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7 ways to avoid being tech support for the holidays this year

Here's how to quickly help your family and friends — or teach them how to help themselves year round.

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You know it happens every year. You go home for the holidays and your father shows you his computer screen leaping like reindeers in the snow, or your aunt has a smartphone with a frozen screen. We feel your pain. Don't want to play tech support to the relatives? Here are seven ways to help you fix their problem quickly, or places to send them online to fix it themselves so you can get back to the party.

Step 1: Site Speed

This is the fix to use if the complaint is that someone can't get their Netflix to run in the bedroom, or they can't upload photos to Facebook quickly enough. A side bonus: you're going to look like the smartest person in the room, a tech genius if you will. Launch Ookla Speedtest from your iOS or Android phone and show them how fast or slow the download is from their Wi-Fi connection. (Our writer Stewart Wolpin explains this in solid detail in the middle of this article.) From there, they can take that issue up with their cable or internet provide (see Step 5) The beauty here is this step takes just a few minutes, and gets the real heavy lifting off your plate.

Have them check download speeds first. Maybe this is a call their cable provider can help them with, not youiStock

Step 2: Suggest better passwords

It's an oldie, but a real goodie. Changing their password isn't going to get a virus off their PC. But it's a solid security step — and it could be a reason they have downloaded something funky in the first place. Ask if they ever changed the password in their smart device, or are using a strong password manager. Likely they're not. (Most people do not.) Send them here to learn how to use these devices, and change passwords. Again, a good diversion that frees you up, and maybe disappear into the family crowd.

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Step 3: Update all OS

No we are not suggesting you sit there and update their operating systems. (Trust us, we like you.) You can, however, show them where to check on their smartphones or computers in settings to see if they've updated to the latest OS for their Mac, PC, Android or iOS device. Often a small icon will show up that an update is waiting, and again, they can do the work while you sip some egg nog. Truthfully, by the time your great aunt has uploaded and tested her device again, you'll be out with friends.

a photo of a coffee mug next to a tabletHave them make sure they've downloaded the latest OS for their device. While that happens, you can chill with the rest of the familyiStock

Step 4: Security 101

Sit them down and have them watch our recent Facebook Live with Gary Davis from McAfee, only one of the better known computer security company's out there. We talked with the chief consumer security evangelist all about why you want to have strong passwords, and good security on your smart devices. Plus now you get a 30 minute reprieve.

Step 5: Get them some real help

Here are the links to the official people in tech support:











You can also send users to GearBrain's new product find engine to get help on any smart device. You can send them this link and it will take them to the home page of The GearBrain. All they have to do is search for the smart device they are having problems. Then click on the product and it will take them to a product page with links all the information they need to solve their problems. There are links to the manufacturer's customer service, owner's manuals and setup guides. You can even ask questions on the FAQ tab which will be answered by an expert within 24 hours if not sooner. And the best part, it's free to use.

How to Find Products in The GearBrain, Our Compatibility Find Engine for Smart DevicesGearBrain helps simplify the Internet of Things or new connected devices for consumers. The GearBrain is the first and only ...

Step 6: Back Up

A favorite: Ask them before you start, "Now, you know you could lose all your data. I just want to double-check you backed up all your data." We'll bet you a ham they haven't, which buys you an incredible amount of time. Because they then have to A) back up their data, or B) Get a external hard drive which will days to arrive in the mail, or something you can't buy today because it's the holidays.

a photo of a dinner table with wine glassesSo that selfie app won't load? Remind them it's friends and family time. Unplug, and enjoy the holidays with people you love.iStock

Step 7: Turn everything off and unplug it

Honestly, rebooting things can be a magic salve in the world of tech. So there's no harm in trying that. (Although do check Step 6, just in case.) Truthfully too, it's the holidays. Some of us see our family just once a year. So suggest they unplug the computer, put down their smartphone, and tell them you'll help them after the holidays. Which is when you can cut and paste Step 5 into a card, and wish them a very Happy New Year.

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