Lifehacker Gift Guide: Tech Support Nightmare Relatives

Lifehacker Gift Guide: Tech Support Nightmare Relatives

It’s the curse of Christmas: you know the relatives are going to ask you to fix their terrible PC. We’ve offered guidance for that in the past, but here’s some gift suggestions to ease the burden in the future.

Picture by Tada’s Revolution


A Linux Live CD

Cost: One blank CD or USB; a fair amount of patience
Where to get it: Start with our Hive Five of Live CDs
Why it’s a good choice: Switching your clueless family members to a friendly version of Linux will eliminate many woes: less malware to worry about and better system performance. If they’re only doing browser-based activities, they’ll thank you for it. If they’re clinging to Windows, use the Live CD to show them that everything works pretty much as you’d expect, then migrate their data and settings across. (You might want to fix the window controls if you’re using Ubuntu.) Picture from Wikimedia Commons


MyGizmo Subscription

Cost: $299
Where to get it: Gizmo
Why it’s a good choice: If you’re constantly being bombarded by minor support calls, then a MyGizmo subscription — which gives 12 months of phone support for virus woes, new peripheral installs and all the other stuff Uncle Fred won’t shut up about — could easily be worth the investment.


A new computer

Cost: $300 and up
Where to get it: The choice is yours
Why it’s a good choice: There’s only so much you can do to fix a machine that’s still running Windows Me on 4MB of memory. Even the cheapest netbook will run like sex on legs after that kind of experience. You might need to devote a couple of hours to helping Gretchen set it up and get it connected, but it’s much easier to start with a clean slate.

Lifehacker Gift Guide 2010


  • I found the best way of avoiding tech support calls from friends and family is to move round the other side of the world. However, it did take one friend quite some time to realise that just because the time zone difference meant his late night computer problems could be fixed at a more reasonable time of the day for me, it wasn’t necessarily cheap!

    • *rolls eye*
      Then you get calls from them saying, how do you do this and that, whats this terminal thing?, a friends kid hopped on and changed the passwords cause i didn’t have a root password, ect

      Mac does have its good points (not as many people trying to right viruses for it, cause there is a higher percentage of people using windows meaning a higher chance of success for the virus to work, cause it is possible, its not immune) but if someone is use to windows they can’t just change to using a mac. Theres also the problem of they were using all this software on their windows computer and they can’t use it on the mac.

      I know a fair bit of IT stuff (I use linux) and i had to hop on a mac the other day and it took me about 10 mins just to figure out some of the gui.

    • I can’t let that pass before pointing out there’s plenty of Mac malware. In-the-wild viruses, not so much. Dodgy stuff pretending to be free copies of major software? Oh yeah.

    • My main issue with Mac, there are no Macs that even wish they were around the $300 price range. Even iPads start at $629. They will sell as gifts however. I already know of 2 people getting one for Xmas amongst my 130 odd facebook friends and I am not in wealthy company, trust me.

    • It took me years to convince my brother in law to buy a Mac. In the end, it wasn’t even me that managed to do it. A second person said “Get a Mac” and it was done within a weekend.

      Two years later I have had one support call (and that was for a wireless printer install). The rest of the agony around getting this or that to work has gone.

      Yes, he could just have easily purchased a high-end PC, but the temptation is always to go cheap and cheerful. The Mac isn’t perfect; the silence, however, is pretty good 😉

  • I don’t see how you can argue against Mac when Linux is the first suggestion on the page. Using one minority OS over another gives you similar pros/cons.

    Also it’s a total myth that Linux makes a faster desktop than Windows. Its strengths lie in other areas.

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