How to Be a Tech Hero...And Incredibly Popular
You want to be nice. When friends or family call you with computer trouble, you try to help them. But no matter how much you know about PCs, correcting a problem can be a challenge when you're talking to someone who doesn't know a task bar from a USB port. So sometimes, you need help to be helpful.
First, I'll tell you how to help local loved ones--those who live close enough for you to sit down at their PCs. Then I'll offer advice for long-distance support over the phone and via the Internet. Finally, I'll suggest a few articles you should encourage your tech dependents to read so they won't have to depend on you so much in the future.
First, you don't know everything. If you can't figure out the problem, say so. It's better not to help than to make things worse.
Second, you have a life. You're not obliged to drop everything you're doing to help figure out why Auntie Vivian's antivirus conflicts with Final Catastrophe IV: Attack of the Dentists. Let people know when it's not a good time.
When you sit down at someone's computer, start by checking the basics. Are the security programs up to date? Check msconfig to find out what programs are loading with every boot. If there's a working Internet connection, run a free, online malware scanner, such as this one at Kaspersky Lab and this one at Trend Micro. Put shortcuts to your favorite scanners on a flash drive so you can take them to different computers.