10 Ways to Avoid Being IT Support for Friends and Family

37

Comments

+ Add a Comment
avatar

philippz

For my father in law who constantly messes up his PC, I finally just locked down his PC and made him a limited user with me being the administrator. If he has to install something, then I get into his PC via Logmein and do it. This has almost eliminated support sessions with him!

avatar

Roger_Steele

For the most part I didn't mind helping others with their computers. In the 80s it helped me learn more about PCs. In the 90s the only people I was helping were friends and family and in most cases I had built the computer and loaded most of the original software. I always insisted they use our internet providers security system which has worked exceptionally well for me and most of my friends and relatives since day one. It costs more per year than the average off the shelf security system but worth every penny in the long run. I also took the time when I went to someones home to walk them through some of the processes themselves. Several of them even helped in the build process of their computer so that they might understand what components did and it actually did help when it came to diagnosing and fixing problems over the phone. I wa sable to determine if I needed to go there, if they needed to bring all or part of their system to me or if they could fix it themselves. I did have one son who was forever surfing the wrong sites and had friends over for surfing parties inevitably followed by the call that his computer was acting up. He got a combination of training and the big stick fix "complete format". So every time he infested his computer from surfing porn or opening questionable emails from his unprotected friends computers he was trained to format his own hard drives lol. By the time he asked for help it was usually the only solution anyway. Of all the years of helping I only had one person complain when his computer crashed again within a couple months but it was a fairly old PC and the real fix should have been and ended up being a new PC. I had just tried to buy him some time till prices came down on what he wanted. I'm happy to say that the last 2 computers I built for myself and my sister in-law and her family were twins. Almost top of the line for their time 7-8 years ago. I did an upgrade on mine 5 years ago just before I was struck down by a disability which keeps me from building and tinkering much any more but the sister in law called about a year ago about a new computer they had purchased. It was a fairly expensive PC, they have a decent amount of money and don't pinch pennies on big ticket items. so they had purchased a new PC to replace the one I had built for them 6-7 yrs prior. Their problem? Their brand new computer was SOOOOOOOOO much slower that the one I had built LOL. Partly because it had wonderful windows vista and not enough ram, partly because it was a store bought brand with all the crap running in the background stealing valuable resources and speed. Even after boosting the ram and Loading a copy of XP on the new computer they liked the one I built better. I won't take all the credit. I learned how to make good machines with good parts that were likely to compliment each other by spending many hours each month reading and rereading from cover to cover an excellent diy geeks magazine :Maximum PC (minimum BS).Build them right, load them right, train them right and over half the job is done before the phone ever rings. On top of that I have 2 daughters and 1 son who won't hesitate to rip open a computer and do their own diagnosing and updating. Dear old mother who got her first IBM compatible on the same pallet as me used hers in her business with software I had written. I came when she called but usually to change a light bulb 20 feet off the floor. When she closed the store the computer went out to the farm and I relifed it and downloaded a couple dozen games for several age groups onto it. It sat in the corner of her dining room in the turn of the century log home and 2 generations grew up playing those games while the woodfire crackled in the other room. One of the little kids who played every time he came out was my nephew. He returned home from Khandahar Afghanastan ,a couple months ago, where he was the troops communications officer,  This week he ran for Alderman in the City of Calgary, his sister the Registered Nurse also got some of her first contact with a computer on that old 286 with a 40meg hard drive ("you'll never need more than that" they stated as they sold it to me while everyone else was using 20meg).  When I look back at who those computers touched, I am proud that I took the time to teach most of them more than how to turn it on or reboot it. Lets face it a lot of the time that is all it took. But I pretty much trained myself right out of a job. I haven't opened a computer for more than adding ram in over 5 yrs. I blew windows Vista out of dozens of computers and saved them with good old reliable XP and in all but 2 cases all I had to do was order in the software and a few ram sticks and my friends and family did the rest themselves. They are the next generation that will answer the phone to..."do you have a few minutes my computer...........

avatar

Tech_Girl88

Being the only one of my family up to date on the newest technology, of course all the members of my family come to me for help. My sister, 4 brothers, both parents, 23 cousins...the list goes on. And, at first I was ok with being called up or pinged for some help. But when they started to abuse it, that's when it got annoying. So, I started making them feel totally dumb. :-) Asking very general things like "Is the monitor turned on?" or "Have you rebooted recently?" Eventually, the calls dimmed and I was actually able to go about my life.

But I still have a soft spot for my mom; she gets unlimited support. :-D

avatar

TheQuietShadow

I have a method that works quite well and dosen't leave you looking like a jack ass to all of your friends or family, it could even make you more money. I call this method, "free service". You see, I offer to help them for free at "my convenience". I simply explain to them that I have others that have paid for my services and so I am obligated to help them first. I may not even get around to helping them at all. Eventually, they will get the picture and offer to pay for your services just to be helped faster. Just remember to only help for free (actually free) the people that you don't mind helping, like your girlfriend or your mother.

