I recently broke one of my own rules and agreed to configure a notebook computer as a favor to a friend. The notebook belongs to the owner and president of a company that generates $10 million in annual revenue but has fewer than 10 people in office operations and no internal IT support.

As usual, when configuring a computer for a non-technical user, I made sure that all system protection tools were installed and active, including antivirus, antispyware, and disk clean-up software and a firewall. However, I wasn’t able to lock down the computer and create a limited-capability account because the owner wanted full administrative rights, despite not needing them.

As you've probably guessed, a few months later I received a request to solve a problem the computer was having. Initially, I heard that the problem was that the desktop background kept changing, but by the time I had the computer in hand, it was regularly experiencing the blue screen of death. Not surprisingly, after I got the virus-scanning utilities running, they removed a selection of viruses and Trojan horses from the system. When the system was up, I discovered that nothing on the computer, including the OS itself, had been updated in almost six months. The antivirus protection was outdated, and none of the OS patches issued by Microsoft had been applied. Although few of the updates required user intervention because I had configured automatic updates and installations whenever possible, the computer's owner had ignored the updates that did require a user to click in a pop-up window. Antivirus scans and applications such as Windows Defender that I had set up to run at night--at the request of the company--were never run because the computer wasn't left on overnight.

After quite a few reboots, Web site visits, and installations, I sent the notebook back to its owner along with a set of instructions about how to keep it updated. Maybe the owner will follow my directions, although I hold little hope of that happening; the last I heard, if there are any more problems the owner wants the computer wiped and everything reinstalled. I simply said that if I see that notebook again, I'll bill at my full hourly rate--the rate for customers who don't follow directions.