How-To Geek

Ask the Readers: Will You be Repairing Computers for Family and Friends During the Holidays?

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The times for family gathering together during the holidays are almost here. What we would like to know this week is if you will be spending part of your holiday time working on computer repairs for family and friends.


Gray house cat photo by Eirik Newth & snarling tiger photo by bthomso.

Each year during the holidays most of us get called on by family and/or friends to clean up malware, repair unstable operating systems, perform upgrades, and/or install operating systems. For some of us that may only be a matter of working on our parents’ computer or it could be the oddball occasion when something messed up and we are the only ones who know how to prevent a large computer shop repair bill.

Then there are times when it feels like everyone saves their computer problems up for when we visit and it can be a bit overwhelming…especially when it could take up most of your off-time just to fix everything. Then there are the ones that all of us absolutely dread…the person (or people) who always have the same computer problems every time you visit and no matter how much you try to help or teach them things never change. It is enough to give you a major headache just thinking about it…

Each of us has had to decide what is an acceptable amount for helping out and what totally crosses the line. If you are lucky, then you are rarely called on to help out or if you do help the amount of work is small (therefore not eating up your precious off-time). Maybe you have decided that you will only work on certain people’s computers for a set amount of time. Or perhaps you have become so frustrated that you refuse to do any work at all and tell everyone to take their computers to a repair shop.

Needless to say we all have at least one horror story to share concerning holiday computer repair adventures. This week we want to know if you will be working on computers for your family and friends. Have a good story that you would like to share with your fellow commenters? Let us know in the comments!

[polldaddy poll=”4140891″]

Akemi Iwaya is a devoted Mozilla Firefox user who enjoys working with multiple browsers and occasionally dabbling with Linux. She also loves reading fantasy and sci-fi stories as well as playing "old school" role-playing games. You can visit her on Twitter and .

  • Published 11/24/10

Comments (44)

  1. TomSr

    I install Teamviewer on the computers of family and friends so I can help “remotely.”

  2. Mike

    I woek in a computer repair shop and dont break up till xmas eve

  3. tyros

    Yup, +1 for TeamViewer, very useful tool

  4. cman32

    I have family in the UK and Australia. Teamviewer all the way!!

  5. JLamp

    Ditto…I do as much work possible remotely using LogMeIn.

  6. nt0xik8ed

    it depends on how good the meals are.

  7. Brad

    With some of the family visits, I would rather be working on their computer than talking to them. Gives me an excuse not to be in the room with them, and if they start asking what the problem is I start talking about the technical aspects of the system. They get that glazed look to their eye and remember they forgot their drink in the other room, usually not returning.

  8. M. Fawzi

    The best thing in this post is the 2 pictures which describe of the post.

  9. Hatryst

    That’s the disadvantage of being a family tech guy… But it feels good after all :)

  10. Zack

    I’ll do it. I guess I’m kind of doing it right now for a couple friends. They want to dual boot Windows 7 and Ubuntu, and since I’m the Linux guy, I’m helping them with it. They are pretty computer savvy, but they don’t know anything about Linux or dual booting other kinds of OSs (non-Windows).

  11. Jonneh

    I’ll be installing Teamviewer on my grandfather’s computer this Christmas so I don’t need to take a trip to their house to fix the silly things he messes up.

  12. MJ

    I’ll try that Teamviewer too. It’s the same story every holiday, but I’m glad I can help.

  13. Susrich

    Hehe – teamviewer is THAT tool for the family and their returning problems!!!

  14. Anon

    Some “help”

    1. Windows Update
    2. Filehippo Update Checker to update most apps.
    3. CCleaner to free up disc space
    4. Defraggler to defrag

    That’s all I do.

  15. Kellan is a great website created by LogMeIn for remotely accessing computers without installing software.

  16. Col

    If they use windows there is always something that needs sorted. Some people don’t even know if they are on xp, vista or win7 but all will have issues from major to minor.

  17. Steve O

    NOPE! Got all that squared up. Payment= Turkey :D

  18. bonedog73

    I’d rather stab my eyes out with a spoon. Honestly I think it’s strange how long people will go before paying someone to fix their computer. They’ll do online banking, facebook and everything without hundreds of spyware/malware/viruses on their computers.

  19. The Angaraian
  20. Van Hoa

    Agree with Hatryst. It is sometimes a bit frustrating but it feels good to help friends after all.

  21. eigtba

    +1 for LogMeIn. Most times around the holidays it’s removing crapware from new computers. Family is free where as friends I charge to do it. Anything more complicated than that I charge regardless. Easy side money to buy upgrades for my computer.
    +1 for MS Security Essentials and MalwareBytes as well. I used to use Avira but became too annoyed with the ad popping up everytime it would update (I was too cheap to buy the full version).

  22. Anonymous

    For me there are basically two types of friends and family who need or even want my help. Good users (who backup and pay attention to detail) and bad users. So for those good users I usually just do an update or two, configure a setting or two and I’m done. These are usually the users who also let me in using Teammate, LogMeIn or something like that too.