-TheQuietShadow-

avatar

Bullwinkle J Moose

Providing Video's that require's I watch a 30 second commercial advertizement before I find that the Video is UNAVAILABLE should be Illegal

If I could charge you 30 cents for every 30 seconds of my time that you waste, I'd be rich

Then we could all go back to NON-Commercial Videos that don't play due to Copyright issues!

Think of all the hours we would save each week..

--------------------------------------------------

Update!

Oh WOW, all I had to do was let plugin container for firefox access the Internet!

Thank You Nick Burns!

I was expecting Free support from this site!

 

 

avatar

fry

I implemented the "make them feel like idiots" strategy long ago. These days, only my mother gets free tech support. Everyone else is too afraid to ask me.

avatar

Jamesr10962

Wow do I feel validated after reading this article, LOL

I  like helping people no matter what their needs are. I thought I was the only one who gets annoyed by repeated calls from "friends"      As usual, people download malware and go to web sites they are not familar with.

The person who posted a reply suggesting friends and family to go to Geek Squad made an excelent point: call them and see the outragous prices they charge. Basic users can`t understand why Vista or Win7 can`t run on 256 mb of ram. Great article ,I`ve sent this to my friends who are computer literate 

avatar

timmyw

Most people would never ask a professional, such as an M.D. or a lawyer, for free help, but it seems that they don't think the same about other professionals. I'm constantly getting requests for free technical support.

For some reason people don't see it as 'work.' Maybe, I should barter for one-hour of fixing their computer for one-hour of them doing chores around my house--my car could use a wash and there are always weeds to pull....

 

avatar

ferariman

i like the field experience of fixing family and friends computers

avatar

TheQuietShadow

You're right, it's an excellent way to get experience AT FIRST. Just be very careful not to muck things up on their computer.

avatar

Skrýmir

It gets old fast, trust me. Some people are just the touch of death when it comes to computers, I usually recommend them just turning the computer off and never getting back on it, if i have to check on it more than 3 times in one month.

avatar

Blues22475

I will not agree to help people with their computer problems during the weekdays because I do this kind of thing all day. When I come home the last thing I want to do is troubleshoot more computers (and near pulling whatever hair I have out). If it's on the weekends I will do it because I don't work those days. I don't mind helping friends and family usually.

Also, it's nice to know Comodo has a service too along with a pretty decent firewall (I prefer it over ZoneAlarm after using both and comparing).

avatar

Mr_Histamine

 

For the completely computer illiterate of my friends / family, I usually provide the following rules:

1.  Do not install free programs from any websites other than the sites I've bookmarked in their browser.  Also, stop visiting links from a friend / family member with a habit of spamming them to everyone he / she knows.

2.  Do not travel to seedy websites.  The analogy I use:  you wouldn't take your pet / kids to play in a pathogen infested swamp, or to a park infested with drug dealers / users.  Treat your computer like a pet (or child), and you shouldn’t have trouble keeping it healthy.

3.  If your computer is running slow all of a sudden, or it’s acting weird; reset it.  Your computer needs to take a “dump” every once in a while just like you.

4.  Run Windows Update when it tells you.  If I log on and find that they haven’t kept Windows updated, I’ll make them run through the updates before I do any work.  And since I also install the Secunia PSI program on their computers, I tell them not to ignore its notifications.

This has greatly reduced the number of frivolous calls; most calls I get now are for legitimate hardware issues (which frees up my time, and saves them money).

 

avatar

lunchbox73

Family and friends I don't mind but co-workers hitting me up is annoying. Some come flat out and ask if I do side jobs which isn't too bad but the people that hint around to see if I'll offer drive me nuts.

avatar

bingojubes

i found the best way (in my case) to deal with a relative that only does internet-based flash games and web surfing, i set them up with all the settings and add-ons that they need, then apply farionics deepfreeze to it. when they get freaked about getting a virus, i just tell them to reboot. problem solved.

avatar

TheQuietShadow

Acronis has Try & Decide and Secure zone, two features that let idiots do whatever they want with their computers, with less risk.

avatar

igoka

This is so true . When you go to your friend who is auto mechanic you are not expecting he is gonna fix it for free ? Or doctor ? Only when people talk about computers (not geeks) they don't realize how serious it is .Call me an idiot but i like to help people . I know it takes time , sometimes use  my own old parts to fix a problem . I can only say " No " only to people who are ignorant  and greedy . Usually it is very easy to tell them " No " just say that to fix a problem they need to spend good amount of money and they will never bother you again . I would like to thank Paul for such a great article .

avatar

loonix

This is a classic and I always tell my family about this one:

http://xkcd.com/627/

L8r

AR

 

avatar

Zachary K.

of course, you can't let the tech illiterate go 100% on their own.

http://xkcd.com/763/

avatar

Oedipus_Rex

"As power users, our family and friends tend to view us as their own personal 24/7 tech support super heroes, minus the obligatory tights."

