Can’t Access Own Computer

(WSVN) - Your computer, your iPad and your smartphone. It’s where you store information, pictures and phone numbers. Now, what would you do if you were locked out of it and could not access all your treasured information? It happens, of course, and it’s why one South Florida woman called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

For thousands of years, when you said Apple, people thought of the fruit. Today, when Apple is mentioned, chances are MacBook Pros and iPads immediately come to mind.

Maria Teresa Cerqueira: “When I bought the laptop five years ago, the guy said that you could put the whole University of Texas library into this laptop. I went, ‘Ohh, yeah. I want this one.'”

Maria didn’t put the entire library in her MacBook Pro, but she sure downloaded a lot of important items.

Maria Teresa Cerqueira: “I have pictures of my sons, of my family. I have lectures, because I did some teaching.”

Then one day, she tried to sign in.

Maria Teresa Cerqueira: “And mind you, this is a password I’ve used for five years, and it didn’t accept it. It said it was invalid.”

Maria tried again and again with no luck, then turned to Apple.

Maria Teresa Cerqueira: “They took me through this ‘command R’ thing to reset it, and I wasn’t able to reset it, so they repeated it, repeated it, and suddenly this lock came on.”

A lock is a scary logo if you need to get into your computer, but the Apple tech had a suggestion.

Maria Teresa Cerqueira: “And they said, ‘You should have a password for your firm lock.’ I didn’t even know there was a firm lock on the device.”

Next stop, the Apple Store, where Maria was told, if she could show the original receipt from the purchase of the laptop five years ago, they could help her.

Maria Teresa Cerqueira: “I said, ‘Oh, my goodness, I bought it in el Paso back in 2013, then I moved,’ and you know, when you move, things get lost.”

Without that proof of purchase, Maria could not access her priceless pictures and the lectures she had written.

Maria Teresa Cerqueira: “There’s plenty of evidence in the device that they could look at to make sure it’s my device and nobody else’s.”

Your laptop is a great thing — unless you can’t use it.

Maria Teresa Cerqueira: “I feel very frustrated.”

Well, Howard, if you own a device, can a manufacturer refuse to help you unlock it?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Yes, they can, unless you can prove you own the device. They do that to protect you from a thief who could steal your computer and access your private information. The downside of that protection? Proving you bought something years ago can be very difficult if you don’t have a receipt, and who keeps a receipt for years?”

Every option Maria had was bad. She could erase her computer and start over, but she would lose everything she had stored. Most of her materials are on iCloud, but she needed her password to access that.

Finally, we contacted Apple. They talked to Maria and told her they were able to confirm she had bought that MacBook in Texas in 2013. They then helped her access her computer.

Maria Teresa Cerqueira: “I was so excited, like a kid when Santa Claus brings you the best gift.”

Easy access again, after that call to Help Me Howard.

Maria Teresa Cerqueira: “There was a way. It just needed to be higher up, and that’s where you guys came in. I’m so happy. Thank you, thank you.”

Glad we could help. Now, besides keeping your passwords and original receipt for electronics, there is another important thing to do: keep your computer backed up to an external hard drive. Not only can you start over if you get locked out. If your computer is destroyed or stolen, you still have all your pictures and files to download into a new device.

Blocked and locked out of solving a problem? Finding a hard drive to get it fixed? Download our contact information. We’ll search the cloud for an answer.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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