Technology is not usually something I give as a gift during the holiday season.

In a pinch, I ask what a person wants, or offer money or a check for a purchase, but buying someone a tech gift outright? No. Because whatever you give them might not work with what they already have.

Instead, the holidays are a great time to review the health and status of your family's technology. You may still be looking for a gift, but isn't this the best gift of all to make sure that what you have at home works properly and safely?

Here are my suggestions for what to consider at this wonderful time of year.

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a new hard drive

If your loved one doesn't already have an SSD drive in their everyday computer, come visit us and watch the upgrade process. It's simple enough for you, the Geek in the family, to remove a few screws, buy an SSD hard drive and a small external SSD enclosure, get a mounting bracket, and get backup software to create an exact drive image. I also recommend having spare hard drive cables.

Put all the items in a box and put a bow on top to keep things festive. Then help the recipient install the drive.

An operating system update

If your loved one is still booting up on an old Windows 7 machine, know that Chrome and other browsers will soon no longer support Windows 7. See you soon, like January. I am not a fan of browsing online with an unpatched browser because browsers nowadays are basically like an operating system. (Even a new Kindle with its limited browser would be better than an unpatched, unsupported version of Chrome.) Take time during the holiday season to ask why someone is still on this old 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 switch to a modern operating system, even if it looks like something more than a decade old.

more than one monitor

In the office, everyone at my company has at least two monitors, and some people even have four. (At home, I have multiple monitors.) If one screen isn't enough, maybe two is the answer. And even if you don't have room for a nice slim mounting unit that connects two monitors side by side, there are portable USB monitors that can turn any laptop into a dual-monitor setup in no time.

Just plug in a USB cable and your computer will immediately mirror or extend your primary screen. This makes working on multiple items much easier.

A working printer

This year, Microsoft modified the print spooler software to ensure that attackers cannot access systems through printing functions. (It also made our interactions with the printers a living nightmare.) I used to take the sound of a running printer for granted. Now when I hit the print button, I stop and listen for the sound before I can breathe any sign of relief.

If you still rely on printing at home or at the office, it may be time to get a printer that will work for you or your family members with a static IP address. I also standardized on having a printer at home similar to the one at the office: a laser jet connected to the router instead of relying on wireless printing. And if you give someone the same printer you use at home, you can guide them through the normal reboot and reconfiguration processes if the need arises. If you've ever had to remember where a setting is located on a printer interface, you know the pain and suffering one goes through trying to troubleshoot a printer remotely.

Remote access

Finally, have a way to communicate with you remotely. When a family member calls and describes something on a screen that seems unreadable, remote access can be a lifesaver. (At the very least, if you don't have remote access, tell them to use their cell phone and take a picture of everything they see.)

Remote tools like Splashtop or Teamviewer offer inexpensive options for personal use. It's worth every penny to be able to remotely connect to someone's computer on the other side of the world and solve their problem. Consider it a gift to yourself. And it's a great way to start 2023.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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