“My computer is slow”: 5 quick tips to help out your friends and family during the holidays

Do you end up as technical support for relatives and others during the holidays? Here are five quick tips to help you fix their speed issues.

The holidays are a great reason to break bread and spend some quality time with family and friends. If you’re known as the band tech, however, the holidays are also a time when people can come to you for advice.

Almost every computer-savvy person should be prepared for the question, “Hey, can you take a look at my computer?”

SEE: 10 mistakes to avoid when troubleshooting computer problems

The problem isn’t that you don’t want to help your loved ones, it’s just that problems are often more complex than they appear. To help you get your troubleshooting started on the right foot, here are five quick tips you can use as a starting point to figure out what’s wrong.

1. Clear cache and cookies

Most computing these days is done on the Internet. So when people complain about their slow computer, what they really mean is that their favorite webpage is not loading fast enough or they can’t access their email.

An easy first step to fix this is to clear cache and cookies. As a reminder, cache is basically temporary storage for files related to the loading of a given website, and cookies are information about how you interact with specific websites.

The process of clearing cache and cookies will be different for each browser, but it’s often nested under “settings”, “preferences” or “history”. Remember to check if the user has any saved passwords before clearing cookies, as this will often clear them.

2. Remove spyware and malware

Does your uncle keep clicking on pop-ups and fake emails telling him he’s won a million dollars? If so, he likely has some form of malware or spyware affecting his computer’s performance. There are a plethora of tools available to help you remove malware, many of which offer a free version. However, a nice gift might be to buy a premium product and set it up on their computer for them.

Here are some additional articles that might help you remove malware and spyware:

3. Look for RAM pigs

If the speed issues are local, apps and programs may be using too much memory. Check your Activity Monitor for Mac or Task Manager for Windows to see how much memory each program is using.

One of the main ways to make sure these RAM hogs don’t cause your user regular problems is to make sure they don’t start on boot. Windows (Startup) and Mac (Startup Items) have a folder that includes applications that will launch at startup, and then run in the background. Make sure there are no unnecessary programs in this folder.

4. Uninstall programs and apps

As many know, simply deleting an app does not remove it from your device. Instead, you’ll have to manually uninstall apps to get rid of them permanently. In Windows, this can be accomplished from the Start button under Control Panel, clicking on a program and selecting uninstall. On a Mac, however, you’ll need a third-party app (ironically, isn’t it), like AppCleaner.

While you’re at it, be sure to empty the Trash and get rid of any files that users don’t use on a daily basis. Although it may take a long time to browse through batches of photos or videos, it can save you headaches in the future.

5. DEFCON 5: Reinstall the operating system

If all else fails, it might be time to reinstall the operating system. It’s a serious step, but it often leads to a much better user experience and can solve a multitude of problems at once. Just make sure to save everything the user needs in different places before proceeding with this option.

These articles may provide additional help in reinstalling the operating system:

What are your thoughts?

Do you have any other tips techs should know before helping friends and family? Horror stories about family tech support? Share them both in the comments below.

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