How to Fix Your Family’s Tech Problems Without Going Crazy

I don’t mind helping out friends, loved ones, and extended family members when some device or service goes wrong, but it can be tricky when they don’t quite understand how to describe the problem—or even the things they’ve done to fix it. Having found myself in this position quite a few times, I’ve come up with a few general troubleshooting techniques that you can use to (hopefully) address most problems your family members bug you about.

Make sure the device is running the most updated version of its software

Whether someone says they’re having a problem with their smartphone, their router, or most other devices, it never hurts to confirm that they’ve actually updated their device’s software to the latest version. That’s easy for smartphones; for PCs, make sure they’ve at least run the system-update tools in Windows or macOS recently. If they’re still using an ancient version of either (such as Windows 7 or macOS Sierra, for example), you might even consider walking them through an upgrade to a more modern OS—a longer-term project, but something worth considering as a larger solution.

You’ll probably need to walk your friends and family members through the firmware update process for trickier devices, like their routers, but it’s worth the time for the additional security updates or features they’ll receive. And if a device has some kind of auto-updating feature, it doesn’t take that long to pull up its manual, find out where that setting is, and have them confirm for you that they have it turned on.