Home System list A list of technical tasks, if you are the family IT department

A list of technical tasks, if you are the family IT department



I’m the family computer scientist, an unofficial job that I imagine many of you have also done, on purpose or not. Those of us playing cheap Geek Squad for tech-challenged loved ones are used to questions about all kinds of modern-day issues – stuck printers, files going missing, misbehaving remotes, and slow Wi-Fi – especially when we are back home.

Instead of answering questions this year, take charge. Gather your most frequent customers, sit them down, and have them pull out their phones. Run them through the following battery of fixes and tweaks to help them use the technology more smoothly and easily, and save the IT department (i.e. you) a few headaches.

Jameeka Green Aaron, chief information security officer at identity authentication company Auth0, often does this for his friends and family. She gave me two tips for talking about tech at home:

Keep it simple. “The more friction and complexity you introduce, the less likely your family is to retain the settings you implement,” she said.

Rip the headlines. Ms. Aaron uses the news to help people understand technological threats and how those threats apply to their lives. “People respond more openly when the message arrives at home,” she says.

With her advice in mind, I created a checklist of useful features and settings to configure on family members’ devices. And sorry, no, none of these tips will stop the printer from working. (The printer will still work.)

Add a digital shortcut to your vaccination card

Most establishments accept a simple photo from a vaccination record, but these are quickly buried in the photo library. Adding the card to their digital wallet is the fastest way to get it back on the go. iphone users with a record from a pharmacy or state-supported immunization system can point their camera at the QR code of the record, and it will be retrieved in Apple AAPL -0.65%


Android users must first access their digital record with their healthcare provider via email or text. Once the vaccination information is visible on the screen, scroll down and tap “Save to phone”. Then when prompted, choose to save it to Google GOOG -1.41%

To pay.

You can also pin a photo of the card to the top of Apple’s Notes app or Google Drive.

Enable device location tracking

Device Tracking helps locate phones, tablets, laptops, even AirPods, if they are lost or stolen. On Apple devices, your loved ones can do this in the Find my app. If they have an Apple Watch, show them how remote ping on his phone by sliding upwards; press and hold the phone icon to force a sound and flash. On Android phones, it is available in Find my device. Show them “Hey Google, ring my phone” using a Google Home speaker.

To turn on location tracking on iPhone, go to Settings, tap your name at the top, then go to Find My> Find My iPhone. On Android, go to Settings> Security> Find my device.



Add emergency contact

Have they already set up favorite contacts? Make sure they add an emergency contact as well. On iPhones, these contacts, which can be added in the Health app in the Medical Identification section or in Contacts under a specific person’s entry, will receive a message with the location of the phone when the Emergency SOS function is activated. (While you’re at it, we recommend that you add an old contact, who will be able to access their Apple account data after they die.)

Android users can add emergency information to their lock screens.

Empty their storage

“I have no more space on my phone! Is the most common complaint I hear. Audit their apps and remove the ones they say they haven’t used in six months. If they really need them in the future, they can always download them again.

Then check for other bloatware. For iPhone users, go to Settings> General> iPhone Storage. You can manage and delete the data of the applications on this page. In Android settings, select Storage. Tap an app to clear that app’s cache or storage it uses. You may also see a “Free Up Space” tool, which suggests deleting large files.

To free up space, in the iPhone storage settings page, tap on each app to remove large clutter. On Android, the Free Up Space tool in storage settings identifies the largest files.



Check app subscriptions

Subscriptions have gotten out of hand, and your loved ones may be forced to pay recurring payments they forgot.

IPhone users: Open Settings, tap your name, then tap Subscriptions. Android users: Go to the Play Store, press Menu and select Subscriptions. On amazon,

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go to your account and click on Subscriptions and subscriptions.

When you rummage, also look at the permissions granted to the apps. “A shopping app shouldn’t have access to the microphone or the camera,” says Aaron.

Manage spam and avoid scams

If they receive a lot of automated calls and texts, add their number to the FTC Do Not Call Register could help reduce unwanted calls. Also tell them not to click on links or not to answer: by answering the phone or texting “STOP” or “NO”, they might help scammers confirm that the number is active.

Hijacking SMS from unknown senders could also help. On iPhones, go to Settings> Messages to turn on Filter Unknown Senders, which sends texts from people not in your contacts to a separate tab. Block people by tapping their phone number and scrolling to Block this caller. On Android, open the Messages app and expand Settings. Select your SIM card and scroll to Spam protection to activate the function.

Configure password managers and two factors

Don’t wait for someone to steal their identity or erase their bank account. While I like password managers like Dashlane and 1Password that work on as many platforms as possible, the simplest and best suited for the less tech savvy are the built-in ones like Apple’s iCloud Keychain and Google’s password manager. In addition, they are free. And Apple is getting better: There’s an iCloud Passwords browser extension for Chrome on Windows machines, and you can now easily export passwords if you upgrade to a more comprehensive manager.


What family tech support have you been providing recently? Join the conversation below.

Remember to ask them to enable two-factor authentication (also known as 2FA) on all of their apps and remind them to never share those codes – or really any other login information – with whom whether it be. For even simpler logins, enable biometrics, such as facial recognition or their fingerprint, where possible.

Give them a Wi-Fi upgrade

My colleague Joanna has written an excellent guide to speeding up the Internet at home. If they have an old router, a fancy new mesh system would make a great last minute Christmas present.

Write to Nicole Nguyen at [email protected]

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