WOF: Do you provide tech support to friends and family?

By on July 18, 2010, 9:37 PM
[Weekend Open Forum] Being the tech-savvy guys in our families, we're always willing to give a helping hand when needed -- that is until you find yourself constantly spending weekends or spare time away from doing computer-related work as part of your job to, well, do more computer-related work only for free. They know you're the expert and they need help, so it's only natural that they'll pick up the phone hoping for a quick and easy solution to their woes.

Best case scenario, pointing them to that magical Google search box and asking them to input a few relevant words will do. Often you might wind up explaining mom how a certain program works (one that you'd never used before), or worse, reformatting your sister's computer and loading it with all the essential software, hoping that she'll have a good six-month run before slowing it down to a crawl with every malware and bloatware out there. Whether you find it frustrating or not, they'll lean on you for help, and more often than not, it'll feel like you have very little choice in the matter.

Our question for you today: Do you mind providing technical support to your family and friends in your spare time? Or is your love for tinkering and troubleshooting so big that being the go-to guy for your relatives' tech problems doesn't feel like work after work? Bonus points for sharing funny tech support stories.





User Comments: 99

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JMMD JMMD, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

All the time.

SNGX1275 SNGX1275, TS Forces Special, said:

Yep, happens to me all the time too. If its friends of family I usually make a few bucks, if its family though they don't pay

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

"A friend in need, is a friend indeed". What did Ben Franklin even mean by that nonsense? I'll bet he never had friends and relatives with broken computers. He'd be singing a different tune! Probably something more like, "a friend in need is a pain in the a**"! I suggest using caller ID in case of, "friends in need". Or maybe setting your answering machine to "announce only".

Guest said:

But a friend with weed is better...

A typical payment and always welcome. :)

princeton princeton said:

Guest said:

But a friend with weed is better...

A typical payment and always welcome.

You best be trollin.

Yah I do. Just had to build my parent's pc today. Turns out the mobo has a ******* dead ram slot that causes it to not post. Even funnier is I tried not using that slot 2 hours ago and it still didn't post. tried it now and POOF now it posts every time. FML

mccartercar said:

So I was trying to help a friend in another state try to figure out what was wrong. He called me from his cell phone and told me the pc would not come on at all. I asked him if he heard anything when he tried to power it up and he said no. I asked him if the pc was plugged in and everything was connected ok, and he said yes. I told him to look at the power supply and check the voltage switch and make sure its set correctly. He responded and said he tried to look but couldnt see because it was too dark under the desk where the pc was so I told him to get a flashlight but he didnt have one so I suggested a lamp. He told me he plugged in the lamp but he still couldnt see because the power was out.

0_o

St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

I'm studying IT at university, and in our dorm orientation I was pointed out as the person to see about any computer problems... (everyone else at dorms is doing a musical theatre type course..) I have two funny stories from this year.

My friend plays quite a lot of games on his laptop, and is studying multimedia. His knowledge of IT isn't anywhere near mine, but I have seen a little and assumed he knew how to look after his laptop. After complaining for a whole day about apps that wont open fast etc, I decided to look. Windows 7, 80 processes running at once.. Cleaned that, then proceeded to clean with CCleaner. 6500 registry issues, 16GB of crap removed. Poor laptop.

Recently a girl came to me saying her LAN adapter won't work. It was confirmed faulty, and she had to find a wireless connection to use internet. A couple of days later, she comes to my room, saying "I went to electronics store to buy an adapter so my LAN would work, but I can't take off the back of my laptop." I had no idea what she meant, but I went to investigate. I first asked to look at what she actually bought - it was a PCI expansion card! Her reply was "oh no I'm such a noob!!"

St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

There's also a funny vertical-comic-strip titled somethign along the lines of 'Why you should never let anyone know you have IT skills'. Maybe someone knows of it and can link?

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

"A friend in need, is a friend indeed". What did Ben Franklin even mean by that nonsense? I'll bet he never had friends and relatives with broken computers. He'd be singing a different tune! Probably something more like, "a friend in need is a pain in the a**"! I suggest using caller ID in case of, "friends in need". Or maybe setting your answering machine to "announce only".

I was going to ask if family seems to be the most ungrateful even when they dont pay a thin dime, but that answers it nicely.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

st1ckm4n said:

I'm studying IT at university, and in our dorm orientation I was pointed out as the person to see about any computer problems... (everyone else at dorms is doing a musical theatre type course..)

Wow, if you're a straight male, and it's a coed dorm, you're in for four years of pure heaven. This of course is predicated on whether or not the ladies are, "experimenting in college", as it were!

HaMsTeYr HaMsTeYr said:

All the time, most of the times for free. Infact i'm helping a pensioner with setting up his computer and upgrades so that he can chat with his family overseas using skype and the lot.

