Support Your Friends Tech Needs The Right Way

imageLet’s assume for a moment, that you just got a call from ———– (fill in the blank), who wants you to walk him through transferring files from one computer to another. Not so difficult for you, but often difficult for typical users.

A “help me out” call such as this, is not at all an uncommon occurrence if you’re a high level user. But you know that – which is why you’re going to change your telephone number to “unlisted”, or move out of the country.   Smile

From a personal perspective, I’ve learned, over the years, that a verbal “solve my computer problem” walkthrough is a non-starter – in most instances. Here’s why.

It’s a virtual certainty that some/most/all of your instructions, will have to be repeated – any number of times. If you’re the type of “helpful friend” who has extraordinary patience, you’ll probably buy into this awkward arrangement. But, you will need prodigious patience – and, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to test it.

It would be more appropriate (but far from perfect), to take the time (lots of time!), to set out the needed instructions in an email. But, there’s not much point in reinventing the wheel when a Google search string (continuing with this illustration) – how to transfer a file from one computer to another – will pop up more than 8 Million references.

For example, the most complete article I could find using a Google search string – how to transfer a file from one computer to another – contained just under 500 words. It’s possible of course, that you might be able to transfer the same set of instructions verbally using fewer words – but, I doubt it. And, even if that was possible – you’re back to some/most/all of the instructions needing to be repeated.



And that brings me to that dreaded question which, it seems to me, many high level users – the default neighborhood tech support gurus – are too shy to ask the “you’ve just gotta help me” friend – have you Googled the problem? The most common answer is of course – no.

If you’re still of a mind to go into rescue mode, then you must be the person to find an article you feel should solve the problem. Then, after working together through this article with the not so tech savvy “friend”, hopefully the problem can be resolved.

Make it clear that you expect active participation. In fact, insist on it. Unless you do, I can assure you that you will be the one doing all the heavy lifting. And, it’s this heavy lifting that, over time, sours many tech savvy users on staying in the “I’m a helpful tech savvy kind of guy” game.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

There are many ways to provide tech support to family and friends – hard experience though, has taught me to rely on this one.

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Filed under computer repair, Help, Interconnectivity, Point of View, Windows Tips and Tools

8 responses to “Support Your Friends Tech Needs The Right Way

  1. Mal

    Hey Bill,
    Active participation!! Now, I like that.
    I have a friend (don’t we all) who continually rings me. He has one of those prepaid broadband usb sticks. He considers himself very intelligent (which is debatable). Everytime he wants to top up his credit, I get a a call.
    How hard is it to top up credit. You go to a website, type in a few numbers, and it is done. He still can’t do it.
    There are a whole lot of other things I could say about this guys computer security, but I’ll leave that. I’ve told him what he needs to do, he doesn’t do it.
    I now don’t answer his calls lol.

    • Hey Mal,

      “He considers himself very intelligent (which is debatable)”. – you cracked me up, man! But, I sure know what you mean.

      There’s no doubt about it – without some real participation on their part, this type of person will never learn anything and you’ll have a nonpaying customer for life. Or, as so may high level users do – they just stop helping.



  2. Hi Bill,
    I’ve been in the field for a very long time, this all sounds very familure to me. My Friend/Family HELP rule is; tell them once and then make it very clear that you must charge them for your time for each repeat of the “same” information.
    My family thinks I am a B#*%@, but I get less headaches and I offer to buy the first drink next time I see them.

  3. Robert Davis

    I totlay agree with what youv’e ewritten Bill,
    But what I usually do is get Crossloop out and fix the computer that way (ofcorse THEY will have to install it or have it on their system before i get in there) Then I can control Both my and Their systems .. Works good when the system dont need a shutdown or when you are tring to show somebody how to do something so They could see how its done You can also do all things like transfer files and such stuff using it ,

    And best of all Yes its FREE !!

    • Hey Robert,

      Definitely agree with you – Crossloops is at the head of the pack in its class of software. It does everything you pointed out, and more.


  4. Hi Bill,
    I agree, generally you are asking for it when you agree to a bit of tech support for friends and family. I like the idea of making it a learning experience for the friend, I get annoyed when they just ask me to “handle it” and offer to pay me when they know I won’t take money.
    My weakness is when they tell me they’ll just take it to Geek Squad. I know they’ll be lucky if they just get ripped off so I just don’t have the heart to see them go that route.
    Take care ope you’re enjoying your summer.

    • Hi Mark,

      For sure – if it’s not a learning experience, then you just got “hired” permanently.

      I hear ya on the Geek Squad thing – what a horrible fate for anyone!

      Summer up here has been terrific – hope you’re having the same.