Family Tech Support

23Jun08

Raise of hands…how many of you have a second job in tech support for family members?  You don’t have to be a techie, just knowing something about computers can probably qualify you.  For me it comes with the territory.  Although I do not spend most of my time troubleshooting desktop issues these days at work there is no differentiation when it comes to family members requesting help.  Working with computers just lumps you into instant tech support role.

My latest request came from my in-laws.  They have an XP Pro machine that I set up for them.  They spend most of their computing time playing games but also do some web browsing and email.  I have had to remove malware a few times which hasn’t been too big a deal because they had restricted access.  A month or so ago they reported a bunch of popups and it took me about 12 hours via remote access to remove everything.  After cleaning I made a fresh system restore checkpoint thinking this would help if a similar thing happened again…I was wrong.  A few weeks ago they got something on the machine that was just about impossible to remove.

I didn’t trust the machine was safe to use anymore, and although they don’t do online banking I wanted it clean so decided to flush the toilet.  I decided to do some things different this time though to avoid this happening again.  Originally I was going to build them a virtual machine to run their stuff in and have it wipe changes on reboot, but I knew that would result in confusion and phone calls.  So I decided to go with Microsoft Steady State.

I built the machine, tweaked it, patched it, installed necessary apps, and then installed Steady State.  The idea is that no matter what they do or what happens to their machine all changes are lost when they reboot.  In theory this should prevent me from ever need to rebuild their machine again.  I created a second partition on the drive for their MyDocs folder which should allow them to save pics, music, and docs.  We shall see how it goes.

What preventative measures do you take for these situations?

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