"Can you take a look at my computer?" is the dreaded question your clueless family member will ask when you're home for the holidays. Let's review some common computer complaints and the easiest solutions.
Photo by ~Sage~.
"It takes forever to start up."
If your loved one has installed any software on the computer—especially ISP-specific packages that automatically include bundled add-ons—there's no doubt unnecessary items have planted themselves into its startup. Use our complete guide to speeding up your startup to get rid of the stuff they don't need, and save CPU cycles and time on boot-up.
"I keep getting a pop-up saying I need to pay for my antivirus software."
If the default trialware antivirus software that came pre-installed is now bugging your clueless relative to pay for a subscription, uninstall it. Then, check out Lifehacker readers' five favorite—and FREE—AV packages ready for download and installation. To fast-track to a free replacement, grab the free edition of AVG.
"When I get on the internet things look weird" or "I keep getting these annoying popup ads."
Thoroughly check your relative's PC for evidence of malware: like a hijacked web browser that redirects google.com to an Asian porn site, unsolicited pop-up ads, or suspicious programs named things like "Keypress Watcher." If you suspect nefarious software has glommed onto Windows, get to scrubbing. Back in 2006, we ran down how to fix Mum and Dad's malware-laden computer and the advice still stands. Go straight for a copy of Ad-Aware Free and Spybot Search & Destroy to get started.
Then, download and install Firefox, set it as the default browser, and replace all the IE shortcuts labelled "Internet" with the fox.
"I can't find the digital photos I downloaded last month."
If Aunt Bertha never gets the photos and videos she took with her digicam onto her computer—or she does, but they get lost in the abyss of her hard drive—make sure she has the right software to preview and find 'em. Install Picasa 3 and scan your loved one's entire hard drive for digital photos to add them to the library.
Relatives who take digital home videos should also get a free copy of VLC installed to insure that they'll be able to play any clip they've got.
"I'm running out of hard drive space."
If Uncle Marty thinks he needs a new computer because he keeps getting a "low disk space" message, tell him all is not lost. Find out where all that gigabytage is going by visualising his hard drive usage with free tools that will map what files are taking up what space. Then, declutter his hard drive of the bits and bytes he doesn't need (and didn't know he had).
"The internet stopped working."
The worst family tech support situation to get in is one that involves no (or a very slow) internet connection. Before you head over to Cousin Bob's house, load up a USB drive with the software you'll need to troubleshoot things without a connection (or without a broadband connection). TechRadar compiles a list of fix-it tools you can take with you to the family holiday get-together.
What family computer complaints are you anticipating this year? How will you handle it (or get out of it)? Let us know in the comments.