This is the gist of an actual phone conversation I had with my mother one week after she purchased a new computer.
Me: Hi mom.
Mom: Ross… I’m really scared. I think we have a Virus. McAfee says it’s scanning and I can’t close it.
Me: Did you install McAfee?
Mom: I don’t know! I don’t think so.
Pre-empting the dreaded “Sweetie, the computer is acting funny, can you help?” is easy, and the time you save will be your own. In life and in computer care, early prevention is the best medicine.
Mom is not the administrator
- Create an account for her.
- Set the privileges intelligently. (hint: low)
Details for setting up a day-to-day user can be found here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee623984(v=ws.10).aspx
This is the first and most important point of all. True story, after I started writing this post, she called me and said that someone “from Windows” called her and informed her that he could fix her computer remotely if she would kindly go to her computer and request remote assistance. Luckily, she was tired and has no idea how to do that, so the scam failed, but she totally would have. Don’t put mom in this position.
Mom has simple passwords
This is a really big problem, because moms accounts are probably all using the same one, and if one of the 10 million passwords leaked recently, then hackers may he charging in to pwn her.
Get her a password manager. http://lifehacker.com/5042616/five-best-password-managers
This solution is two-fold: one, you protect her accounts from harm, and two, she can’t forget the passwords because something else is handling them for her. Just be sure you know the master password, and teach her how to use the app on her phone and you’re golden.
Mom doesn’t understand that nobody on the internet is her friend
Beware installing anti-viral sofware which is not from a reputable vendor:
If it is not from Microsoft, Norton, AVG, McAfee, Kaspersky, or Trend Micro don’t trust it.
There is a whole category of scamware dedicated to scaring mom until she pays when she’s already infected.
Do not open attachments or follow links from people you do not know. (Trust me, no one is sending you free money, it’s a scam)
Mom doesn’t care what browser she uses
- Install Google Chrome or Firefox.
- Remove IE from the taskbar and the start menu.
- Hell, just uninstall it. Microsoft is sneaky and classifies it as a Windows Feature, but you can remove it.
Mom gets confused with all these ads and popups
Arm her with all the blocks.
Mom doesn’t have a backup strategy
She probably doesn’t need one, but it might be important to think about. There are several paid backup providers, but for as cheap as DropBox is, just give her one folder, sync it, and forget it.
Mom can’t explain what’s going on right now
When something goes wrong, you can save yourself a trip, potentially cross-country, by having a strategy in place to diagnose her problem remotely.
- Show her where the button is on the keyboard.
- Have her email you a screenshot.
Better: Problem step recorder
- It’s on her machine.
- Teach her how to use it.
Best: Chrome Remote Desktop
- Forget recording the steps, just tap into her machine directly.
- I guess you can also use the janky Windows Remote Assistance (start >msra.exe)
Mom just wants you to come over and fix it.
If all else fails just go over. Maybe she’ll make you a sandwich and tell you she loves you.
Finallly: Mom doesn’t need all those crazy programs anyway.
- Linux is an OS for Linux Kernel contributors.
- Windows is an OS for average computer enthusiasts.
- OSX is an OS for uppity graphic designers.
- Mom is not any of these. Just get her a chromebook.
Other miscellaneous protections for mom:
- Stop running Windows XP, seriously, just stop.
- Run an antivirus actively, show her what it looks like so she doesn’t freak out.
– (AVG is good and available for free or premium with some extra features that I’m sure are probably not super worth it, but feel free to give them money if you want to).
- Beware tools that promise to “Speed up” your pc, they are almost always a scam in the best-case and can be bundled with viruses in the worst-case.
- If you find yourself on a scary site, ALT+F4 or kill the process from the task manager, don’t get tricked into clicking anything on the site.
- It is almost never effective to install an Anti-Virus AFTER an infection. Re-format, re-install, get on with your life.
- Always ensure that you have Automatic Updates enabled on Windows to ensure security patches are up-to-date.
Also, you can replace the word “mom” with, “non-technical person” and the article is still valid.
(Edited on Mothers Day 2015. Love you mom!)