3 essential tools for when you're the family tech support person

Because going back home for the holidays often means fixing your family's computers

It's a common problem for everyone known to be the tech-savvy person in the family: It falls on you when you go home to troubleshoot the many things that are not working, slow, or simply confusing ("how do I print this email?"). Fear not, family PC expert. Bring along some tools and you can save the day.

1. A USB stick loaded with troubleshooting utilities. Do yourself a favor and come ready with a repair kit. I highlighted five useful utilities here that can recover accidentally deleted files, clean up Windows, run a virus scan, troubleshoot crashed applications, and monitor wireless networks. Add to that list more utilities selected by Tech Radar.

2. LogMeIn (or other remote desktop tool). When you're no longer available for in-home, same-day tech support, that doesn't mean the questions or issues will stop. Set up remote access such as the free LogMeIn service, which will let you later connect to your parent's computer from any location and troubleshoot the new issues.

3. Google's Teach Parents Tech site. Actually, why don't you just have Google send the tech support instructions? (After all, it's better to teach than to fix.) As I mentioned before, Teach Parents Tech sends instructional videos that cover everything from copy and pasting to Google search tricks.

Enjoy the holidays (even if you get the dreaded "Can you look at my computer for me?" question)!

Read more of Melanie Pinola’s Tech IT Out blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Melanie on Twitter at @melaniepinola. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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