If you are reading this then the chances you are fairly computer savvy if not expert. What that also probably means is that any older members of your family and extended family quite possibly see you as an expert in computers even if you are not. Have a think how many times have you had a call, SMS or email out of the blue from a relative or friend asking you what they see as a technical question about how to use Excel, send an email,  etc?

In most cases you may have known the answer but sometimes the request is a bit more obscure. You will probably never stop people asking for your help so how can you make sure that when they do ask you can answer more quickly and with the minimum of hassle? Here’s Six tips we think will help:

1. Offer buying advice

If you hear a relative talking about buyin a new PC, be proactive and see if you can help them choose. You will probably have more idea of what they will and won’t need on a machine for their own use so you might save them money and the need for buying a machine they will only use 1% of the capabilities of. Also it makes sense that you can help steer them to perhaps an operating system or manufacturer you have experience of, as it will save you ‘researching’ when helping in the future.

2. Load their software

Of course they will have preloaded stuff they are keen to use, but if you are to advise them when things go wrong there is no point them running with the latest versions you have never even seen. Open-source software can be as powerful as the expensive stuff and often more intuitive to use. If you load that onto their machines and you also have a copy on your machine, offering future advice will become so much easier.

3. Get them with the smartphone generation

OK many will be reluctant to switch and be daunted at first, but touchscreen technology and apps really is a much easier way for tech-reluctant people to get things done. Also the chances are you have a smartphone too, so try to get them to choose one like yours or similar so that when things ‘go wrong’ you at least have some idea of what they are talking about.

4. Get them online

Although being on the internet might be common-place to you and I, you will be amazed at how many people see the internet as beyond them. If they are not yet connected, help them get set-up and maybe find out about local (often free) courses nearby that they can attend for some introductory sessions. Once they are online, communication when things go wrong will become much easier for you but also the advice that is available online means they may well find they need you less and less.

5. Get them on Facebook

There is a growing movement of the older generation to Facebook but there are still many scared by media stories about privacy and who can see their account. Explain to them the controls they can put over their information and set them up an account. Normally once they have had a few sessions playing around and realising how many of their own family and friends are already on their, they will catch the bug. Now if they have a problem they can post on their status and possibly recruit others to provide their IT support too – instantly.

6. Set-up Remote login software on their machines

This is probably only for the regular ones who seem to need help every week or so. With so many free and cheap remote-access options out there nowadays there are plenty of options to choose from to install a program that can sit quietely on their machine until needed. If you are trying to help them fix something it is so much easier if you can see their screen at the same time and in the busy world that side-by-side support is difficult to fit in. You may want to warn them first though as watching your cursor move by itself can be disconcerting even to experienced computer users.

The above won’t stop people bugging you for help but will certainly help you to help them when they do.

Good luck.

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