"Turkey Day" tech support survival kit - 2010 Edition

Accept it, if you read this blog then your "Tech IQ" will be way ahead of your average PC users (and I mean wayyyy ahead!). And I bet that you're surrounded by friends and family who just about know how to switch their PC on, and who have only got beyond the fear of the demons that make the "TV bit" work.

Accept it, if you read this blog then your "Tech IQ" will be way ahead of your average PC users (and I mean wayyyy ahead!). And I bet that you're surrounded by friends and family who just about know how to switch their PC on, and who have only got beyond the fear of the demons that make the "TV bit" work.

Thanksgiving is a time of year which sees the techies and the non-techies come together, and chances are that you being the techie, the non-techies will spot you and hunt you down (a bit like infected seek out the normal folks in zombie movies), looking for free advice and "help" troubleshooting a problem. And why not. Don't doctors all get shows boils and sores at get-togethers, and lawyers help friends and family members with their latest lawsuits? No ... maybe I'm in the wrong line of work?

With this in mind, I've put together what I call a "Turkey Day" tech support survival kit. While I've called it a "Turkey Day" kit but I'm pretty sure that it will work just as well at other times of year, but this seems to be the time of year when the techie's superhero skills are in greatest demand.

So, without any more preamble, here are my recommendations for a "Turkey Day" tech support survival kit:

Several high-capacity USB flash drives

The foundation of the "Turkey Day" tech support survival kit is several large USB flash drives. 4GB is good but 8GB+ is better. Have several of them ready.

Download updates in advanced

There's nothing worse than seeing PCs that are severely lacking in proper updates. Worse still is sitting around for hours waiting for software updates to come down the pipes over a slow connection.

Be prepared and download updates in advanced. You know better than I do what OSes you family and friends are running but here are some suggestions:

Security

I always find it handy to carry around a free antivirus installer. My download of choice is Microsoft Security Essentials because it updates automatically and it 100% nag-free.

I also find it handy to have a scanner that I can install and run to clean up any infected PCs I find. For this I use VIPRE PC Rescue Program.

Remember to check whatever browsers are installed for updates (and add-ons), as well as Java, QuickTime and Flash.

Another good security tip would be to look for what the default PDF reader on the system is. If it's not an up-to-date version of Adobe Reader I'd recommend uninstalling it and adding FoxIt Reader, a move that will make the system a lot safer.

Troubleshooting

My favorite portable troubleshooting utility is Ultimate Boot CD. Ultimate Boot CD is now even better because it allows you to run the ISO from a USB flash drive, which means not having to carry a CD around with you any more (although on older systems it's still wise to have a CD ...).

Freebies

It's also good to have a few freebies. I find that browsers are good ... Firefox, Opera and Google Chrome. OpenOffice is another good freebie, as is Paint.NET.

Still thinking Windows 7 ...

Unless your family and friends have been living on a cave on Mars with their fingers in their ears and humming show tunes, there's a good chance that they will have heard about Windows 7. Chances are also good that you'll be asked questions such as "will it run on my PC?" Well, be ready for them and grab the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor.

Hardware

You need to be packing hardware as well as software. I find that at minimum it's good to carry a #2 Phillips screwdriver. An anti-static wrist strap and an ESD bag are also useful additions.

Have a good Turkey Day people! Oh, and try to have fun!

(This is an updated version of an article that I ran last year.)

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