I also find it handy to have a scanner that I can install and run to clean up any infected PCs I stumble across. For this I use VIPRE PC Rescue Program, which is a superb tool for on-the-fly malware removal.
Remember to check that all installed browsers are up-to-date (along with any add-ons).
Another good security tip would be to determine which program is the default PDF reader on the system. If it's not an up-to-date version of Adobe Reader then I'd recommend uninstalling it and adding FoxIt Reader, a move that will make the system in question safer.
A great way to make sure that people keep up-to-date with patches is to install the Secunia PSI 3.0 scanner. This tool not only identifies programs that are insecure or in need of updating, but can also automatically update many of the commonly used applications.
Install this now, and next year you might actually get to watch the game next year.
My favorite portable troubleshooting utility is, and has been for years, the Ultimate Boot CD.
Ultimate Boot CD now allows you to run the .ISO disk image from a USB flash drive, which is more convenient and a lot easier to keep updated than a disc (although for older systems it's still wise to have a CD in your bag, just in case it won't boot from a USB drive).
It's also good to have a few freebies. After all, People love freebies.
I find that most people asking your for help are running on Internet Explorer (and maybe even an old version of the browser). Consider auto-updating versions of rival browsers, such as: Firefox | Opera | Google Chrome -- because security patches and fixes are automatically downloaded and installed without user intervention.
Another great freebie (especially for those who don't have Microsoft Office) is the OpenOffice suite. If the PC is used by someone who wants to play with graphics, throw in Paint.NET as a fantastic basic (with advanced feature-set) image editor.
For any relatives who might have a new PC (that's more than likely stuffed full of 'crapware'), then PC Decrapifier is a handy tool to have nearby. However, if you want to give out real freebies, then small USB flash drives are both cheap and really handy.
For those still "thinking about going to Windows 7 or Windows 8..."
I'm betting that a lot of the people you know are still running Windows XP, right? But unless your family and friends have been living in a cave on Mars with their fingers in their ears while humming show tunes, there's a good chance that they will have at least heard about Windows 7, or even Windows 8.
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 and the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant. Both of these tools will help determine whether the next-generation operating systems will run on existing hardware, which may negate the need to buy a new computer for the December holiday season.
You need to be packing hardware as well as software. I find that at minimum it's good to carry the following:
- A #2 Phillips screwdriver (or a good multitool);
- An anti-static wrist strap;
- A few anti-static bags;
- Some spare screws (drive screws and motherboard screws are especially handy);
Alternatively... just say no!
And engorge yourself on pumpkin pie and turkey slices instead. Do you think that this t-shirt from ThinkGeek is a fantastically passive-aggressive way to get the message across?
Have a good Turkey Day, folks -- oh, and try to have fun!