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Ask Slashdot: How Best To Set Up a Parent's PC?

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the be-a-dear-and-install-the-cloud-on-my-computer dept.

Windows 418

CodingHero writes "My mother uses a recent enough PC running Windows XP and has a broadband connection, but her primary method of interacting with the online world remains the AOL software. She also likes to download and use various seasonal wallpapers, screensavers, etc. Usually all this works fine and I don't get family tech support calls, but occasionally something big goes wrong. Since she lives 400 miles away, that means I get to provide phone tech support. While I can usually get something fixed through simple instructions, sometimes it's just too complicated to properly diagnose and explain over the phone (e.g., a trojan infection that anti-virus won't get rid of on its own). I'd like to set up the system so that her account is not an Administrator and that I can easily (and securely) remotely connect to fix problems, install stuff she really wants to use (after proper vetting of course), and so on. Moving to Linux or a Mac is not an option. Upgrading the system to Windows 7 and breaking the AOL habit, while seemingly the best course of action, is going to mean a lot of my time up front to explain how to do things all over again, time that I don't have a lot of right now. Has anyone else had a similar experience? If so, what did you find was the best way to re-educate a parent and/or set up a method to securely and remotely manage a system, or at least lock it down to better protect it?"

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iPad (2, Insightful)

Radres (776901) | about a year ago | (#43083203)

Get her one.

Re:iPad (0)

jschmuck (920933) | about a year ago | (#43083281)

+1- this is what I did, outsource tech support to the Geniuses

Re:iPad (0, Troll)

jhoegl (638955) | about a year ago | (#43083397)

Agreed. Apple products were designed to give a false sense of security whilst continually monitoring and managing your computer use habits through industrial strength capital cronysim.

Ownership is only a myth.

Re:iPad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083373)

+500. Buy and config the tablet and then Fedex it to her. Once she gets used to the iPad she'll never use her PC again.

Re:iPad (2)

JeanCroix (99825) | about a year ago | (#43083551)

My mom has had an iPad for over two years, but still uses her, -equipped PC daily. Some things just can't be changed. My last maintenance consisted of deleting the ~70 GIGS of cookies and temporary internet files clogging her hard drive.

Re:iPad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083527)

Get her one.

Yup. Get her one, and watch how dramatically her PC use declines.

My dad has a vastly more powerful, larger-screened, reasonably well-maintained desktop Mac, but the iPad is what he uses for browsing.

Re:iPad (4, Funny)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#43083529)

But what advice do you have for those of us who don't hate our mums?

Re:iPad (1, Insightful)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#43083541)

yep, my mom just got one and loves it

i have 2 iphones and an ipad in the house along with 3 laptops. the laptops rarely get used anymore. even the macbook

Re:iPad (4, Interesting)

raehl (609729) | about a year ago | (#43083563)

The article might as well be me... except it's 270 miles, and my dad does provide some front-line tech support. But my mom is still on AOL.

This Christmas we had her try various tech devices from smart phones to tablets (Android and iOS); the end verdict was she is still most comfortable in front of a monitor with a keyboard and mouse. Tablets worked OK for some of the things she wanted to do, but the lack of physical keyboard was problematic, esp. when it came to email. And it's also more comfortable for her to be sitting in a chair NOT having to hold the screen. Tablet screens also suffer compared to larger monitors when you're old and want a large font.

So while mom might end up with a tablet as an accessory, they are NOT desktop replacements. And don't solve the AOL problem either.

To the article submitter, what does your mom use AOL for? The AOL experience isn't necessarily much different than the browser experience, for certain activities, so you might want to try setting up Windows 7 and then seeing if the browser is "close enough".

Ultimately I got my mom a new PC (her old one was OLD and took days to boot (ok, 20 minutes)) and put windows XP on it. Fortunately she doesn't feel the need to download the screensaver du jour, so with virus software XP is OK and what she's familiar with. Did end up having to put AOL back on it but dad is working on weaning her over to a browser. If she makes that transition probably on to Windows 7.

Get TeamViewer (5, Informative)

twilight30 (84644) | about a year ago | (#43083227)

Walking a parent through steps over the phone can be a frustrating experience. Even after moving my father to a Mac I still found myself having to deal with his issues for the first couple of months on a near-daily basis. Using TeamViewer helped this immeasurably. Free for personal use.

