How to Help Non-Geek Family Members With Computer Problems

Being the only geek, or only admitted one, in your family comes with a great responsibility. Whether you like it or not, you’re going to be called on by members of your immediate and extended family from time to time to fix their computer issues. If you’re married, your in-laws will undoubtedly add you to their phone tree as their official “computer guy”. Here are a few tips on how to help non-geek family members with computer problems:

Make Out Lists of Steps for Family Members to Follow
Sometimes, it can be very difficult to explain the process of checking email to someone over the phone. It’s not like you have training and/or experience doing tech support. Even if you do, family members seem to be more difficult to work with than strangers by an extreme degree. Next time your mother calls you right before you sit down to dinner because she can’t remember how to check her voice mail, make a mental note to type out a step-by-step list of instructions to give her the next time you see her. That way, instead of calling you, she may be more inclined to check the list to jog her memory.

Invest in Remote Access Software
Software including: GoToAssist (use coupon code: CHRIS), TeamViewer, and LogMeIn are all excellent solutions that can help you connect to your family member’s misbehaving PC and show them how to solve their issue without having to hop in the car and drive over. When long explanations aren’t yielding any results, remote access can very well be the next best thing to spending an entire weekend in front of their computer teaching them how to use their system. In many cases, it’s faster to solve something yourself than explain it to someone else.

Create a Support Strategy
If you don’t live in the same city, and your relatives have an issue you really can’t resolve yourself, it’s probably a good idea to do some research on their local tech businesses to determine where they can go. It’s too easy to go right for the big store where they charge insane amounts of money for what amounts to a few minutes of actual work. In some cases, it may be easier to research and call these places yourself. That way you can describe the problem as so they have something more to go on than, “It doesn’t work!” Make sure, especially if they have no real understanding about what the repair shop tells them the problem is, that they call you or make you the primary contact.

15 thoughts on “How to Help Non-Geek Family Members With Computer Problems”

  1. As “the computer guy” for friends & family this is sound advice. Develop a process, take the time to type it out one time and your life will start to become much easier. You could also start a small personal blog to “house” those notes and start pointing people there so they aren’t calling you in the middle of the night.

  2. As “the computer guy” for friends & family this is sound advice. Develop a process, take the time to type it out one time and your life will start to become much easier. You could also start a small personal blog to “house” those notes and start pointing people there so they aren’t calling you in the middle of the night.

  3. Also, if you don’t want to dish out money for Remote Access software, you can use skype to at least see what they are doing and point them in the right direction

  4. Also, if you don’t want to dish out money for Remote Access software, you can use skype to at least see what they are doing and point them in the right direction

  5. i have a new way of kung-fuing against old pcs with laggy, freezeing win opsystems… since i’m a mac user for a long now i can say that i cant really remember how i used to fix this and that problem…

    maybe not a lovely way but can save hours of messing with junkpcs and reinstalling windows with all the programs

    certainly short questions are welcome

    1. Most of the time, that is the best way. The problem now is no one has their disc. And they’re so excited to have a new pc that they dont (or dont know how to) create a system restore disc.

  6. As the computer guy, and by no means a tech support pro, I find it very useful to follow Moss’ instructions of “have you turned it off and on again?” then if not i have a script that opens up and allows me to connect to their computer remotely by them just downloading the thing and adding me as a contact, then if they ever need tech help in the future, they just run the prog and they give me a key so I can tunnel in over a 512kb encryption to remote desktop their comp. 🙂 Works flawlessly.

  7. It’s especially hard for me to explain things when our systems are set up so differently.ype your comment here.

  8. It’s especially hard for me to explain things when our systems are set up so differently.ype your comment here.

  9.  All these suggestion are good but here are a few more:
    1. Keep their hardware/software up to date if at all possible.  Many new, fully adequate PCs and Laptops can be had for under $500, and make great Christmas gifts!  
    2. Use Virtual PC to keep a copy of older OSs and your supportees’ setups.  
    3. Don’t stop at a simple list of steps, Make personalized presentations with screen shots, annotations, and animations if you’re able.   Print out the important ones.  

  10. As for me, I will do some research first and then communicate with my friends and this can always help fix the problems.

  11. it’s obvious that we should help those people….
    it’s necessary for us to let them know how to operate on a computer.

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