Thursday, September 23, 2010

Eight Steps to Help a Great Grandmother with Her Laptop

My 78 year old mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, has a laptop. My mother also spends half the year in Florida. Who do you think helps her with her tech support? Yes, her son-me. The other question, is, what do you think a great grandmother does with her laptop? Mostly surf the internet, email, play card games, and most of all look at family pictures. Since my mother is often far away I need to be able to make sure that when she needs help, I can help her. But better yet hopefully that she will not need my help much.

Here are some of the things I did to help my mother with her computer tech support needs:

The first I did was make sure that I could remotely control her computer. I installed Logmein (free) version. When my mom has something that I cannot explain over the phone, I can remotely help her with Logmein. It has proved a very reliable and secure way to help and fix her problems from far away.

The Second thing I did was to use Dropbox on her laptop. Now I made sure she had one folder shared with me. Sharing files with mom now is a drag and drop! I can even do this from any computer without Dropbox installed. All I need is a browser. Very cool.

Now the third thing is to keep her computer bug free. I installed Avast free. I periodically check it to make sure it is in good working order and all updates are happening in a regular basis. I also keep a copy of CCleaner that I run periodically.

Step Four: Because my mom is on XP, I set up a scheduled job to automatically to run every week to defragment her hard drive for her. I also used ERUNT and NTREGOPT to run at every log in to keep her registry fast and backed up.

Step five was more of a Goal: Teach my mom to use Firefox. This way she has two browsers to use in case Internet Explorer get’s compromised. She actually uses Firefox more than IE.

The sixth step is pretty crucial. Pictures is major part of my mom's computer experience. They also represent the most important, if not the only files on her laptop that cannot be replaced. To assist here with both user experience and file backup. I installed Picasa and taught her how to use it. Took a bit. The things I concentrated on was importing pictures, creating and organizing the pictures using Picasa, and burning CDs of the pictures.

Now I needed her to back up her pictures. I found that trying to teach her how to copy files from her My Pictures folder to a USB thumb drive challenging. The thing is that folders, copy and paste commands were hard for her. It was not something she does often, so she would forget. Even though I could of set up a program like Carbonite or use Dropbox both solutions were not good for her. One she does not want to spend any money, and Dropbox free is too small in size.

What I did was get her an 8GB USB thumb drive, and then wrote a simple script using Robocopy to copy any new Pictures since the last copy to it. All she would have to do is put in the Thumb Drive. Then Double Click on the short cut I put on her desktop. (To see the script and how I made sure that that the USB always got the same Drive Letter Number follow these Links: Backup Mom’s Pictures, Assign the Same Drive Letter to USB drives)

Step seven really is a combination of two things: One put all her often used programs as shortcuts on her desktop. That is probably nothing new. The other was a little coaching. I told her not to let anyone else touch her computer. I found that often she would let other seniors help her, and they would do things that were not as good for her laptop. They meant well, but they are not aware of best practices.

The eighth step are bookends. When she first got her laptop, I created an image of the factory Image using Ghost and burned to DVD and stored it. Then I installed the Windows Home Server Client Software (I have a Home Server). and made sure my Home Server backed up her laptop before she went away to Florida. Worst case scenario, all she has to do is ship me her laptop and I can do a full restore.

After all I did when I was young, is the least I can do for mom!


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