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Holiday tech support: 7 tips for Windows computers

Holiday tech support: 7 tips for Windows computers

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It's that time again: Thanksgiving. For the past 12 months you've been telling your parents to just "restart it" and the family PC has been running fine, kind of. You just want to enjoy your oven-roasted turkey on Thursday, but your parents are ready to embrace your technical skills. This year, it's time to fix all the little problems on the family PC and make sure it's easy to resolve others in the future. Here's a crash course on the type of questions you're going to get on Thursday.

My computer is too slow

This one is a classic one, and most people will complain about slow PCs. The best place to start is to make sure the system drive isn't full. If there's not a lot of free space then it's time to perform some clean ups. Windows has a built-in disk clean-up tool, and it's a good place to start. It probably won't clear all of the space issues, so it's worth checking out the downloads folder or any of the documents, videos, and music libraries to see if there are any unnecessary files taking up a lot of space.

Windows 10 disk clean up

Space issues aside, a computer can also run slowly if there are a lot of apps running. A common culprit is apps that run at start-up. If you're on Windows 10 then launching the task manager and heading to more details and then the start-up section is a good place to start. Try disabling apps from starting up if they're not necessary, but be careful with what you're disabling and avoid disabling anything Microsoft-related or any apps you're not sure about. If you're on an older version of Windows then the same start-up section can be found by going to start > run and typing msconfig and then heading to the start-up tab.

I hate this Windows 8 start screen

Windows 10 is a free upgrade

If your parents are like many others then they probably hate Windows 8. Thankfully, Microsoft has an easy and free upgrade that removes most of the frustrations. If the family isn't running Windows 10 yet then check the system tray for an upgrade notification to get the PC upgraded. You can even skip the line if you don't want to wait, but make sure that you backup all important files before you move to Windows 10 just in case.

My printer won't work

I know what you're thinking, who owns a printer these days unless it's a 3D one? Unfortunately, we still need to print occasionally so you might run into some issues with the family PC. If you've tried resetting the printer and you're still having issues then check the print queue from the print icon in the system tray. You might see a document from last month sitting in there continually trying to print or with some kind of error. Clear it out and then try a fresh document. Also make sure your parents haven't accidentally enabled the "use printer offline" option, because that's really no fun.

Windows 10 Printer

Lost files

We've all been there. Wiping out hours of work by mistake is painful, but there are ways to avoid this. If you've lost a few files, there's a high chance they may have just hit the Recycle Bin so check there first. If they're truly gone then try a free recovery tool like Recuva. If you're lucky and they were only recently deleted then you should be able to recover them easily, otherwise you'll need to look into more expensive data recovery options if you really want the files back.

Make sure you create a backup so file restores are easy in the future

To prevent this in the future, get your parents a USB hard drive and set up Windows backup. On Windows 10 it's as simple as searching for "File History" and selecting the drive to automatically back up folders like documents, music, and movies. There are more advanced options, but you'll be able to recover files and folders by right clicking and "restore previous versions" within File Explorer. That will make things a lot easier if files disappear from the family PC in the future.

Windows 10 PC backup

Browser home page is weird

A lot of apps hijack your home page by default these days, even Microsoft's own Skype installer will switch you over to MSN. Usually it's fairly innocuous, but if Internet Explorer is suddenly starting on a random fake version of Google then it might be time to check on the anti-virus status of the PC. Windows 8 and Windows 10 provide built-in malware protection with Windows Defender, but if you're running Windows 7 or older then grab a copy of Microsoft Security Essentials. It's free and you'll be able to run a quick scan to see if there are any issues. Browser hijacks are fairly common and easy to remove, so Security Essentials will restore you back to whatever homepage you're comfortable with.

Help for the future

You don't need to travel to help fix the family PC

These are just some basics, but if you're tired of your parents calling you at odd times or pestering you to visit and fix their PC then it's time to get ready for the future. Install something like TeamViewer so you can remotely help the next time there's a support problem. It's free for personal use, and it's really easy to use for both you and your family. Who knows, maybe next Thanksgiving you'll be able to eat your turkey in peace as a result.


Buy your way out of this problem

If your family PC is really old then it might be time for a hardware upgrade. There are plenty of PC options thanks to the release of Windows 10, and if your parents don't need a full PC then there are lots of laptops, tablets, and Chromebooks to consider. Check out our full best laptop, best tablet, and best Chromebook guides for hardware recommendations.