Setting Up Your Parents On A Mac

by David Parmet Apr 03, 2006

You’ve settled into a nice visit with Mom and Dad. Dinner is cooking, the grandchildren are out in the yard playing, you’re settling into your third glass of wine when Dad pulls you aside and utters those dreaded words, “Can you take a look at your Mom’s computer, it’s been acting funny lately.”

This is the bane of the geek existence: the assumption that because you work WITH or ON computers, you understand computers. Me, I blog and work in marketing for companies that blog. I’ve had computers in front of me for 8 hours a day for as long as I can remember. I’ve even fixed a few, but that doesn’t mean I can figure out why my Mom’s iBook is “acting funny.”

So in honor of all of us who still like our parents enough to take the occasional phone call and suffer through Thanksgiving providing tech support, here are my tips for keeping the relationship going. Think of me as Dr. Phil for geeks.

1. Get the extended warranty. No brainer here folks. Better you let the guy at the Apple Store or CompUSA hear Mom swear she didn’t touch anything right before she erased the operating system than have to suffer through it yourself. My folks fought me tooth and nail about buying an Apple Care package for their iBook. Last week they had to have the hard drive replaced. As tempting as it was, I didn’t say “I told you so.”

2. Go with them when they buy. Or if you can’t, tell them to call you right from the store if they have any questions. Better you nip their purchase of the wrong piece of hardware in the bud than have to deal with it later. Those guys are on commission and won’t think twice about selling Mom and Dad something they don’t need that will break down as soon as they get home.

3. Set them up on iChat, Skype, Gizmo, whatever and add yourself to their buddy list. Yeah, this one is scary, but it makes them feel better knowing that you are always there in case they need you. In fact it might cut down on tech support calls. And Mom will always know you are hard at work as long as she sees your Anime head-shot icon on her iChat buddy list.

4. Make sure they don’t throw away the paperwork and set-up disks. Probably not relevant to a lot of our parents who still have the warranties for the stove in their first house bought in 1971, but you get the idea.

5. Most of all, take a deep breath and realize that not everyone is as tech savvy as you are. Especially (sometimes) your folks. You might have to explain to them that “the Internet” and Internet Explorer aren’t the same thing, especially if you want to get them to use Firefox.

An aside: this is the first column I’ve written on my brand spanking new MacBook Pro. W00T! I’ll get around to reporting on my impressions soon but for now, boy this puppy is fast.


  • Actually, I should have been clearer on that… at a lot of electronics stores, even if they aren’t on commission, there’s usually some pressure to move something out the door. You know, the manager’s special of the day…

    So thanks for making me clarify that.

    David Parmet had this to say on Apr 03, 2006 Posts: 10
  • Anyone buying a portable Mac without Apple Care or other extended coverage either does not have to pay for repairs for some reason or is plain nuts.

    Ah yes, and

    6. Teach them what a bootable backup is, why they want it and how and when to make one on the external HDD you make them buy.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Apr 03, 2006 Posts: 371
  • I thought the whole point of setting them up on a Mac was so that you don’t have to worry about ANY of this stuff.  smile

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Apr 03, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Agree with Beeblebrox. That’s why I got my Mom a Mac: I was tired of fixing her Windows PC. Since she got the Mac the tech support questions are much easier and more related to the work she is doing (“How do I insert a picture into Word”, instead of “why does Outlook Express keep crashing when I check my mail”).

    innate had this to say on Apr 04, 2006 Posts: 12
  • My Mom’s iMac support questions are a breath of fresh air compared to my Mother in law’s Windows PC questions.  These are great tips, but I think most of us could use more help in the “not knowing how to diplomatically explain to your 295 lb. father in law that you don’t do Windows” area.

    thebigreason had this to say on Apr 04, 2006 Posts: 2
  • I recently purchased a Mini for my parents to replace their aging PC. The phone has been silent when it comes to support calls. I’m loving it. I set up their machine so I could remote manage it and I couldn’t ask for a better situation.

    chigh had this to say on Apr 05, 2006 Posts: 7
  • Download Bosco’s Screen Share from:
    Cross-platform and FREE ability to EASILY take control of a remote computer to “fix” or to demonstrate things.
    I’ve used this more than once to work with my parents across the country, even from work thru firewalls!

    mlandel had this to say on Apr 22, 2006 Posts: 1
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