Re:Get TeamViewer (4, Informative)

rwise2112 (648849) | about a year ago | (#43083391)

Using TeamViewer helped this immeasurably. Free for personal use.

Even remote desktop connection will work fine in most instances. It's built into Windows XP and newer versions.

Re:Get TeamViewer (1)

trogdor8667 (817114) | about a year ago | (#43083511)

Even remote desktop connection will work fine in most instances. It's built into Windows XP and newer versions.

But only for Pro versions of Windows, so for most off the shelf PCs, RDP isn't an option.

Re:Get TeamViewer (2)

racermd (314140) | about a year ago | (#43083591)

RDP works great when you've got the router/firewall rules set up for it. However, it's a bit of a security risk to set it up and leave it.

TeamViewer is nice if you can get them to walk through the steps to get a connection going. Same goes for all other types of "request help" options.

I prefer the free version of LogMeIn. The agent is small and it generally stays out of the way when you're not using it. If you get a support call, you can just jump into the computer without any action on their part. If you pay to get a LogMeIn Pro account (it's not exactly cheap which discourages personal use), you can do a lot more back-end monitoring/alerting and system maintenance (file copies, remote command prompt console, event log viewer, start/stop services, etc.) without directly affecting the console session.

Re:Get TeamViewer (3, Informative)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about a year ago | (#43083671)

TeamViewer can be simply 'run' when needed so it's never even installed. My parents will turn it on and call me when they need remote support. If the system is hosed so much they can't run an application, remote software isn't going to help much.

Re:Get TeamViewer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083401)

I second that measure. Teamviewer lets you control the desktop as if you were there, and saves thousands of hours a year for our company. It is also free, as in beer and speech, so it won't cost you anything.
Just set up the user account to be a standard user, and have teamviewer run in the background at startup.
Teamviewer uses significantly less bandwidth than other remote solutions, it's robust, and it is stable.

Re:Get TeamViewer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083615)

Its free for commercial use.

If you're using it at your company, you need to buy a license.

Support the developers, please.

Re:Get TeamViewer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083517)

I did the same thing except when I had them move to Win7. I had TeamViewer setup and ready for them to click on to allow me to connect at any time so as long as the PC was bootable I could get in and fix just about everything they needed (well, mostly my mother).

Re:Get TeamViewer (4, Informative)

dejanc (1528235) | about a year ago | (#43083613)

I second this. TeamViewer is a fantastic piece of software, and best of all it's cross platform, so whichever combination of OS's you and your mom have, it will work. You can even do it from a tablet or a phone and it's pretty much zero configuration, no need to set up forwarding on the router, etc.

Re:Get TeamViewer (2)

Bigby (659157) | about a year ago | (#43083617)

I recommend an option for remote viewing. I have TightVNC on her system and trained her on how to open the ports in the router to let me in. This way I can do just about long as she doesn't have connection problems.

In some instances she has run into connection problems. For those, she needs to know where the router/routers are located. And on them, put post-it notes as to where to unplug/plugin to restart the router.

I'm sorry, you lost me at (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083239)

"Recent enough PC running Windows XP."

Don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083247)

Walk away. Just walk away.

Re:Don't (2)

QuasiRob (134012) | about a year ago | (#43083291)

Agreed. Deny all knowledge of computers.

Re:Don't (1)

Dins (2538550) | about a year ago | (#43083533)

Walk away. Just walk away.

You're probably kidding, but the guy's gonna have a hard time doing that with his mom who already knows his tech background without starting a small family war.

Moving to Linux or a Mac is not an option (4, Insightful)

dgharmon (2564621) | about a year ago | (#43083253)

"My mother uses a recent enough PC running Windows XP and .. Moving to Linux or a Mac is not an option"

Why are you asking here and not on a Windows forum?

Re:Moving to Linux or a Mac is not an option (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083311)

"My mother uses a recent enough PC running Windows XP and .. Moving to Linux or a Mac is not an option"

Why are you asking here and not on a Windows forum?

Because a true nerd is platform-agnostic.

Re:Moving to Linux or a Mac is not an option (4, Insightful)

acariquara (753971) | about a year ago | (#43083423)

Just because we are agnostic doesn't mean we don't run like hell away from the Devil.

