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Top five tips for this year's tech Santa

Christopher Breen | Dec. 10, 2014
You have the power and knowledge to help your less tech-savvy family and friends this holiday season. Be sure to put these five tips to good use.

The backup strategy
As often as you and I harp on the need for some kind of backup plan, too few people have one in place. And if your nearest and dearest haven't yet thought about implementing such a thing, no amount of yammering on your part is going to make them do it now. So make it your job.

Doing this is as easy as purchasing an external hard drive that's about twice the capacity of their Mac's drive, attaching it to their computer, and configuring Time Machine to use it. Slap a sticky note to it that reads "DANGER! HIGH VOLTAGE!" and warn them that terrible things will result if they detach or switch off that drive. If they have a laptop and routinely move it from place to place you can temper your instructions so that they're less alarming.

If that seems like too much of a burden for them, enroll their Mac in an online service that automatically backs up their data. There are a wide variety of such services including Backblaze and CrashPlan. When considering this strategy be sure the person's broadband plan and connection can support it. If they have terrible bandwidth or a very restrictive data cap, online backup may be more hindrance than help.

The password strategy
As we all conduct greater amounts of business on the Internet (and trust more of our personal data to it), having secure and varied passwords matters. A lot. Surely you're using the password features built into OS X, but your friends and family may not be. You can be helpful in this regard in a variety of ways. Start with The Talk, which includes the following rules:

  • Don't create passwords that are easily guessed ("password" is the worst).
  • Don't use the same password on multiple sites.
  • Never reply to requests for a password (or credit card number or Social Security number).
  • Don't jot down passwords and stick them to the screen where they can be seen by passers-by.
  • Password protect your Mac and iOS devices.

Once you've given The Talk and been replied to with nodded assent, ask that your friend write down every important password he has. Pull out your iPhone and take a picture of that list and store the image in a safe place where you can find it. That way, when your beloved calls six months from now and tearfully cries that he can't remember his Apple ID and password, you can provide him with it.

If the recipient of your gift is up to it, show him how to add passwords to OS X's keychain and recover them from Safari's Passwords preference. If his needs are greater than what OS X can provide, buy him a copy of 1Password and show him how to use it.


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