Five reasons to avoid giving friends and family tech support

Summary:Even been caught up in becoming tech support for a friend, family or colleague? Here are five ways you can avoid it happening again.

Some of the best things in the world are free. Love, happiness, and friendly advice.

But IT professionals in and out of the industry, along with technically minded students who undertake computer science degrees -- are clocked onto by others with a vice grip for future computer technical assistance.

Like a drop of blood in a million parts to a shark in the ocean, these skills are picked up a mile away by luddites and noted for that dreadful day when their computer inevitably crashes.

Well, enough is enough.

(Image via Flickr)

The number of times I have been asked to help out a friend or a family member to fix something, reinstall a program because it has crashed, or dragged into fixing the impossible because of their own misgivings -- I lose count.

These five top tips can help you save yourself from the inanity of being forced through goodwill of kindness in fixing someone else's computer.

"I'm not familiar with this application/operating system"

Sometimes it takes the 'stupid card' to get out of something long winded and laborious. If you'd rather just take the flak for "being an idiot" and appearing to not know how to do something -- then take the opportunity while you can.

Perhaps word will get around and your whole family or friendship group will get the message. Consider this a 'white lie' solution. Beware of your guilty conscience, though.

"Your computer is riddled with viruses. It'd take me a week to fix all this"

Whether or not you believe that 'Windows rot' exists, sometimes it is far easier to simply reinstall the operating system and start fresh.

But no matter how hard you try and back up everything there is, you'll never quite get the computer back to how it was originally.

Your mother may well get FreeCell at lightning speed, but no doubt that one important file that reigns over all others -- probably your parents' last will and testament -- will have been deleted in the crossfire.

Tempting as it is to reinstall the operating system, just steer clear altogether.

"If I fix one thing, any future problem I will end up getting the blame for"

You know the story. You fix something and from there on in, every other problem is your fault -- and you can bet your bottom dollar that they're ungrateful for it in the long run.

You could probably spend a week of your time decluttering their Add/Remove Programs, and no doubt they will be the fall guy for removing a piece of nasty crapware or even malware -- and something no longer works the way it did.

"You're better off with Ubuntu -- and there's no way around it, and you'll miss Windows far too much"

"Defragmenter -- select yes, click 'Run', estimated time: 1 year, six months, two weeks". Fail.

Later versions of Windows defragment in the background and don't have this problem. But remember that Windows XP -- still the far more popular operating system for older people, for which computers only get replaced once they keel over and die -- still needs to be manually defragmented.

I once installed Ubuntu (from a live CD, so the changes weren't permanent) on a friend's machine to see how they would react to a brand new desktop that they were completely alien to. The results were hilarious, especially once I told them "all of your files were gone".

They never asked for tech support again. Epic win.

"As a student/unemployed, I would have to charge the going rate. $30 an hour"

It's not much to ask, is it? And if they tempt to coax you with the thrills of free alcohol, 'suddenly consider' becoming teetotal.

Topics: Windows, Malware, Operating Systems, Software, Ubuntu

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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