Yo no lo creo en las brujas...

Re:Moving to Linux or a Mac is not an option (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083471)

That's just nonsense. A true IT support dweeb is platform-agnostic. But being a nerd has little to do with ones ability to support, enjoy or even like an operating system.

Re:Moving to Linux or a Mac is not an option (1, Insightful)

Myopic (18616) | about a year ago | (#43083581)

Yeah but an IT support dweeb isn't a nerd. Nerds have better sense than that, enough to judge platforms for what they are. I wouldn't put my mom on OS/2 Warp in 2013, and I wouldn't put my mom on Windows in 2013. Let me spill out a little prejudice here: any nerd who doesn't hate Windows isn't a nerd.

Repeat (1, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#43083521)

"Moving to Linux or a Mac is not an option" ..
"Why are you asking here" ..
"Because a true nerd is platform-agnostic."

Then the original question stands, doesn't it? Platform agnostic does not mean "single platform only" any more than it means "you have to like everything".

Re:Moving to Linux or a Mac is not an option (2)

arth1 (260657) | about a year ago | (#43083419)

Why are you asking here and not on a Windows forum?

For BSD advice, of course. Windows forums don't have much of it.

Re:Moving to Linux or a Mac is not an option (4, Insightful)

pipatron (966506) | about a year ago | (#43083523)

My thought as well. Seems like the OP goes something like this:

I want to set up a system where the user by default has no admin privilege, and that can be administrated remotely. Using a system designed for users with no admin privilege and designed to be administrated remotely is not an option.

Re:Moving to Linux or a Mac is not an option (-1, Troll)

Myopic (18616) | about a year ago | (#43083555)

Seriously. Moving to a Mac isn't an option? Well then move to an Etch-a-Sketch, because Windows isn't an option unless you hate your mother and yourself.

One word (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083273)


Have her buy something from Best Buy or wherever, and direct her to ask them for support.

Seriously, why do you want to be her 24/7 tech support? DON'T DO IT!

Re:One word (4, Insightful)

rwise2112 (648849) | about a year ago | (#43083411)


Have her buy something from Best Buy or wherever, and direct her to ask them for support.

Seriously, why do you want to be her 24/7 tech support? DON'T DO IT!

I was going to suggest the same, but then I thought 'he might actually like his mother'.

Re:One word (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083439)

I'll glady be my parents' tech support for as long as they live. Why? Because they were my complete life support for about the first 16 years of my life, setting me up with the opportunities to learn skills I need to make triple my parents' income doing "tech support" for nameless faceless companies like Best Buy. No way in hell am I going to tolerate my own mother to drudge her way through tech support at places like that.

Anon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083277)


another vote for temaviewer (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083297)

I use it to for family "IT" support too. Works great. Logmein is another good option.

Re:another vote for TEAMVIEWER (1)

raluxs (961449) | about a year ago | (#43083331)

All right, typo, TEAMVIEWER

Keep It Simple (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083307)

Get the alpha version of GNU/Hurd to avoid viruses and you better set up the keyboard for Workman layout [] to reduce wear and tear. Now, as for the drives, I'd probably get them a zip drive from IOMega and ... shee-it, I guess you would probably want to rig up a simple theremin as a mouse control input device. You don't want to scare them with a fancy new mouse.

Things should just fall into place from there.

Don't (1)

Verdatum (1257828) | about a year ago | (#43083313)

Walk away. Just walk away.

JoinMe or something similar (3, Informative)

cpm99352 (939350) | about a year ago | (#43083319)

I've done this. Set your parent up in XP with a non-admin account. Ensure you can have her sign in as admin when necessary. Worst case, she signs in as admin and there's a big icon on the desktop (make the background color red or something to make ti really obvious) for running joinme session, and nothing else. On her default desktop, all the usual icons (as well as joinme). I also set up FIrefox w/ adblock, and the PC has been virtually problem free. Only had to walk through setting up a new printer.

Re:JoinMe or something similar (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083489)

You can also do screen sharing sessions in Skype. So you can converse at the same time. I have found this very helpful for providing a variety of assistance.

logmein (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083323)

Re:logmein (3, Funny)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | about a year ago | (#43083569)

you just made me hungry for chinese food

Why not linux? (5, Insightful)

hawguy (1600213) | about a year ago | (#43083325)

If you're willing to move her to Win7 and away from AOL software, why not just move her to Linux? The best thing I did for my parent's computer (they are 6000 miles away) is to replace their WinXP computer with one that runs Linux that's configured to open a web browser immediately upon startup - no login required.

