More Insider Secrets
Tech support for your parents
If you're visiting your parents over the holidays, it's a good time to bring the parents' computer up-to-date or to make sure it's protected from viruses and the like. (Consider doing so whether or not they ask you!) When you're packing for the trip, take the time to prepare a USB memory key or a CD-ROM with some useful software.
What you should do
The best thing you can do for a parent who has a Windows computer is to make sure automatic updates are turned on so that the system is getting the important security updates that Microsoft sends out. First, open System Properties (right-click My Computer, and select Properties). Then click the Automatic Updates tab and turn on Automatic. Here's the other software you should consider installing.
What you shouldn't do
- Start with free antispyware utilities, such as Spybot Search and Destroy and Ad-aware.
- For antispam and antivirus software, you might want to spring for the paid, professionally supported utilities, such as MailFrontier Desktop, Norton AntiVirus 2005, or ZoneAlarm with Antivirus.
- While you're loading up a USB key or a CD-ROM with software, add some digital pictures of yourself and your family to it and maybe some bookmarks--say, links to your online family photo album.
- Other software you might want to install: the Voice over IP client Skype so that anytime your mom or dad is sitting at the computer, they can give you a ring--or a call for help--for free.
As much as we like it, we do not recommend installing the fantastic Mozilla Firefox
browser for non-tech-savvy users. There are still some sites that don't work as they're supposed to with this browser, and you don't want to be telling your parents to switch back and forth between it and Internet Explorer all the time.
You can't always be there when a parent runs into a tech problem. But trying to do tech support over the phone can be incredibly frustrating. One way to give yourself an upper hand is to use remote control software to see what's going on with your parents' computer when you're on the horn with them. This requires broadband on the two ends, but if you both have it, you can take advantage of this great tool.
- Option 1: Use Microsoft's own remote control console. This free utility comes with Windows XP and allows your parent to send a help request to your machine. You have to turn it on first: Open System Properties (right-click My Computer and select Properties). Then click the Remote tab and check "Allow Remote Assistance invitations to be sent from this computer." This tool is free, but it requires your parent to place the call for help; you can probably talk him or her through it whenever necessary. Also, it doesn't always work if there's a firewall on either end of the connection.
- Option 2: Use a third-party application such as GoToMyPC. This tool, in particular, is easy to install and use, and as long as your parents trust you not to snoop on them when they don't ask for it, you can configure it so that you can initiate a connection at any time. However, GoToMyPC costs $19.95 per month for the personal edition.
We know it can be infuriating to help your parents with technology. Sometimes, all they have to do is move the mouse, and you're 13 years old again: frustrated, small, and resentful. Your parents can push all your buttons--after all, they installed them.
But you can't help them install digital camera software if you're impatient or short with them. Teaching the previous generation things that are second nature to you is difficult in any circumstance, even more so when you're dealing with your parents. Here are some tips to bridge the generation gap.
- Do no harm. You might be tempted to help them by tweaking their computer to work the way yours does. Don't. Your parents might have a reason for their different way of doing things, and even if they don't, they might just be used to it. To really help, adapt yourself to their computers and don't force them to work like you do.
- Listen and learn. Your parents may do the same things with the computer or the Internet that you do but in a different way. And they may call it different things. Yahoo may be "the Web." Microsoft Word might just be called "Microsoft." This isn't the time to correct them. Learn their lingo and explain things in terms they already use.
- Don't think you know more than they do. Age is not a handicap when dealing with computers. You may be surprised how adept an octogenarian is with instant messaging, Quicken, photo sharing, or even Doom 3. Experience and wisdom can breed stubbornness, and it can also breed flexibility. Just try to understand the issue from the other perspective.
| Submitted by: |
Editor of Business Buying Advice for CNET.com
|Rafe Needleman has been providing tech support for his parents since he was eight. They still wonder what he's going to do with his life. |