To me the satisfaction comes not from the payment (i usually don't ask for any) but a job well done and a smile on the other's face. Call me simple and naive, but maybe thats what i am then.

hellokitty[hk] hellokitty[hk], I'm a TechSpot Evangelist, said:

If asked, I do, of if they are close friends.

Mostly, I try to pretend to be clueless that way I get off easy and don't have to screw around with idiotic mistakes, especially through the phone or IM where people lack good description.

Oh and no payment.

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Does a cat have an ass? Hell yeah I provide tech support to family and friends. If it wasn't for me, they'd still be on 10 year old machines, loaded down with 493 trojans wondering what the heck was going on. In my group of family and (older) friends, I'm the only one with any IT experience whatsoever. I'm glad to help out, but it does keep me busy.

BTW - that's a killer dogbert cartoon.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Does a cat have an ***? . If it wasn't for me, they'd still be on 10 year old machines, loaded down with 493 trojans wondering what the heck was going on.
As long as they don't have your personal information on said 10 year old, trojan infested "computurds", I really don't see the down side.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Our question for you today: Do you mind providing technical support to your family and friends in your spare time?

Do I mind ?

I have no choice in the matter...

Wife/life partner: "Hey, hon, mom can't get photo's onto that (massively overpriced) digital picture frame we got her last Christmas...oh, and she tried to plug the cable in and now the computer doesn't work...can you drive over and fix it....pleeeeeeaase"

Me: "Yeah right !, You do know the game starts in an hour, right?"

Wife/life partner: " Please, for me...."

Me (answer #1) : "Sure, ok "

Me (answer #2): "No way, they break stuff all the time, and you know she'll get me to wire the Satellite TV into the guest bathroom or something equally ridiculous"

Answer #1 ...a modicum of domestic bliss......Answer #2...frostbite

And of course, if you're helping out the in-laws, how do you justify not helping people you care about ?

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Yes, since age 10. And considering all of them use computers in their work, its very frustrating. So while my mom can design things on various CAD programs, I need to burn a music CD for her. Anything outside of the comfort zone of those programs I need to write down the formula on what to click and in what order to accomplish other tasks.

Not too many funny stories, but I did discover my magic ability to fix a computer just by being near it. I get a call that so and so doesn't work, I drive over, duplicate their actions, and accomplish whatever they were trying to do. Then I hear " it didn't do that when I tried it ". I guess its funny now.

EXCellR8 EXCellR8, The Conservative, said:

my friends and family make sure to take full advantage of my tech skills... but no more free reformats

Guest said:

Recently i sold my grandmother my old desktop. reformatted fresh with xp cause its the only workin os i had layin around.. 2 days later she calls me saying she forgot her password, and i couldnt log into the admin account to do net user, so i had to reinstall again.. the next morning, she calls me saying she once again, forgot her password... which is why i set it to 123456 that time. :p

I enjoy tech work mostly when its with a tech friend, and its something advanced that i havent learned yet, i enjoy learning new abilities, tricks, tweaks, and programs all the time, but i dont mind helping friends and family here and there :) they know they can rely on me.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Recently i sold my grandmother my old desktop. reformatted fresh with xp cause its the only workin os i had layin around.. 2 days later she calls me saying she forgot her password, and i couldnt log into the admin account to do net user, so i had to reinstall again.. the next morning, she calls me saying she once again, forgot her password... which is why i set it to 123456 that time. :p.

Did I just hear you correctly? You said you >>SOLD<< your grandmother your old computer...! Wow, that's cold.

Guest said:

Doesn't bother me anymore...since I installed a free remote desktop program. As long as their computers can boot & get on the web, I can fix, or see what the problem is remotely.

And since I set up all of my family members computers, they are locked down in regular user mode and can't screw them up too bad ;)

elroacho72 said:

Hell yes, but its always the same thing right click to cut and right click to paste...lol The comic in this is great it really is a clip of my life.Thanks Techspot your my home page

mailpup mailpup said:

I help out some family members and a few friends and always for free (except parts). My brother-in-law works for a microchip company so he takes care of his own family and, besides, he's more into Macs anyway, something I don't know much about. I've built two new budget PCs for family members which I gave to them as gifts and I built one for a friend who only paid for the parts that I chose and assembled. These are the ones I support the most techwise.