The computer also ssh'es to my public server and opens a tunnel back to their computer so I can connect via VNC if needed.

When they got a new camera, I was able to remotely set up a script so If they plug in a memory card from their camera, it copies the images from the card automatically and uploads to an online photo album.

This covers 100% of what they use a computer for, and completely eliminated their recurring virus infections.

Re:Why not linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083495)

This. Or learn to enjoy the tech support calls.

But I also recommend installing the GNU userland for a more complete and familiar experience.

Re:Why not linux? (1)

PhotoJim (813785) | about a year ago | (#43083575)

I did this with my mother-in-law. VPN connection home so that I can ssh into her box, or VNC, as required, even if her IP address should change. Works great.

Now, if she has a problem, she can show me the problem instead of just telling me about it. As a result, most of her problems can be solved in almost no time at all.

Re:Why not linux? (1)

dmbasso (1052166) | about a year ago | (#43083597)

I have a similar experience. Seven years ago, when my brother couldn't stand anymore giving support for my parents' computer running Windows XP, I took over and installed Ubuntu. Using dynamic dns + ssh + vnc, any problems they have I can solve easily.

Re:Why not linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083609)

You put a lot of effort in instead of just buying them a Mac. Do you have hobbies or a sex life?

Re:Why not linux? (3, Insightful)

jabuzz (182671) | about a year ago | (#43083623)

I would suggest that this is the perfect market segment for a Chromebox or Chromebook. The HP Chromebook with the 14" screen is ideal for those with ageing eyesight, they boot up really fast and do everything many "parents" do. The only issue is the lack of Skype, I think Android tablet is the solution there. You can fix the camera issue with an EyFi card. Printing will probably require a new cloudprint capable device or using something like a Raspberry Pi as a smart print server.

I remain convinced that the ChromeOS has it roots in a senior Google exec sick and tired of doing tech support for a parent :-)

Easy (4, Interesting)

Ritchie70 (860516) | about a year ago | (#43083337)

1. Install logmein ( - the free edition is just fine.
2. Make your mom a standard user. Non-administrator.
3. Create an "Admin" account. Do NOT tell her the password.

It's working so far for my mother-in-law. Her old computer was so badly infested that I just gave up and gave her one of my spares. (She had no reload media.)

Now, even with her teen grandson surfing porn (yes, I caught him at it, yes, we had a long talk about it but I doubt he's stopped) it seems to be clean.

She has Windows 7. Maybe it won't work as well with XP.

Re:Easy (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083571)

Getting a teenage boy to stop looking at porn makes no sense. How about you explain to him how to do it safely?

Re:Easy (2)

Bigby (659157) | about a year ago | (#43083643)

Did you ridicule him; or did you teach him safe surfing?

Setup a clonezilla partition on the hard drive. (1)

Marrow (195242) | about a year ago | (#43083339)

If the machine gets infected, then have her restore from the clonezilla partition and she is back to where she was. For added fun, you could teach her how to make subsequent backups.

LogMeIn (1)

obidon (313762) | about a year ago | (#43083343)

I had a similar situation with my mother. I bought her a generic HP laptop from Walmart with Win7 for ~$400. Installed LogMeIn and I can access whenever I want to maintain.

Re:LogMeIn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083625)

+1 for LogMeIn with parents. for non-relatives where I don't want to be able to log in without permission. -1 for CoPilot, they end support for OS versions (OSX Tiger for instance) much too soon. Neutral on Team Viewer. I have clients that swear by it, but unlike LogMeIn does not allow free use for commercial purposes.

linux. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083345)

Really, my Mum has Linux now. Firefox and Chrome look just the same as on Windows. 1200 km away in a different country but it's reliable this way.

Use CoPilot from Fog Creek (1)

NTT (92764) | about a year ago | (#43083347)

Copilot is free on weekends. []

Linux (5, Insightful)

Peter Simpson (112887) | about a year ago | (#43083349)

I know you said it's not an option.

