention that they have to take it to someone else when there is a simple problem. But kudos for trying i guess.

penngwyn
penngwyn

I think you trusted your spellchecker on this....

premiertechnologist
premiertechnologist

As either funny / appalling as these emails may be, you should see the official letters I received from IT Management during my last year working for local government supporting the IBM Mainframe as a systems programmer. I read them, as did several others, and they made no logical sense at all -- none. It isn't clear what the problem really is, but it's a big one and it is also scary to think the millions of dollars they control each year between the two IT Managers who are married to each other in open violation of County Law against conflict of interest. It is your tax dollars at work and the fact that it includes Federal Grants for millions of dollars really does make it a problem for all tax payers in the United States. Fortunately, they RIFfed me and I'm retired, having a great time. I learned one thing the hard way: Do not work for narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths and nut jobs who are immoral, unethical and illegal, asking you to do illegal things (like, "You will lie to IBM!") -- it just isn't worth it. No one can solve people problems with technology, neither can anyone solve technological problems with politics. It just appears to me in my limited experience of over 41 years in IT, that the world is seriously deteriorating and professionals in the United States are passing the baton to Generation Whine. The result is a dysfunctional environment of unqualified people where it is impossible to be incompetent. Moreover, management is totally incompetent, cutting budgets, but demanding more product / service in the vain belief that some how the quality triangle can be cheated and it just has to be possible for the lowly workers to produce quality cheaper and faster. The overworked is simply the collateral damage. Hiring incompetents as demonstrated by at least some of these emails is an indication that there is a decided decline in the standards and measurements for ascertaining competence in the work place. This is not an harbinger of anything good. (But truthfully, I can see how many could find Bill so appealing ;) )

Ole88
Ole88

Bill - That's not a TS rabbit hole, it's a TS Black Hole! If you are successful at helping even slightly solve the problem you are destined to receive many more that give bizarre a run for the money

ChiefEngr
ChiefEngr

Nice article Bill! I've always said, "If you want better answers, ask better questions!" Now, let's talk about language: Good heavens people, learn how to write! I am not just referring to the authors of these awful help requests, but to nearly every one of the people who responded to this article. Practically EVERY response here has spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization or other errors in it. I have worked for many years with people from over 35 different countries for who English is not their first language. I've seen things in broken English that are sometimes difficult to understand. But I must disagree with the respondents who suggest that we need to "cut some slack" to the requestors in this article because English is not their first language. It is very easy to tell when someone who speaks a different tongue is trying to communicate in English -- there are grammatical constructs in their native language that get imposed into the English statements. That is not the case here -- these writers are (to be blunt) either illiterate, lazy, or a combination of the two. Without trying to sound too radical, it is a clear illustration of the decline of society's communication skills. As professionals, we need to set better examples. When we communicate, both in written and spoken forms, we need to use the language properly. We need to make sure we use proper grammar, correct spelling and appropriate punctuation and capitalization. We are the most connected society that has ever existed, yet our communication skills seem to have dropped completely off the scale. Let's clean it up, people. All of these grammatical tools and rules were created to help us convey our messages clearly and without misunderstanding. If you need an example, just remember that capitalization is the difference between helping your Uncle Jack off a horse, or your uncle jack off a horse.

sightsandsounds
sightsandsounds

can you send ME the key for that bREALLY Expensive Adobe Photoshop ???? PLEASE ????

sherriperry
sherriperry

Hi Bill, I enjoyed reading all the "tech" questions. Some were really funny and some were an attempt at trying to decipher a code used for sending messages to the enemy! Thanks for sharing

flanative27
flanative27

I won't deny it. The English language is one of the most difficult languages to learn, much less master. How do you keep your wits about you when trying to decipher the "gobbledygook" you receive? You probably have enough of this grammatical sludge to write a book--for those who could read it, of course.....

sparent
sparent

The requests for product keys do make you wonder. Did they come from areas of the world where piracy is the norm rather than the exception?

GriffinTech
GriffinTech

Not to want to take anymore of your time to read the comment after wasting several minutes reading the emails, so I will sum it up in one word. Stupid!

wizzard2012
wizzard2012

Image 10 - Maybe TechRepublic should get into the dating game? :-)

mrdelurk
mrdelurk

Am I supposed to help someone who won't even respect me by using correct capitalization and spelling? Do I have feathers on my back to be taken for a bird? I'm not just the "computer guy" at the firm but also the first checker of the incoming resumes. Go ahead, send me an "i liked ur video i am so thankfull" style inquiry. In WordPerfect format, of course. With a 12MB TIFF attachment of your mug. Showing zero experience in our field, but huge expertise as a tree trimmer. In South Kuala Lumpur. Willing to relocate at our cost if we hire you unseen. Because you are eager to learn anything new. As long as it's not capitalization and spelling, apparently. And not cc-ing IBM, Wal-Mart, Campbell Soup, MGM and the White House.