I also repair cars and trucks as my main hobby and that takes up a big chunk of my time on the weekends, especially since I only charge for parts, just like with PCs.

mrtraver said:

I do it all the time for fun. I've even been considering doing it part-time for pay. I keep XP running on a separate partition on my PC mainly so I can try things on there then tell my dad what to do on his machine. I am not crazy about helping people over the phone; if they don't know a folder from a file the language barrier gets pretty steep! I also hate working on gateway laptops. I have had to reinstall windows twice on a friend's gateway (i don't know what she is doing to pick up some nasty malware; the internet history is always cleared when she gives it to me), as their driver support and installation is the most convoluted I have seen. But I love building new PCs and upgrading old ones.

jakeshjo1953 said:

hamsteyr said:

All the time, most of the times for free. Infact i'm helping a pensioner with setting up his computer and upgrades so that he can chat with his family overseas using skype and the lot.

To me the satisfaction comes not from the payment (i usually don't ask for any) but a job well done and a smile on the other's face. Call me simple and naive, but maybe thats what i am then.

I'm with you. I never charge family and friends and I just enjoy helping. But I have to say this. If they start to get like I have to come over right then and think their life is the only one that counts then I start telling them to call a tech and see what they can do. I have only had to do that once. Most people I have helped are very greatful and appreciative.

KidChaos said:

my family pays in meals..

mailpup mailpup said:

As I posted earlier I don't charge either but if I did, it would become more like a business and if you repair something and charge for it and something goes wrong, your paying "customer" might expect you to fix it sooner rather than later. If I don't charge, when and if I do it is up to me. That said, in reality I'm more accommodating than that.

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

my family pays in meals..

There ya go! the barter system. I thought about doing that and taking chickens for payment, but its so risky to accept personal chicks.

Swanen said:

Ohh yeah this i do. Not much phone support, more like on site support.

I don't charge them for it, but sure do appreciate gifts which recieved a few times.

Richy2k9 said:

hello ...

yeah, it will never END & so natural, i just don't take it as work anymore for I don't do it for work anymore (in network ONLY now .. phew!) ...

but since around 10 years, i brought my brother into the business, now he does the tech things for the family & i continue with friends, not always billing them for except for components ... i love doing it so easy ! but i also need some time for me & the wify in week-ends LOL & for gaming too...

cheers!

Armanian said:

All the god damn time, if it's not my dad, it my sister, if it not them it's my sister in law. If not any of them, its a friend who needs help with there laptop.

It bloody annoys me sometimes, but other times i do it because i have nothing else better to do.

Guest said:

Help out my neigbour, he returns the favor with mowing my lawn.

Help out the pensioner 3 houses down from me, he returns the favor with flowers, plants, fruit etc...

Do not help family and friends. I got bitten in the bum too many times.

twojpodlysyn twojpodlysyn said:

I help more than a 10 person in a week

Guest said:

A friend of a friend called and told me her internet wasn't working so I went to her and to my surprise, her homepage was "about :blank".

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Of course I do! again being the only computer person in the whole family, Regularly does my Granny download that "toolbar of doom". All to often does my cousin drop her laptop expecting me to be a mirical worker and magic it back to life.

The most annoying part is that they all live so far away, they could at least pay the petrol to get to them!

waynerick said:

Get pestered a lot, especially now I am retired. Don't mind family, but "friends" looking for a cheap solution annoys.

A coupe of weeks ago while in the hydrotherapy pool a guy was complaining about his brand new computer of two weeks not even turning on. After a few expletives from him, I calmly suggested that behind his tower above the power cord, there might be a switch. Give it a flick.

Next day in the pool I asked him how he went. "Works fine", he said.

Guest said:

Yepp =P even tried to make a self help page,

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/A_Beginner%27s_Guide_to_MS_Wind
ws_Optimization

but I dont think it worked =P The problem is that they dont even want to try to solve it themselves, they just call and say, I will be over in 10 min .. ;)

Guest said:

I had the same problem with my parents computer.. reinstall every 3-6 months... untill switched from XP to Linux (first debian, than ubuntu)

My 60+ year old parents are now happily using linux. And the amount of work for me has droped 100 fold.

What i hate most is this kind of IMs:

"Can you find me this song?"

"Can you find me my sql's website (or even specific data on site)"

... that's why there's /ignore :D

tonylukac said:

People are such users. I once couldn't get a meager $15 an hour for 3 hours work for a son of a lady living in our condo. Guess that they don't know the Geek Squad charges $65 an hour. Never went back. My brother's windows xp computer requires scan after scan after scan. I literally spend hours each week on it and only got a burnt to a crisp steak for it on my birthday once. He's afraid of Firefox with Adblock Plus (which would alleviate the need for scans.) How do doctors rake in so much money? Then there are the egos of people like my brother's wife and her computer. There could be no problem, could there? Your still running IE6? Paid $100 for Norton AV when you could have downloaded Avast for free? Once I reloaded windows for a guy and got paid about $100. The next time I went there, his son deleted his printer from control panel. I told the father who argued with his son and the son gave me a flat tire which cost $70. Net $30. Nightmare city.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Well its been going on for long long time, but there is a downside to it as well, most of them don't really try to solve even the minor things at their own (as several others has pointed out very rightly).