But I converted my brother and a friend to Ubuntu. Both extremely reluctant to move. So I saved their old Windows hard drive, told them they'd never have to worry about a virus again, and that I would help them figure out anything they didn't understand. It's been a resounding success. Support calls have dropped from several per month to one every six months.

"downloading seasonal wallpapers and screensavers"

I can't think of a quicker way to get my Windows system infected. Seriously, if you're going to break the AOL habit, move her to an iPad or Linux. You won't regret it. Actually, you owe it to her and yourself.

logmein (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083365)

they have a free version for home use, simple interface and nothing has to be initiated by her after the initial install. i use it with my mom who can't teach honors calculus but can't figure out changing desktop icons

Local Group Policies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083369)

Use them, and apply them to her user account.

"Not an option" (0)

gumpish (682245) | about a year ago | (#43083371)

Moving to Linux or a Mac is not an option.

Because you don't know how to use Linux or Mac OS?

Or because your mother's need to look at seasonal wallpaper and screensavers is more important than tens of hours of your time every year and more important than keeping her e-mail and other credentials secure?

Re:"Not an option" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083499)

I'm afraid the tens of hours of his life will be spent managing his newly Linux desktop. Good luck on the next upgrade (or don't upgrade at all, right? Just like on XP).

Re:"Not an option" (4, Insightful)

DutchUncle (826473) | about a year ago | (#43083621)

Just consider, for a moment, that accepting one's parent's foibles is a kindness. Karma-producing, even. Just like not getting upset about baby drool.

Then remember that the reason this is such an effective infection vector is because there are SO MANY PEOPLE like this. There are entire industries creating wreaths, and window stickers, and seasonal decorations.

Now go back and attempt to consider the original question with more compassion for the ignorant user, and less snark for the helper. You can count it as your good deed for the day.

Why limit to Windows? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083389)

going to 7 is not that much different than MAC or Linux for a user the way you described.

I went through the same thing with my mom back when vista came up.

Mover her over to ubuntu. today she does not want to touch a Windows PC because they "break" to easily.

Created a non-admin user for her. Log in about once a month through SSH to update. Every now on them I VNC into her desktop to help her out. It did help that she was on Open Source software for a while before moving from XP to Linux. to create her presentations and documents for her voluntary work.

My mother in law went into a much different direction, as she pretty much only consumes content, she got an IPAD and has been happy ever since. In fact to this day, she only gets new apps on the IPAD (now on a retina IPAD2) when she visits us, we we visit them.

The interesting thing, both of them are is over 4K miles away from me in South america. the worst I have to ever do was recreate her user in an older computer back in 2010, and walk my mother in law to reset and restore the ipad from icloud.

The key for both of them, they were not married to an app or OS, they just wanted to do specific tasks..

Re:Why limit to Windows? (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about a year ago | (#43083647)

True, WE know that... but parents (60+) who aren't that tech savvy tend to be resistant to big change. Even if that change is just a big OS name... it's still scary to some.

They're comfortable with Windows version X, it's less scary for them to go to Windows version Y instead of OSX or Linux or whatever.

My dad never learned how to use a computer, even for just email. And until recently, he was a "General Motors" only-guy. Seriously, 30+ years and only owned GM cars. So, imagine the "fun" there if I tried to get him to switch from Windows to OSX.

My mom is more tech savvy, though still pretty bad, but she appears to like her iPad fairly well. But when I suggest an iMac or something she says "No, I'm used to Windows" Personally, I'd rather she go with the iMac... it's less of a hastle to support and do certain things for someone not very tech savvy.

Break the habits through education (1)

Liquidretro (1590189) | about a year ago | (#43083393)

Break the bad habits that are holding her back such as AOL. Next time you see her educate her. Show her the internet works without aol (I suggest chrome since it has flash and auto updates). This way you can move on from win XP. Where you go from there is up to you. IF she is just doing email, it sounds like a perfect solution fro a Chrome book. Logmein Free works pretty good for remote support. You can get in whenevery you need to run updates.

You've already set yourself up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083399)

for a lifetime of stress.

Send her a map to her local BestBuy and make it the Geek Squad's problem. Or tell her to get with the program and modernize so that you stand a chance.

What you are asking is similar to asking how maintain a car when you've taken most of the tools out of the toolbox.