Wait...  So you're saying I don't have to wear the tights?

 

To avoid support calls from family, I moved 4 states away.  Worked like a charm.

avatar

whitneymr

Yep, I'm 1100 miles away and got rid of the calls except one nephew who I just got off the phone with.

avatar

Chief_runningwater

I know it's true doing it for free sucks but for me I find it good practice.

avatar

profdlp

That's what she said.

avatar

jgrimoldy

It only sucks when you start to think it sucks.  There's something to be said for the value of real-world learning.  Just don't let yourself be exploited.

 

avatar

Vegan

The best method is to tell them to buy a Mac when they're shopping for a computer. Then you can honestly say that you're as clueless as they are when they don't know how to do something.

avatar

lurker

I was going to suggest the same! I love recommending Macs to people. Unfortunately nobody has taken my advice so far.

avatar

Mr_Histamine

That works until they realize that you won't be able to come over to set it up.  Then your hand-wringingly good plan is shot all to hell, as they're back to shopping for a PC.

avatar

millere5815

Its easy to see you must be on the wrong site.  There is no reason to tell people, especially family, to pay 3 times as much for a MAC than a PC with the same specs.

avatar

SilverSurferNHS

That would be doing them a disservice

avatar

jgrimoldy

As indicated in the article, you'll never get away from doing pro bono work for your parents and spouse.  For those outside of this immediate circle, start charging.  The explanation is a simple one, "(name), would you like to come to my house this weekend and spend 7 hours doing your profession (law, sales, marketing, dentistry, medical), except this time, you don't get paid?  All of this while I watch sports?"

What does Geek Squad charge for an in-person visit?  $125/hour?  Ask for $50-75 per hour.  If they balk, point them to Geek Sqaud so that they can separate themselves from more of their Jacksons.  I don't think that Geek Squad pays their techs very well ($15ish/hour in the Silicon Valley, i think).  You get what you pay for.  Additionally, part of a Geek Squad tech's raison d'être is to scare you into buying unneeded hardware ("...to fix the problem," they'll say).

 

 

 

 

avatar

TechW

Hey, I have been a working computer consultant for over 25 years. The one thing you do NOT do is charge a friend or acquaintance a minimal amount of money for a job. I have found that they think that because they paid you once to fix their computer, it counts for the rest of eternity. So you make $40 for a lifetime of tech support on that system.

No, you must charge full rates. If they are willing to pay it, it indicates they value your services and will be less likely to try to take advantage of you. (Or use you again, if the sticker shock is too great!)

Frankly, I always try to suggest some high school nerd that needs a little experience to go fix systems when people ask me. I let him know he can call me with questions. He learns, makes a little pocket money, and I don't get stuck with the future support. Win - Win.

avatar

legacy2013

I completely agree, unless its my immediately family I charge $50/hour which people are happy to pay espically when they know that I will get teh job done quickly. LogMeIn is a great feature too!

avatar

jgrimoldy

www.showmypc.com is also a VERY good tool for taking remote control on the fly without having to permanently install anything.

BONUS: It's drop dead easy for even the most dense end users to run from the web site.

DOUBLE-BONUS: It's cross-platform.  Control a Mac from a PC or a PC from a Mac.

BIGGEST BONUS: It's free.

tiny downside: Remote connections automatically close after being connected for 1 hour. (very small price to pay)

avatar

SilverSurferNHS

Borderline spam...

avatar

jgrimoldy

What the fuck are you talking about?  I am in no way connected with the folks that operate that site/tool. My posting was no more spam than mentioning LogMeIn or any other. 

How is my recommendation of that tool borderline spam?  please explain...

avatar

Neufeldt2002

Please use a video service that is friendly outside the US. I find that most hulu video's I can not watch because I don't live in the states.

Otherwise, I enjoyed the article.

avatar

j0101011

install a program like logme in or teamViewer. This as the article states will save you tons of time and money.

 

but on top of that, don't forget to abuse those programs! Use your prefered remote viewing program to drop notes on someones desktop, close there game right before they beat a level, redirect there browser to 666.com ect.

It wont take them long to figure out who is doing this, and at that point they will only give you a call if their computer is realy badly bunged up.

 

plus this is a fun way to mess with computer eliterate family mebers.

Log in to MaximumPC directly or log in using Facebook

Forgot your username or password?
Click here for help.

Login with Facebook
Log in using Facebook to share comments and articles easily with your Facebook feed.