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Tips for holiday tech support

If you're going to be supporting friends and family in between servings of turkey and pumpkin pie, here are a few things to bear in mind beforehand.

If you're going to be supporting friends and family in between servings of turkey and pumpkin pie, here are a few things to bear in mind beforehand.

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Ah, it's holiday season again. A lot of folks will be unplugging from work and spending some quality time with friends and family. For those of us who work in IT, though, these months often show a spike in service requests. They just won't be coming from the office. If you are anything like me, you will probably find yourself offering advice on which gadgets make nice gifts and lending a hand in getting some of those gifts working. You might even be attending to a sick PC or two.

Sometimes it can be hard providing tech support to friends and family. I find it can be easy to get distracted and aggravated, since I'm usually hoping to take a rest from all things resembling work during my off hours. What good are our skills though, if we don't use them to help those people who are most important to us? If you decide to lend your loved ones a hand, let me say good for you and offer a few suggestions for things you might want to keep in mind before making holiday house calls.

Bring your own computer. If you get to Granny's house and her "little problem" is that Windows won't boot, you might need your own machine. Burn a disk of software you might need. If there isn't broadband available, you'll be glad you brought your own software. Include all the greatest hits...major OS updates, installers for anti-virus and anti-spyware utilities with current definitions. CDs are best for this, since you might not be able to count on a DVD drive being available. CDs also won't be prone to any infections that might be present in the patient. Be patient. It is a universal truth that no one can get under your skin like your family, but if you get frustrated, you're not doing anyone any good. Don't rush the job, and take your time explaining things. If you find that your fuse is getting short... Know when to say when. You don't have to accept every request for help, and you don't have to use up an entire weekend being the hero. You're entitled to have some time to yourself.

What's your policy regarding tech questions when getting together with your friends and family? Do you like to help out or are you "off the clock"? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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