For example, I remember a very umm interesting tale, someone I know called me that his PC's Keyboard/Mouse isn't working, I asked them to check lock lights are turning on or not and cables are connected etc. They said yes cables are connected but no lights ..... long story in short is, when I eventually got there and checked I found out that his wife had 'cleanly cut the KB/Mouse cables with scissors' ....... and reason was, guess what ......................... he was spending 'too much time on his PC'

BabyFaceLee BabyFaceLee said:

Why is it that (mostly) guys often think they should receive some sort of payment for what they do for friends/family? Most women (me included) do stuff for guys all the time, including IT support/help I might add, and would never dream of asking for payment and would not accept any if it were offered.

"Of course I'll wash your jeans, get you something to eat, iron your shirt and fix your laptop...that'll be $40 honey."

Give a little guys.

Benny26 Benny26, TechSpot Paladin, said:

My dad and my brother are very stuck up when it comes to intelligence, thats why i love it when i get the call that their pc has gone crazy and they don't know what to do.....ahhhh good times

ET3D, TechSpot Paladin, said:

BabyFaceLee said:

Why is it that (mostly) guys often think they should receive some sort of payment for what they do for friends/family?

I think it's partly because there are a lot more guys doing family IT, so even if the percent of them who charge isn't high, it may be more than the number of women doing that, me, I get insulted when family offers money for my time (which happened).

My wife is perfectly capable of managing her own PC, but she expects me to do it anyway. Still, I think that most of the family have learned to call actual tech support in many cases.

Guest said:

I build/fix MINE, but won't help friends or family becasue they're ungrateful, picky, skeptical and don't wanna pay. They try to coax me and I simply say no.

mrtraver said:

Guest said:

Recently i sold my grandmother my old desktop. reformatted fresh with xp cause its the only workin os i had layin around.. 2 days later she calls me saying she forgot her password, and i couldnt log into the admin account to do net user, so i had to reinstall again.. the next morning, she calls me saying she once again, forgot her password... which is why i set it to 123456 that time.

An Orphcrack LiveCD would be your friend!

(sorry about the double post)

Guest said:

I used to help out most of my family, but then I thought my cousins how to fix their own computers and how to reinstall windows. It turned out to be a great idea because now we help each other out. I just have to do work for one of my cousins because he only cares about soccer and breaks his computer all the time.

Zilliak said:

I literally fix my moms and all my friends computers its funny cause they take it to best buy and they really dont fix shit and i do and then laugh at best buy hysterically over their bs service.

Guest said:

Very often. Scratch that; too often. Believe it or not, but I felt that since I'm the one repairing things all the time, why don't I start taking money in exchange for my service? But since being paid by the family seems pretty cruel, I actually started a small buissness in IT-support... I've already had enough experience, and no customer have ever given me a problem too complex.

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

All the time and I don't really have a problem with it since I enjoy helping others. I don't ask or take any pay since it's family, they however usually do refer me to friends of theirs who will pay but unless its something complex & time consuming I usually don't take it. The only irritating thing is when I try and teach them something so they don't make the same mistake again and they then call me up a couple weeks later with the same problem =/ .

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Methinks you've been listening to too much Shania Twain,

Why is it that (mostly) guys often think they should receive some sort of payment for what they do for friends/family? Most women (me included) do stuff for guys all the time, including IT support/help I might add, and would never dream of asking for payment and would not accept any if it were offered.

"Of course I'll wash your jeans, get you something to eat, iron your shirt and fix your laptop...that'll be $40 honey."

Give a little guys.

I couldn't agree with you more. The traditional male-female relationshiip in marriage is uncomfortably similar to prostitution anyway. Why does the best sex always come after the purchase of a new dishwasher?

So, I can understand somebody fixing their wife's computer, since they're not going to get laid without doing it. But, does somebody really have to fix her family's and friend's machines to keep things going on in the bedroom.

Trust me darlin', I've been around for a long time. I know how to wash my own dungarees, cook, and a whole lot more.

You're argument makes a very strong case for pocketing the 40 bucks and calling an escort service. They won't ask me to fix their friends and families computer, and I won't have to listen to any crap when we're done!

But most importantly, I won't have to try and fix their computer and cuddle at the same time!

PS; Oh BTW. if you think you're a trophy wife, then act like one, instead of gaining a hundred pounds or so after your first child, then spending all your efforts into trying to make me think I really can't judge female beauty standards, and that "big is beautiful", meanwhile spouting a bunch of nonsense like, "am I not the same woman you married".

NO...., you're not! You ate her.......!

Guest said:

http://gizmodo.com/5413195/humor-geek-squads-real-agenda-ex
osed

This is a pretty hilarious video

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