Technology is typically not something I give as gifts at the holiday season.
In a pinch, I will ask what a person wants, or offer them cash or a check towards a purchase — but to buy someone a tech gift outright? No. Because whatever I give might not work with what they already have.
Instead, the holidays are a good time to review the health and condition of the family technology. You might be still on the hook for a present, but isn’t it the best gift of all to make sure what you have at home is working properly and securely?
Here are my suggestions on what to consider at this most wonderful time of the year.
A new hard drive
If your loved one still does not have an SSD drive in their daily computer, stop and assist in the process of upgrading. It’s pretty simple for you — the Geek of the family — to remove a few screws, buy an SSD hard drive and a small external SSD enclosure, get a mounting bracket, and grab backup software to make an exact image of the drive. I also recommend having spare hard drive cables.
Place all the items in a box and put a bow on top to keep things festive. Then actually help the recipient install the drive.
An OS upgrade
If your loved one is still booting up on a vintage Windows 7 machine, be aware that Chrome and other browsers will stop supporting Windows 7 soon. Very soon, as in January. I’m not a fan of surfing online with an unpatched browser since these days browsers are basically like an operating system. (Even a new Kindle with its limited browser would be better than an unsupported and unpatched version of Chrome.) Take the time over the holiday season to ask why someone is staying on that older platform and persuade them it’s time to upgrade.
There are many tools — some free, some paid — that can make a Windows 10 or 11 system look like Windows 7. If that’s all they want, help them make the move to an OS that’s modern, even if it looks like something more than a decade old.
More than one monitor
At the office, every member of my firm has at least two monitors, and some folks even have four. (In my home, I have multiple monitors.) If one screen is no longer enough, maybe two is the answer. And even if you don’t have room for a nice, thin mounting unit connects two monitors side by side, there are portable USB-based monitors that can turn any laptop into a dual monitor setup in a flash.
Simply plug in a USB cable and your computer will immediately either mirror your main screen or extend it. It makes working on multiple items much easier.
A working printer
This year, Microsoft has been changing the print spooler software to make sure attackers can’t access systems through the print functions. (It’s also been making our interactions with printers a living nightmare.) I used to take the sound of a working printer for granted. Now when I hit the print button, I stop and listen for the sound before I can breathe a sign of relief.
If you still rely on printing at home or the office, it might be time to give yourself or beloved family members the present of a functional printer with a static IP address. I have also standardized on having a printer at home that’s similar to the one in the office: a laser jet that’s networked to the router rather than relying on wireless printing. And if you give someone the same printer you use at home, you can walk them through normal reset and reconfiguration processes when needed. If you’ve ever had to remember where a setting is on the printer interface, you’ll know the pain and suffering one has to go through when trying to troubleshoot a printer remotely.
Finally, have some way to reach out remotely. When someone in the family calls and describes something on a screen that seems indecipherable, remote access can be a life-saver. (At a bare minimum, if you don’t have remote access, tell them to use their cell phone and take a picture of whatever they’re seeing.)
Remote tools such as Splashtop or Teamviewer provide low-cost options for personal use. It is worth every penny to be able to remote into someone’s computer a world away and solve their problem. Consider this a gift to yourself. And it’s a great way to get 2023 started off right.
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