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Install the Software your Parents Need   

If you're visiting your parents over the holidays, it's a good time to bring the parents' computer up-to-date or to make sure it's protected from viruses and the like. (Consider doing so whether or not they ask you!) When you're packing for the trip, take the time to prepare a USB memory key or a CD-ROM with some useful software.

What you should do
The best thing you can do for a parent who has a Windows computer is to make sure automatic updates are turned on so that the system is getting the important security updates that Microsoft sends out. First, open System Properties (right-click My Computer, and select Properties). Then click the Automatic Updates tab and turn on Automatic. Here's the other software you should consider installing.

  • Start with free antispyware utilities, such as Spybot Search and Destroy, MS Windows Defender and Ad-aware.

  • For antispam and antivirus software, you might want to try Microsoft's FREE Security Essentials.

  • While you're loading up a USB key or a CD-ROM with software, add some digital pictures of yourself and your family to it and maybe some bookmarks--say, links to your online family photo album.

  • Other software you might want to install: the Voice over IP client Skype so that anytime your mom or dad is sitting at the computer, they can give you a ring--or a call for help--for free.

What you shouldn't do
As much as we like it, we do not recommend installing the fantastic Mozilla Firefox browser for non-tech-savvy users. There are still some sites that don't work as they're supposed to with this browser, and you don't want to be telling your parents to switch back and forth between it and Internet Explorer all the time.
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