Five reasons to avoid giving friends and family tech support

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.

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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

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48 comments
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  • Can you come up with anything better?

    If you have used something far better than my suggestions, leave a comment below. It'll be interesting to see how many have been used before, and how inventive you can be! <B>Have your say.</b>
    zwhittaker
    • RE: Five reasons to avoid giving friends and family tech support

      @zwhittaker I'm considering changing my name, moving to a different country and get some facial plastic surgery to make sure no one recognizes me. A bit extreme, but an option!
      mtifo@...
    • RE: Five reasons to avoid giving friends and family tech support

      @zwhittaker Easy, I have a Mac Pro, don't let friends or family see you have a PC as well. As they are all too cheap to buy Macs they'll leave you alone. You can compound this by shaking your head any saying "this is easy to fix on a Mac" (even if it isn't).
      jeremychappell
      • RE: Five reasons to avoid giving friends and family tech support

        @jeremychappell <br><br>Ive used the Mac excuse many times, and it usually works out one way or another.<br><br>"Do you have a backup? No? Too bad, with combination of Carbon Copy Cloner/Super Duper and Time Machine it would be cake to recover"<br><br>One trick Ive used thats worked on some family and friends, is that I have a few old macbooks lying around the house. When people are over I let them use one when they need their online fix, or when their pc laptop isn't working. A few of them have then gone out and bought their own Mac laptops and the trouble requests have gone down to either nil, or things that are trivial.<br><br>I find that many people down Mac's simply because they've heard how bad they are. Then after use them for a while find out that they are actually pretty good, and simple to keep backups of and do recovery. Thats what got me to convert from being a die hard Linux desktop/laptop user over to Mac.
        tk_77
  • RE: Five reasons to avoid giving friends and family tech support

    Sometimes I'll throw a bunch of technical lingo/nonsense at them in a quick barrage, and it eventually confuses them and makes them second guess coming to me.

    Usually I can feed them some BS line that turns out being true, an example:

    Friend: "My computer won't turn on anymore, can you fix it?"
    ME: "Well your system is old and it could be a number of different things from a fried MoBo or CPU, to a bad PSU. I don't have anything hardware wise that is compatible with your system to even attempt to troubleshoot it, so your best bet is to just buy a new one."

    Works every time.
    Bates_
  • RE: Five reasons to avoid giving friends and family tech support

    Zack, I believe this Oatmeal comic says it all:<br><br>h t t p : / / theoatmeal.com/comics/computers
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: Five reasons to avoid giving friends and family tech support

      @Cylon Centurion
      :D
      Ram U
  • RE: Five reasons to avoid giving friends and family tech support

    Funny, Adrian post similar content at his blog several months ago.
    Lghost
  • RE: Five reasons to avoid giving friends and family tech support

    There's some good sides to family tech support, my uncle got the connect to iTunes screen on his iPhone 4 and I told him it was bricked, he ran out and got a new one and gave me his old one to "play with"... I restored it on iTunes and sold it for 450 on ebay!!
    Hasam1991
    • Most people would be ashamed to publicly admit they

      lied to a family member in order to steal from them.
      fr_gough
  • RE: Five reasons to avoid giving friends and family tech support

    That's right. . . give them a line to dissuade them from having you do the work and then they say "OK, I'll just take it to the Geek Squad". Next, you spend a week of sleepless nights filled with nightmares of fire and brimstone knowing that you are going to Hell for this. On the 8th day you fix their computer.
    ctcjim@...
    • LOL! &lt;nt&gt;

      @ctcjim@...
      safesax2002
    • RE: Five reasons to avoid giving friends and family tech support

      @ctcjim@...
      +1.LOL.
      Ram U
  • RE: Five reasons to avoid giving friends and family tech support

    I usually say something to the like of "No problem.... I will need 4-5 hours to do this. During that time, you can mow the grass, paint a room, or suggest any other chore that I don't feel like doing...

    Either they are not interested or I get out of doing something I don't want to do.

    Win-win
    Rich54567
    • RE: Five reasons to avoid giving friends and family tech support

      @Rich54567

      I've done this too, not chores though. Usually the person I'm doing the work for has useful skill I need at some point or knows someone who owe them a favor. Like I did some work and had electrical work done on my home in exchange.

      Just trade skills. There's a whole economy to that if you know the right people.
      voska1
  • Message has been deleted.

    MLHACK
    • No protection

      @MLHACK But they seem to be bad at protecting against viruses...
      BS0D
  • RE: Five reasons to avoid giving friends and family tech support

    Insist that they upgrade first. Tell them they should buy a current copy of Windows 7 and install it, and if they are still having problems come back to you. 7 times out of 10 they won't bother or will ask someone else, 2 times out of 10 the problem will go away, and the remaining time it probably won't be a biggie to solve. Of course, this doesn't work if they have ALREADY upgraded and now have a backwards-compatibility problem with some device. Then you have to point them at the manufacturer and shug "Sorry".
    A.Sinic
    • RE: Five reasons to avoid giving friends and family tech support

      @A.Sinic
      And of course, if they are using a Mac or Linux you just plead total ignorance, even if you DO know about it.
      A.Sinic
  • I am too busy and it will harm me financially

    Seems simple but it works. Just say, "I really don't have the time to look at your computer. However, I hear that this computer repair shop is excellent and charges a reasonable fee."

    Some people have offered to pay me. I respond, "I can't accept money because I don't want a business and it would mess up my income taxes for the year."

    This all happens to be true.
    stephen.feltmate@...