MadMichaelJohn
MadMichaelJohn

does he even have a vid card in the box. ...Monitor problem 1... where is the port to plug into?

viggenboy
viggenboy

Hey Bill, don't get too big headed here that you are the only person who gets these- on my mail servers we get this identical email to random users 40+ time a week. In an article about naivety I think you're being a bit naive yourself if you thought you're the only person that got this!!

Northern Lite
Northern Lite

Hi Bill, I must present a case for the "technically clueless," especially within public institutions. I have been a technical writer within the public domain, in Canada, since 1977. A great many people in my "audience" went into the Civil Service after high school. They would start out as Border guards in the 60s, 70s, and are frankly close to retirement. The computer-based assets of their jobs was never intended to replace them, but was simply intended as a means of enhancing, and automating/simplifying their jobs by providing information to front line officers, who were engaged in the prevention of entry ofr people who could present a threat to my country (and the U.S.A.). Say, someone didn't have at least the benefits of an advanced education, but had a front-line exposure to the computer assets of their job, and made excellent use of them to prevent garbage from entering MY country. These people - the "front-line" defence of my country will go home after a shift, cook dinner, sit with their families and watch TV. Are they expected to be interested in the computer? Their kids would probably be more expert in the operation of a "machine" in the home environment than they. As an older IT guy, I am deeply offended by the "Technically Clueless" thread of this discourse, and all of the sterling humans that I have encountered in my career. Kindly kill this thread, and any others that may ensue.

Shrike49
Shrike49

May God Help You Bill, and the rest of US!!

Shadeburst
Shadeburst

"Is there anything available in the net for WINY2K and Lotus notes?" My one-word reply: "Yes."

GuntherGump
GuntherGump

It's fun to read these requests for help. I've got some crazy ones too, but none of them have ever offered to be my computer buddy. Maybe I'm doing something wrong. ;)

kai
kai

"Are you for real?" is hilarious, not because the person who sent the message is technically clueless but because the putz that received it actually believes it might be a real person?!?!? Its a BOT, half of these that are tech republic messages are from bots. I've seen the same messages come through on non-computer related community sites and forums. I also have to marvel at some of the replies on here - laughing at someone because they thought SCSI was spelled scuzzy? I wonder how many people on here know how to change an oil filter in their car, or the transmission fluid? As for the poor spelling - like I said a bunch of these tech republic messages are from bots. Many bots use poor spelling so they can blast out many variations of the same message so they can get past filters yet still send a message that seems vaguely relevant to the subject of the site you're on. Others: well, some people are just stupid there's no doubt about it, but there are also (now hold onto your seats, I don't want to shock any of you computer people) some people, just a few of them, in the world who don't grow up speaking English. I wonder how many languages you speak?

jasonahoughton
jasonahoughton

Why in at least 99% of those posts is their English so bad? didnt any of these people go to school They should be embarrassed.

searbe
searbe

This is hilarious!

JonathanPDX
JonathanPDX

Unfortunately, it's a lot more common than it should be. If you have never seen the movie "Idiocracy", perhaps you should check it out. The movie leaves a lot to be desired, but the message it conveys is truly frightening because it is so very true.

blahx
blahx

I see what you did there...

pmshah
pmshah

@bmongmYou seem to have axe to grind against us Indians. Just for your information Indians speak and write far more accurate AND correct English as compared to an average American ! But then I am talking about Queen's English. BTW it was invented in England and not the US !!!!

No one special
No one special

@bmongm I sure hope you're right. But from what I've seen, it wouldn't surprise me at all to learn that a few of these incoherent messages came from U.S. born and raised citizens.

n2add
n2add

@Frank_Boston 

PC-Write was a great word processor and text editor. Too bad Windows killed it off.

sparent
sparent

Last time I checked, lying was not an offense under civil or criminal law codes. (Of course, perjury and fraud are special exceptions to this statement.)

sparent
sparent

I did find a grammar mistake in my post. I corrected it. You might want to fix up those multiple question marks in your post.