LogMeIn (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083409)

You can set it up to run as a service and it is free for personal use.

Tried Team Viewer? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083417)

I face the same problem with my parents computer until the day i installed Team Viewer on my parent's computer. It makes things a lot easier now since I just have to tell them to turn on the computer (the application runs on startup) and then I take care of it from there.

Team Viewer works well for me.

Rethink AOL on Win only. (4, Informative)

tloh (451585) | about a year ago | (#43083431)

Shame Linux isn't a option. Not only can my father not deal with an English only user interface, he has no sense of online security at all. So I installed Ubuntu with Chinese on a second hand P4 for his email and web-browsing habit. There is very little maintenance on my part because he doesn't do much of anything else. Occasionally I will go in and delete the unexecutable crap that gets downloaded unintentionally, but that's it. That was more than 3 years ago. Haven't had a serious problem yet. Haven't looked back since.

Local Group Policies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083433)

Use them, and apply them to her account.
LogMeIn or TeamViewer for remote support (don't leave RDP open to the outside).

reverse vnc (1)

datapharmer (1099455) | about a year ago | (#43083441)

Ultra VNC can be run as reverse vnc and will even build a little self-contained executable that is preconfigured. Install the remote on her end and all she will need to do is doubleclick. You can point it at a ddns resolver if you don't have a static IP. There is also the old school remote assistant built into windows which works ok. That said, I would suggest moving her from xp to windows 7. It is much more secure and you can change most things to "classic" mode to make them look XP like to make learning easier. You can also install a router capable of running clamav or some sort of scanning to check those incoming wallpaper executables etc. for trojans and that might make life a little easier. Oh, and if hardware upgrades are ever on the map, consider a mirrored raid. Harddrives for home use are cheap and most motherboards support raid1 nowadays, so considering how few people actually make backups this might be a lifesaver for her and one less headache for you too. It won't protect from everything a good backup will, but it will save her from a sudden disk failure and the built in backup on windows 7 is sufficient for many home users.

steadystate (1)

crakbone (860662) | about a year ago | (#43083447)

Setup her system with windows xp with steadystate. When she wants to make changes once a month come in as admin and make the changes to the system. But remember it is dangerous to have your parents on the internet. Do your best to Keep your parents off the internet. []

you want her to be able to install without tricker (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#43083461)

you want her to be able to install without occasional trickery and not have admin? and you think malware cares about her not running as admin?

setup remote access, do it with that(not so nice when you have to reboot a lot though). use logmein or whatever.

if you don't want to setup that then get her on skype, dead simple screen sharing, let's you at least see what you're trying to explain to her to do.

Mikogo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083465)

I recommended the free version of Mikogo to a manager so he could remote into his elderly friends machine. He seemed to like it and it was easy enough to setup a session for both users.

some methods I use... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083467)

I sometimes do this type of support across countries for my parents as well...

If the network is good, then you may be able to use the windows "remote assistance" feature... this will give you a remote desktop access without really knowing or having your parents know the IP address...

Skye video conference s/w will also let your parents share their desktop view rather than camera stream... this can be helpful while walking your parents through the steps for starting a remote assistance session.

Remote desktop s/w (like VNC) are helpful... but you need to be able to initiate a connection from the outside. a Router with NAT will likely get in your way of using this path.

Logmein (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083469) has a free version that I use to help about a dozen friends and family. Works great almost all the time.

I know it's cliche, but install Ubuntu (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083473)

I installed Ubuntu for my parents back in 2008. Gave them a small amount of training and they have been mostly problem free ever since.

Install AOL under Wine or in a VirtualBox VM. That way if she gets a virus it's contained.

Logmein free (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083485)

My parents live in India and we skype a lot. I manager their computer remotely using logmein free.

When they got new laptop, first thing I asked them is to install logmein. That was the only time I had to do phone support, to make them install logme in. I performed a new install here simultaneously so that I can walk them through easily, rather than asking them to explain the screen.

Once install was done, I cleaned up crapware, installed anti virus software and easy peasy from that time. whenever they say something popped up on screen, I logmein to their machine.

iPad (3, Insightful)

loom_weaver (527816) | about a year ago | (#43083497)

After trying several different hand-me-downs over the years including a 486, original iMacs (Lemon-lime), and a recent desktop Apple, I've concluded that the next machine will be the iPad with the largest display that I can find.

