IT's dog day of PC woes

A tech call about a troublesome workstation for a remote client results in a memorable on-site visit

When supporting clients remotely, "thinking outside the box" takes on a whole new meaning when you can't see the problem in person.

I work for a company that provides IT support to a variety of businesses. One of our long-term clients moved its operations to an adjacent state. We had been monitoring the company's systems for several years, and the client asked us to continue with our support.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Batten down the hatches, there's an IT rogue on the loose! Here's how to spot admins gone bad and how to minimize the fallout. | Get a new tech tale in your inbox every week in InfoWorld's Off the Record newsletter or follow Off the Record on Twitter. ]

Since we had remote access the majority of the time and the office manager possessed above-average technical knowledge, it seemed like a reasonable idea to accept the offer. The arrangement hummed along successfully for many months.

Off the Record submissions

One day, I received a phone call early in the morning from this client, saying that one of the workstations would not boot beyond the BIOS screen. Over the phone, I offered many solutions, but nothing would remedy the situation.

So I filled the truck up with gas and set off on my 70-mile (one-way) journey to the client's location. The company had agreed to pay travel and mileage.

When I arrived, I discovered two things. First, the owner's friend had recently gotten a new puppy and had brought it into the office. It was a tiny teacup Yorkie -- cutest thing you ever saw and into everything. I also found the situation as reported: The PC would boot through the BIOS, beep once, and freeze.

I took the unit apart and set it up on the desk with the cover off for inspection, then started putting it back together. I had reconnected the monitor, but not the keyboard or mouse, when I plugged in the power cord. The PC started on its own and booted normally. I plugged in the keyboard and mouse, and the unit froze. I replaced the keyboard with a new one, and the unit again refused to boot. I connected a new mouse, and it booted normally.

The problem was obviously the mouse, but why?

I looked again. On close inspection I found what looked like one tiny needle-sharp tooth mark in the insulation of the mouse cord. You hear about puppies chewing everything in sight, but it appeared that this puppy had bitten the cord only once, and very neatly at that, causing a short-circuit or completely cutting a wire.

The resolution: a $10 mouse replacement. Total cost, including travel expenses, parts, and labor: about $300.

Get a $50 American Express gift cheque if we publish your tech experiences. Send your story of a lesson learned, of dealing with frustrating coworkers or end-users, or a story that illustrates a relevant takeaway to today's IT profession to

This story, "IT's dog day of PC woes," was originally published at Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.