Tech support

Every tech support task you should be doing for your family this week


Being with family while on vacation is wonderful for many reasons, but free tech support is somewhere in the top five.

For some people, this year is the first time they have reunited with their extended family since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. This means that many less tech-savvy members of your group may be late for basic technical maintenance.

If you have elderly parents who need tech support, or if you’re the family member bombarded with tech support questions when you get together, we’re here to help.

Doing these tasks can save money and prevent hacks or future issues that are too difficult to solve over the phone. Set them up between meals, Uno tours or naps with the family dog.

This list is written as instructions for the person making the changes. If you are not that person and would like someone to take care of these things for you, send them this story or print it subtly and leave it on the pillow in the guest room for their arrival. Or you can, of course, start making them yourself.

Update all software

This ensures that any security holes or bugs are fixed and that all devices are compatible with the latest apps. Start with operating systems like Windows and OS X on Mac. Update Android and iOS mobile operating systems on mobile phones and tablets, and make sure all frequently used software like Microsoft Office is up to date. There is sometimes resistance to updating the software as it can mean having to learn a new layout or new features – a completely understandable concern. Instead of upgrading to a brand new software version (e.g. Windows 10-11), just make sure to install the latest minor updates for the current version. Turn on automatic update when you’re done.

Make sure contact emails are up to date

It’s one of the most overlooked and difficult tasks to solve, according to Jarrod Maxfield, owner of the Necessary Technology computer store in Portland, Maine. If you create an account using an old email address that you no longer use (an old Yahoo or Hotmail, perhaps), update your login or contact information. If your account gets hacked or you forget a password, you’ll need a working email to get back to it.

Enable two-factor authentication

Do this for any frequently used accounts that offer it, like Facebook or any other financial item. It adds an extra layer of security when logging in by requiring a unique code in addition to the password. If possible, configure two factors to work with an authenticator app instead of text messages, and then put that app on the home screen. If learning a new app is too confusing, stick with the text option.

Set up a password system

For someone more comfortable with new technologies, set up a password manager like Dashlane or 1Password. Consider the user’s comfort level when cleaning passwords. If they’re not worried about people snooping around their home, they can use a dedicated notebook to keep track of connections. Make sure that current passwords are not compromised, common, or reused.

See if the memory is full

Perform a quick scan to check if any computers or mobile devices are running out of space. A full hard drive is often the source of many photos and videos recorded and can slow down any phone or computer. Most devices have a built-in option to check space in settings.

Configure automatic backups

Then go ahead and set up an automatic backup system to make sure that important memories and files are stored in a safe place while freeing devices. It’s smart even though there is a lot of memory in case something happens or a device is lost. You can set up a paid cloud service like Google, iCloud, or Microsoft OneDrive to automatically back up certain files, and even delete them from the device. If they are already using cloud storage but are low, you can fix this as well.

Adjust accessibility features

If there have been any changes in health, such as hearing or visual loss or a change in motor skills, you can update accessibility features on a computer or mobile device to make them easier. use. Start by increasing the text size of the system, which is what many of us need after a year of staring at screens nonstop.

Check for any malware or adware

It’s more of a problem for PCs than Macs or mobile devices, says Maxfield, but no device is 100% safe. If there are any indications of malware (slower performance, weird pop-ups), he recommends running a tool like Malwarebytes, which works on both PC and Mac.

Cancel unwanted subscriptions

A lot of people end up paying something automatically every month without realizing it. Some are scams peddled over the phone and some are free trials that started to load quietly after a few months. Check the monthly fees on bank statements, as well as in your phone’s app store settings. You can also use an app like Truebill to find subscriptions for you.

Organize cable and streaming services

While it may come as a shock to the younger members of the family, cable is alive and well in many homes. The service still comes with clunky legacy interfaces, ugly rented boxes, multiple remotes, and confusing bills. Troubleshoot TV issues and consider adding a Roku or similar tool to allow them to watch streaming options on the big screen if they aren’t already.

Check the cable, internet and telephone bill

These bills are notoriously confusing and packed with hidden charges or increases over time. Cancel anything that isn’t in use, like premium channels or a landline, and evaluate competing options like a local ISP and streaming services. Call the companies and try to negotiate their prices down.

Add legacy contacts

“What happens to your Facebook account if you die? Is not the happy topic family members want to have on vacation, but it is an important topic. Most major services offer an option for legacy contacts, which will allow someone else to have access to all or part of an account or device after the owner has passed away. Google, Facebook, Twitter, and more recently Apple all offer a legacy contact setting.

Lock down all privacy settings

Some of these are basic, like making sure a Facebook profile or Venmo transaction is set to private instead of public. Others go further to prevent businesses from collecting personal information they don’t need. Start with the phone level settings and work your way out of there.

Configure computers to be able to help remotely

If you live far away from someone who needs your technical help, you can configure their computer (with their permission) so that they can take it back if something goes wrong. There are built-in tools on Mac and PC for this, or third-party apps like TeamViewer.

Find local technical support

Providing tech support for someone you know personally can strain the relationship, especially when you try it over the phone. If you live far away, find a local trusted computer store that offers technical support and home visits. This will give your family members a sense of control and provide you with a backup for issues that are too difficult to solve from a distance.

Eliminate unwanted old technology

If there are devices lying around that aren’t in use, go ahead and have a recycling run so they don’t end up in a mess or in a landfill. You can sell or trade assistive devices with the manufacturer or through a third party like Decluttr. If they’re no longer usable, take things to a place like the local Best Buy or e-waste facility for proper recycling.

Configure all the holiday tech gifts

If someone in your family received tech gifts like a fitness tracker or Wi-Fi camera, help them set it up and learn the basics. If you are purchasing the freebies be sure to consider how easy it is to use. “Sometimes we tend to push technology on the older members of our family when it’s actually something we’re comfortable with, something we love,” says Maxfield. If they have a digital frame or have one as a gift, fill it with new family photos and keep updating it using an app.

Examine common scams

Anyone can fall for a scam, whether it’s a convincing phone call or a seemingly legitimate text message. The best defense is knowing what a scam looks like. Sit down with your family and go over the basics: never give out financial information or passwords, click links, or answer calls from unknown numbers (if it’s important, they will leave a message). Make a list of important phone numbers so they can hang up and call back directly if they get a call claiming to be from the Social Security Administration, their bank, or a company like Amazon or Apple. The US government maintains a list of common scams at which you can print out or read together on a hot chocolate.