Consuming content - check
App in the same place as it was before - check
buttons and menus not moved around even inadvertently - check

Why not virtual machines? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083507)

1. Partition the hard drive into an OS partition, and a DATA partition.
2. NOTHING goes on the OS partition but VirtualBox
3. You can always format, reinstall on the OS partition and lose nothing
4. Run a virtual machine from the DATA partition.
5. Set up a task to backup the virtual hard drive file as often as you like (every day, once a week, once a month, whatever)
6. When something breaks, restore a backup of the VDI. (Very easy to talk someone through over the phone.)
7. If it goes really bad, format, reinstall the OS partition, build a new VM using an existing VDI on the DATA partition.

You can even store the VDI backups in the "cloud" so you can download it, fix the problem, and upload the fix.

Too bad, time to learn something new (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083509)

There's a difference between not moving to Linux or Mac because of hardware/software incompatabilities, and not moving to Linux or Mac because it's "different".

Tough titties, the world has advanced, it's time to learn. Besides, learning new things is supposed to be better for keeping your brain active and working better at older ages. If viruses/etc seem to be a recurring problem, then you absolutely want to avoid Windows. Get Linux Mint or something similar, since the layout basically works like Windows anyway. Or failing that, get a Mac, and she'll just have to learn that. The option to not learn anything new simply doesn't exist. She's going to have to learn, that's all there is to it.

And the absolute best way to learn something new is just to USE IT! Screw around with it, play with it, see what buttons do what. If you're immersed in something with no option to go back to your old way, you're forced to learn, and you WILL learn it relatively quickly. Once you do the same thing a half-dozen times, it'll start to become second nature to know to do exactly that to accomplish that task.

I'm not familiar with any current programs that do as such, but if you want to stick with Windows (and I'm sure a similar solution exists for the other OS's anyway), use whatever worked like Norton Ghost, where you can essentially wipe the hard drive (minus personal documents, if you so wish), and re-image it to be identical to how it was when it was installed. If new programs are wanted, I'm sure said reimaging program can be updated to the new template.

But in general, you're going to have to throw out the idea of not having things change. The world changes, things change. That's all there is to it.

Ubuntu (4, Interesting)

caluml (551744) | about a year ago | (#43083513)

I set up my mother with Ubuntu, and she loves it. She appreciates the "tidiness" of the desktop, and the simplicity of it all.
I left her set up with the ability to sudo, but with the warning that "there be dragons", and to contact me.
I set up OpenVPN so I could always SSH on, and fix anything.

The only time I've ever had a problem was when my sister's Windows-using ex boyfriend tried to install something, and stuffed up the firewall rules. I simply talked her through sudo iptables ... and I popped on and fixed it. And then reminded her about the dragons.

Years of trouble-free computing.

Buy them something with support. (2)

MartinSchou (1360093) | about a year ago | (#43083525)

Buy them something that comes with phone support. Seriously.

Sure, the support contract may be somewhat expensive, but it's a lot easier when you don't have to worry about support yourself.

Buy them an iMac and get them AppleCare support for 3 years for 169 USD []
Buy them a Dell Inspiron One and get 3 Year Enhanced Support for 149 (I can't find a direct link to a description)
Buy them an HP Envy and get an HP 3 year Care Pack149 USD []

Or some other company - it doesn't matter. What matters is that they can bother someone other than you about these things.

It boils down to something like 50 dollars a year for ease of mind - both for you and them. Sure, it's easy to call you, but they also worry that they're disturbing you. Much easier to pay someone else to do it.

It sounds callous and harsh, but honestly, having worked in phone support for two of the companies, I can tell you, that once you explain to these people that instead of having to worry about bothering their friends or family, they can simply call us and not have to worry about bothering anybody, you can almost always hear a a load being removed from their shoulders.

Yes, we like being able to draw on help from friends and family, but we also don't want to come off as needy and helpless.

Linux and SSH (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083549)

I setup my mother with Ubuntu years ago and ssh as needed to maintain it. As long as she can get to a handful of web sites and email, she is a happy camper.

