I don't know what to say to IT people who tell me that Microsoft Windows crashes once or twice or six times a day. It sounds rude to say, "Oh, I didn't realise you were incompetent." But that is usually the case.
"Yes," I reply, "I have a similar problem. My car crashes twice a day on the way to work. I don't know how Ford gets away with it." At least this amuses the people who know I don't have a car and don't drive.
I've spent a decade using Windows 3/95/98/Me, and I am well aware of its deficiencies. Like a car, it is absurdly sensitive to driver quality. It does a very poor job of defending itself against low-level utilities. When it gets truly scrambled, a clean reinstallation is the only cure.
From experience, I know that when correctly set up on decent hardware Windows doesn't crash more than about once a month. If it crashes much more than that then something is broken, and you should take the trouble to sort it out.
It may be a hardware problem, such as a faulty connection, a badly-designed sound card, or a failed fan leading to overheating. In one unusual case, I found the "problem with Windows" was actually a loose blanking plate shorting the motherboard, and in another, the processor cache had gone bad.
Those of us who fix broken PCs for friends also know that there are certain programs that should to be dumped in the bit bucket, and that 3D screensavers and power management can be more trouble than they are worth.
Yes, I agree that none of this should be necessary. Yes, I know some IT professionals are forced to run Windows 3/95/98 by the need to run certain software, even though they know they should be using Windows NT4/2000 or Solaris/BSD/ Linux instead.
But, if that is the case, do it right. Because however bad Windows is, the real reason why your PC crashes all the time is because you are too lazy or too stupid to fix it.
Jack Schofield is computer editor of the Guardian.
This was first published in June 2000