The holidays are right around the corner and we all know what that means – family, friends, and endless questions about grades, dating, and helping family members with technology. We all want to think that growing up attached to technology means we are amazing at fixing it, but here are a few tips for common issues and their fixes.


The first thing to do

So a relative corners you and assumes, as a young person, you know everything about technology. What is the first thing you should do to troubleshoot problems with family members’ tech?

Google. Google is your best friend. Any tech problem you may have, I can assure you, someone else has also experienced it (and they might know the answer to fixing it!) What do you type into Google? Usually a summary of what the person said will do. For example:

Grandma says: “Honey, my computer has a lot of pop-ups and sometimes turns off and shows a blue screen.”

You Google (once looking at computer): “Pop-ups, Error x011034 blue screen, hp pavilion”

This is usually made easier if they have taken pictures or have the computer with them. Google, Google, Google. It will save your life, and your pride as a Millennial.

How do I fix it?

So you Googled the problem, congrats. How do you go about fixing the problem? If you found a fix online, I would say go with that. People who post fixes for issues backed up by others are typically not malicious. If they say to do something, it will usually fix it.

Do not call tech help numbers that are not on the company’s official site or click on any virus scan or cleaner software without reading up on it first. Remember if there are pop-ups and/ or viruses, look closely at the links you are clicking.

Viruses/ Pop-ups

Ask a few questions:

  1. When did this start? (If they say after they went on a certain site and clicked on an ad, then you know what caused it)
  2. Is it just online, or everywhere on your computer? (online is typically because of malicious extensions, everywhere is real viruses)

Ok, so you have that info. Start with this link for viruses (everywhere on computer)

If they say they are just online, look up how to see extensions on whatever browser they are using (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer). If you see shady extensions (like “HotEbayBuys!”) that they claim they didn’t install, delete them.


  • Run MalwareBytes
  • Turn the firewall on
  • Check extensions
  • Delete any applications that didn’t
    • 1. come with the Mac
    • 2. the owner installed.
  • Run updates in the App Store


  • Run MalwareBytes
  • Turn the firewall on
  • Check extensions
  • Search for “uninstall programs” and uninstall any that get bad reviews on Should I Remove It?
  • Run HitmanPro if there are still pop-ups.
  • Run updates in control panel.

BOTH: Install Chrome and Ublock Origin to prevent pop-ups from tempting ad clickers to begin with.

(All of these programs above are free or provide free trials)

Slow Computer

  1. Scan for viruses with MalwareBytes
  2. Run updates
  3. Delete old files and clutter, check how much space is free
  4. If computer is over 4 years old, maybe think of getting them a nice new one for the holidays
  5. If under 4 GB of RAM, consider buying new sticks and replacing
  6. If nothing else works, completely wipe the hard drive and reinstall Windows/ Mac operating system

Back up

At some point, every computer will reach its limit. Make certain that when their computer flashes the last light through its dying screen, they will not lose all of their files. Backing up is important because if a computer dies tomorrow, it will take music, photos, documents, and all precious files we wish to not lose. Come prepared with an external hard drive. Backing up is a pretty simple process, but it is easily overlooked until tragedy strikes. For a Mac, simply plug in the external hard drive and run the Time Machine program that is available on Macs. For PCs, drag files that look important to the external drive. This will save you later, I swear.


Ok, so at first helping family with technology might sound as bad as a root canal, but it can be rewarding to feel helpful and it can actually bond you with these people you call your family. Helping them can also connect you through technology in the future. I taught my Grandma how to use Snapchat and she sends me the best selfies. She can also see my Snapchat story and feel connected by knowing what’s going on in my life.

Imagine yourself in their position as a grandparent, and treat them as you would want your grandkids to treat you. In the future, our grandchildren will have to patiently explain the mind-blowing technology that will exist then. They see you only a few times a year, use anger management and take deep, calming breaths when dealing with tech that won’t cooperate and lengthy explanations.

BE PATIENT. Just remember, these people didn’t grow up with this stuff. Speak to them in simple terms (no techspeak) and make sure they understand what to (and what not to do) to prevent the issue from happening again. The last thing you want to happen is to fix it again next year. You may be surprised how quickly they pick up on the tech once you take the time to make sure they understand. Don’t simply grab the computer and do it yourself, show them what you’re doing and explain it.

Want to go deeper into this topic? Check out this blog.

Good luck, please comment with any questions! Happy Holidays!