Tech Lolz: How to avoid being tech-support for your family?

I'm not saying that tech support is a bad job. I have been doing it for years and it is a pretty funny and rewarding job. However, when you become tech-support for your family, well, then all hell breaks loose. Remember that uncle who was calling you? "Hey JD, I was the millionth user on a website and won something but I can't see what since my computer won't do anything now!". We've all been there! But is there anything that we can do to avoid this situation in the future? Well, now I'm just wishful-thinking. Is there any way to have this situation occur less and less in the future? Yes, there is, and I and other people will be sharing some tips.

Thank you for calling Tech Support. What can I help you with mom?

It is not uncommon to see the most desperate people trying to find an online a solution to this burden. So is the case of today's discussion, started by Andrew Garrison: How can I make a Windows PC bullet-proof for home users?.

"I realize that virus-proof on a Windows PC is far fetched, but in the interest of keeping time spent as the "family-tech-support" to a minimum, I am looking for ideas to lock a computer down to the point that it is very hard to collect adware/spyware, malware, or viruses.
Assume the user is my mom, who rarely, if ever, needs administrator access and mostly uses the computer for MS Office and web browsing."

Well, it occurs several times a week that a relative or a friend has asked my help with their computer. And most of the time, the issues are pretty simple. And yet, it is pretty time consuming to go to them or connect remotely to their computer or even worse, try and help on the phone. Here's an example:

"Grandma: It says something about everything crashing and that there are virus infections, what is going on?
Me: OK, do you have that window in front of you?
Grandma: No, let me just go to it. [pause], OK, I'm looking at it.
Me: Perfect, tell me exactly what you see.
Grandma: Well, the weather outside is nice… and the neighbour is finally mowing his lawn.
Me: Mmm.. what?
Grandma: Well I'm by the window but I don't see how that is relevant to the computer."

Chagall's Windows

This is just one of the cases. And each and every one of them ends in a monumental facepalm on my end.

Confusion can arise easily when working with a non-technical person. This is what makes everything so challenging.

So, in my case, the answer to this week's questions is simple. It can only go two ways: either educate them in computers, or take away all their permissions on the computer and control what they are doing on it.

However, let's see what the community has to say:

Disgruntled Goat suggested:

"Encase it in lead ;)"

Or Scott said:

"Unplug the Internet connection."

Come on people, have a little faith here. This is NOT a helpless situation. Everybody can learn the DOs and DON'Ts of computers. There are even classes that they can attend either online, either on-site.

For example: "DO Skype but DON'T do it with online strangers or with a nigerian prince who needs your help to recover his fortune".

A better solution comes from slink84:

"Here is another one. Maybe it's not exactly what you want, but it takes less time and effort. Have you considered virtualization? Just let her trash that system, and restore from a snapshot when it is no longer usable. Quick and clean. And hope she will eventually learn. Or stop trying to learn, 'cause it's easier... It depends on the person, I suppose :)"

I personally find this a pretty awesome suggestion. The only impediment would be saving photos (because relatives are all about having photos of the loved ones). However, some virtualization software like VMWare allow you to have a shared folder with the actual machine where they can save them to.

And a big plus of this would be that you can go there once a month and show them how they got the machine in the state that they have it and what to do to avoid it. It's an awesome suggestion and it helps the users learn what is going on and what clicking on naked ladies does to the computer.


I also loved Steven A. Lowe's answer:

  • "change her password, and don't tell her what it is
  • unplug the machine from the internet
  • unplug the machine from the wall
  • change your phone number to an unlisted number
  • put a GeekSquad sticker on her monitor"

Why should we suffer that much when people are paid to suffer for us? I know that there's that saying going around that Friends don't let friends use GeekSquad, however, desperate times call for desperate measures.


So mainly, it is obvious that something needs to be done, so I would suggest doing the following:

Make sure that you have a good security product installed on the computer, which is capable of handling itself autonomously without much input from the user. It is important for it to also check the web browsing done on the computer, offer a real-time anti-malware protection and a firewall. Usually, some money needs to be invested in this but it is put to good use. Check our reviews of security software here.

Also, consider setting up a Parental Control product for your parents. :) We can help here. Here's an introcution to the Parental Control tools included in Windows: 8 Reasons Why the Family Safety Tools in Windows 8 are Awesome.

450 - Blocked by Windows Parental Controls

Another idea would be to not allow them use the Administrator account on the computer and only use a Standard user account. They won't be able to install programs and, in consequence, toolbars, adware etc without the input of the admin password. Which you can do so remotely if you agree with what they need to install.


So yes, there are methods out there and the technology is in your favour. No more "How do I do this?" or "Why is this happening to me?". You now have the power to manage the entire computer and ensure that your parents have an easy life surfing the web as they made sure you had an easy childhood surfing through life. That was deep, right?:)

And also, remember that remote connection software can be your best friend. Just in case all of the above fail.. Which most likely will. Here's a bit of help from us, from one tech to another: How to Provide Remote Support with Windows Remote Assistance

Deep sympathies!