Teamviewer works for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083557)

Teamviewer works for me. Sets up easily, and you can log into the computer even when she is away once it is set up. It runs in the system tray, and can be set up to run on the computer turning on, even before the log in. I hope on once a month or so to update it and check it out. No complicated set up required, and if it breaks, all you have to do is talk her through re-installing teamviewer.

Two things have worked for me (3, Informative)

LoudMusic (199347) | about a year ago | (#43083577)

A) Users aren't administrators. Don't give them administrative access.

2) No Internet Explorer. Ever. At all. For any reason.

If you want to go above and beyond install Microsoft Security Essentials, Chrome, and some remote management tool like LogMeIn so you can see what they see. You will also need to have an administrator account (I prefer to have my OWN account with administrative access, rather than use the "administrator" account).

VNC server (1)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#43083579)

have her install a VNC server or the RDP client on her computer
then configure her firewall to forward the ports to her computer
then every time she calls have her look up her public IP on her wifi router so you can VNC into her computer

or you can just have her install logmein or teamviewer to make it easy. unlike what most of the slashtarts will tell you
or tell her to buy an ipad which is even better

Have her use what you use at home (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083595)

"Moving to Linux or a Mac is not an option."

Okay, fair enough: Migrate her to the platform(s) you are most comfortable supporting and/or use at home. "But, but..." Give your mother some credit - she will adapt.

After a couple of years of getting 5-10 calls per week from my parents about random errors and pop-up ads on their eMachines PC running Windows XP, I was forced to give them a politely worded ultimatum: If they wanted me to continue supporting their PC, they needed to run what I was comfortable supporting over the phone. They now have a Linux desktop and a Windows 7 laptop, both loaded with Firefox and Openoffice. The laptop only has problems if they shut it down in the middle of a software update, and the desktop only when something outside of the system is causing the issue (e.g. their router needs to be reset). Any issues related to the desktop are handled by phone in 5-10 minutes by walking through the steps on my personal Linux systems, which use the same distribution and the same window manager.

If your mother is anything like mine, she too will appreciate not having to call you 1-2 times per day due to weird Windows problems and malware. Make it easier on both of you and consider my advice.

Ninite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083599)

When I have to help folks out with Windows, I use ninite ( to set up a nice selection of applications. That is a great site for getting an installer that will load a very nice suite of applications, without getting all the toolbar/addon crapware. The installer can then be used regularly to bring all the applications up to the latest versions.

Make sure TeamViewer is one of the applications you choose.

Or, better yet, install Mint or Ubuntu, but if you do, expect to hear a lot of whining from other folks about your choice.

TeamViewer + Chrome + Import (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#43083601)

- Install Teamviewer so you can fix stuff remotely

- Install Chrome

- Drag and drop her AOL favorites from the browser directly into Chrome's bookmark manager

- Remove AOL from the system with extreme prejudice

- Go have a Mai Tai, you've earned it.

Chrome Remote Desktop (1)

Mr. McGibby (41471) | about a year ago | (#43083607)

Super easy to use for both sides. Easy enough that you can pawn off some of the IT help to other members of the family.

Chromebox / Chromebook (5, Insightful)

tian2992 (1690038) | about a year ago | (#43083619)

Chrome OS just screams out for usecases like this.

Chrome Remote (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083627)

I moved my mid 70s parents to chrome for a browser and successfully use chrome remote to help them out.

Does she need any fancy local apps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083635)

Chromebook: the perfect "parent computer".

Deep Freeze (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083651)

Faronics Deep Freeze. Worth every penny. Set up the home directory to be unfrozen and you will never hear a complaint. I use it on my computer, every time I restart I get a fresh development machine.

Deep freeze + windows 7 + office 365 basically covers all disasters.

Mac and Google chrome remote desktop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43083667)

I had the exact same problem with my parents, both non tech savvy and my father with early dementia (ie will click on any link and believe anything online).
They used to be on XP and I used to pull my hair every few days.

Bought them an iMac and a Macbook. No more viruses and malware (or very rare, usually via Yahoo mail).
Also installed Google chrome, then chrome remote desktop on it.
Now I can remotely access their computer for any fix and Chrome remote desktop works remarkably well (also used it to access work and let the work computer do the heavy work).

Remote desktop (1)

DogDude (805747) | about a year ago | (#43083675)

Remote Desktop is built into XP and later. It's free, secure, and has been around for more than a decade. Why not just use that?
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