    But for those bad users, I usually end up going nuclear on their system and do a complete partition wipe and OS re-installation. Believe it or not, wiping out the OS and totally reinstalling is almost always a lot less time consuming than trying to scan for viruses/malware or figuring out just how little Johnny installed that root kit or something. It’s usually best you do this in person too. Cause after a year of installing and uninstalling all kinds of things from games to toolbars to who knows what, and usually on a non-updated / non-maintained system even, I find I’m likely going to have to reinstall the OS anyway! And if I’m really smart and prepared, I’ll even have an image from the last time I did it which makes this whole wipe and re-install process even faster. All I have to remember is to bring a nice fat juicy external hard drive with all the data, tools, and potential space for backups. But even better may be that when I tell them I’m going to have to do this they sometimes decline my help which then allows me to enjoy the holidays and do other things (I just have to be ready if they call my bluff is all).

    BTW, I’m a big fan of free software and when I can convince someone to use something free like Open Office rather than pay money for nearly the same thing such as Microsoft’s Office (or just about ANYTHING from Microsoft) for example, it only makes my job of re-installation that much easier. Cause with free software there are no activation surprises or nightmares and a lot less legal mumbo-jumbo to consider (other than maybe the “issues” we all go through with Windows, that is).

  23. mg
  24. jeepmanjr

    Ya know…you really wanna hook up ur family and buds. And you do…a few times. Then it becomes apparent. They know NOTHING about computers, put out NO effort to learn anything about computers and have no reservations about jacking their computers up and sending them to you for repair. And what do YOU get out of it? Just don’t seem right.

  25. ProstheticHead

    I’m sure I’ll spend most of my holiday fixing one PC or setting up another. It’s my own fault really, I’m a perfectionist and very fussy computer geekery. Couldn’t have people talking about me.

  26. vistamike

    Got a lot of friends getting new rigs this xmas, so it will be busy but it will keep me away from the turkey dinners! (I hope)

  27. dave

    Ah, yeah, how did you know?

  28. Antrikshy

    C’mon! Fixing computers helps show off and build up some geek charisma,

  29. HyperIT

    Kudos for Teamviewer …1 more happy costumer.

    Almost every week… not only on thanksgiving.

    The karma of helping family and friends..always comes around …and they end up helping you in some other way.

    Happy holidays to all.

  30. jmortj5

    Lmao, hell yeah, I’ll be working on computers this weekend! Well, actually I’ll be starting today! wooohooooooooo! lol Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

  31. Manny Mtz

    I’d be more than glad to help a friend or family member just to show off how good I’m with computers!!!

    I just want to say that this site is awsome, there are many things to learn and share!!

    thanks to all who make this possible!!!!

    Happy Thanksgiving Day to all!!!

  32. Luis

    Of course I will help my Family and Friends, I am only good with computers, so I can show off’.

  33. Demon Lord

    Where I live people don’t celebrate thanksgiving and we don’t get a holiday so no family gathering or repairing.

    As for repairing I repair since I was 16. Fore me repairing is more than welcomed. I repair for family, friends, friends of friends and for people I don’t know.I do it not for them, but for me. The more I repair, the more experience and knowledge I get.

    People here are not that much into computer and geekery. They don’t know what cmd is, don’t know what cpu they have and probably what internet browser they use and the word Linux is from another planet. When they need a repair I know what the problem is even before they say it, Windows is destroyed, cmd automagically disappeared, paint isn’t working and the hard drive is a forest of malware and viruses. so repair if futile. So what I do is prepare an external filled with tools and and a space for backup and an image of a Win Xp that has all it’s drivers uninstalled. I backup their data and a screen capture of the device manager then restore the image to their pc, install drivers and programs then restore their data.

  34. Vida

    Well, I’m just sick of doing it.. so I bought the T-shirt

    Can’t be any clearer… :^)

  35. tommy2rs

    This year we’re going to visit the luddites of the family. The highest tech there is the TV so nothing to fix. Well, maybe the blinking light on the VCR. There aren’t even any neighbors close enough to borrow a cup of wifi from.

  36. FHS Administration

    Well I tell them that if they want me to do it during my holidays, they’ll be paying for it big time.

  37. Mastermind


    I want Disquis logins!

  38. mike

    its the only time my sister has her pc fixed.when i come over to clean up all the crap on it,but she cooks a hellva meal.happy thanksgiving to all.

  39. Randy

    I usually work on friends and family computers all year long. I use Mikogo for remote access. I don’t mind helping out.

  40. Dan Oblak

    I have learned happily, that it’s easier now than 10 years ago — because everyone is getting their kids netbooks. By the next annual gathering, the kids are supporting their parents’ machines. The first year might still be a little rough, though.

  41. Matthew Guay

    Other than evangelizing Dropbox and talking about computer stuff with a couple geeky friends Thursday evening, I stayed out of Thanksgiving tech support.

  42. Venessa

    I always end up helping with computer problems but I enjoy it… And it’s easier than hanging around and trying to watch TV (which I loathe). I like the excuse to play with a computer and straighten out the huge messes they tend to make.

  43. Urichhai

    Never fails saw this thread a couple of days ago and voted maybe. Now I have one system for a good friends son being shredded and a new mobo,proc and ram going in and 2 laptops that need backup and os reinstall. Oh well tis the season to be techie…….

  44. Edmondo

    NO NO NO…what part of NO dont you understand.
    I looked at their system and wrote down what their problem is and what to do. Surprise surprise surprise the next year they have the same problem and no they didnt do what I told them to do. Of course they do not have a backup or the orginal OS. I learned my lesson years ago and Homey dont play dat game no mo.

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