Accept it, if you are a regular reader of this blog then your "Tech IQ" will be way ahead of your average PC users (and I mean way ahead!). And I bet that you're surrounded by friends and family who just about know how to switch their PC on, and think that the more toolbars they have installed into Internet Explorer, the richer and more fulfilling their browsing experience will be.
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 — The Walking Dead style, albeit slower thanks to the tryptophan — in search of "help".
And why not? Don't doctors get asked for advice on boils and sores at every get-together they attend? Don't all lawyers help friends and family members with their latest suits? No... well, maybe we're just 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 -- I'm certain that it will work just as well at other times of year -- 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 Thanksgiving tech support survival kit:
First rule of Thanksgiving tech support is...
Don't needlessly take on huge projects. They will end up sucking away all your time and you'll be back at work wondering where Thanksgiving went.
Only take on projects that you can finish in a short amount of time. Also, if you're not making any headway with an issue, know when to give up.
Collect 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 or more is better, and make sure you have several of them on hand.
Not only are they handy for storing your "superpowers" (software) on, but they also come in handy if you have to move or backup any files.
Download updates in advanced
You know that PC that you worked on last year? The one that hadn't been updated in a year? Chances are it has not seen an update since the last time you laid hands on it.
I hate seeing PCs that are running outdated software. Worse still is sitting around for hours waiting for software updates to come down the pipes over a slow connection (the chances are, the updates haven't been applied because of a sluggish Web connection).
Be prepared and download updates in advance. You know better than I do what operating systems your friends and family are running, but here are some suggestions:
- Windows: 8.1 | 7, SP1 | Vista, SP2 | XP, SP3
- OS X: Mavericks, 10.9.5 | Mountain Lion, 10.8.5 | Lion, 10.7.5 | Snow Leopard, 10.6.8 | Leopard, 10.5.8 | Tiger, 10.4.11
Given the issues currently experienced by some OS X 10.10 Yosemite, if your friends and relatives haven't upgraded, it might be a good idea to give it a miss for now.
Other patches and updates should be small enough for you to be able to download them over a poor connection. If not, then impress your family and friends by setting up a Wi-Fi hotspot using your smartphone or tablet and download them that way.
In my experience, about half of what I would affectionately call "home users" doesn't run any security software, and about half are running an outdated package.
With that in mind, I always find it handy to carry around a free antivirus installer. My download of choice is Microsoft Security Essentials because it's simple to use, it updates automatically in the background, and it is 100 percent nag-free.
For Mac users, I recommend AVG Free because it is free, simple, and offers comprehensive virus and syware protection.