Tips to Survive Family Tech Support

Family Tech Support

This is the time of year when a lot of us travel home for the holidays. If you’re the most technical person in the room—heck, even if you’re just the only one who knows how to turn on a computer—some of your less technically-minded relatives might depend on you for help with their gear. If you’re on the hook to help, here are a few tips to make things go more smoothly. Spend less time fixing gear and more time enjoying holiday cheer!

Be Patient

Take a deep breath. Take a stiff drink if it’ll help. Remember that getting frustrated or angry with your family member is bound just to create a bigger problem. It might not be natural for you to to listen to what’s going on without rolling your eyes, interjecting, making sarcastic remarks, or giving off body language “tells” that show your frustration.

Remember, they’re coming to you because they need help. So be kind, and remember the golden rule: Treat others as you’d like to be treated.

Take Time to Understand the Problem

Articulating the exact nature of your technical problem can be hard even when you know what you’re doing. Add inexperience to the mix and it’s a recipe for confusion, both for the person afflicted with the problem and the person trying to help.

So when your relative says to you, “My iPhone isn’t working,” find out what that means before you troubleshoot. If you go off to fix something without knowing exactly what you’re trying to fix, you can make things worse.

Try Not to Over Explain the Fix

Remember that the person you’re helping doesn’t necessarily think like you, and that they’re reaching out to you because they believe you have a different set of skills.

To that end, try to keep your explanations simple and clear. Don’t make assumptions about their level of knowledge. If their eyes glaze over, try to make it easier for them by using simple analogies or metaphors that might make it easier to understand.

Install Remote Control Software

It’s one thing to help a relative in person when their gear is in your lap or in your hands, but it’s another thing entirely if they need your help when you’re not around. If the questions pop up around the holiday dinner table, chances are you’re not going to get everything fixed right then.

That’s why using remote control software can come in handy—apps that will enable you to take control of their computer from yours, so you can quickly and easily make changes without having to tell them step by step what to do.

TeamViewer, LogMeIn, Microsoft Remote Desktop, even old fashioned VNC all get the job done, so use whatever tool you prefer. Just make sure to tell your relative not to trust strangers calling to offer tech support. These same remote control apps can be subverted by ripoff artists to steal credit card info and other identity information.

Don’t Be Afraid to Say No

You may be perfectly comfortable putting a new air filter in your car, but there’s a big difference between that and rebuilding a transmission. Likewise, there are some problems with computers and smartphones that might be totally beyond the scope of your ability to fix. Whether it’s physically taking something apart or a software problem that’s really gnarly, you may very well hit a brick wall without any obvious solution.

The important thing is not to get in over your head and make things worse, because that’s not going to help anyone, and it’s just going to create more frustration and aggravation. At that point, it’s not only safe but suggestible to tell your relative to bring the gear to a trained pro in order to fix it.

Make Sure They’re Backed Up

Get ’em Backblaze. Let’s face it, accidents happen all the time. An accidental tip of the eggnog cup, some rough handling by the security folks at the airport, or just a slip of the laptop off the bed and all of a sudden you, Mom, Dad, or Aunt Jeanine are looking at an expensive and costly repair.

Without a backup, the data on that device is lost forever. Thanks to Backblaze, that data can be restored from anywhere, anytime. $5 per month is all it costs for unlimited backup from any Mac or PC. Set it up the next time you’re home. When something goes wrong, you’ll be able to help your relatives recover their vacation photos, that Excel spreadsheet, or anything else they might need.

Give a Little, Get a Little!

‘Tis better to give than to receive. What’s even better than that? When you get something out of the deal, too. With Backblaze’s Refer a Friend program, you can refer family members and friends who will get a free month of Backblaze to try out the service for themselves. When they buy Backblaze, you’ll get a free month, too. You can receive an unlimited number of free months.


About Peter Cohen

Peter will never give you up, never let you down, never run around or desert you. Follow Peter on his web site: | Twitter: @flargh | LinkedIn: Peter Cohen