Help w/ computer-illiterate parents...aarrgghh

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by blackfox, Oct 14, 2004.

  1. blackfox macrumors 65816


    Feb 18, 2003
    OK, here is the problem:

    My parents, both in their mid-sixties, have a Compaq desktop at home. They know nothing about computers. It is so full of spyware/virii/adware that it barely runs, even though it is a Pentium 4 @ 2.7Ghz.

    Now, I know a fair amount about computers, but mostly about Macs since it is all I've used since win 98 days (in same year). They have XP Home. Although I might be able to fix their computer with great time and effort, I cannot trust them to not keep doing the same things they have been doing to get to this point: not updating virus software, clicking on good-sounding pop-ups and so forth.

    So I decided that I would just replace their computer with a Mac come xmas. Since they mainly do only word-processing and internet, I thought that a B&W or an early G4 would do the trick, since I have a limited budget and they have limited needs. I also bought them a nice flat-screen monitor last xmas which I would hate to waste.

    There are a couple of things, however. They have always had AOL as their ISP and are stuck with dial-up since they live in the country. I really want to wean them off AOL and get a high-speed dial-up (oxymoron, I know) ISP instead. I am not sure who to choose, as I have had cable for the past few years. They are pretty used to the interface, so any suggestions to let them down gently?

    So I ask, what are your recommendations for Hardware to replace their ailing Compaq, or should I try to help them out sticking with their current setup. If the latter, what is the best course of action to keep them out of trouble?

    Also, what is a good hi-speed dial-up ISP? Any other pertinent comments/suggestions would be appreciated.

  2. russed macrumors 68000


    Jan 16, 2004
    London, England
    in the mean time couldn't you ensure that all the windows updates are there, download a copy of adaware and zone alarm. put them on to using firefox and thuderbird?? oh and also get some decent anti virus software in there?

    i have done this to my parents home computer (they seem to be at a same level computer knowledge wise). i am aiming to get them a g3 imac at some point or something on a par with that. the main thing i am ensuring is that the apple can run os x so that i can put my copy of office x onto it.
  3. winwintoo macrumors 6502

    Nov 26, 2003
    Have you seen Microsoft Remote Desktop Client? It just came out for the Mac and it's free. The only problem is that it requires XP Professional, but that's still cheaper than a new Mac.

    Another option is installing Timbuktu on their computer. You could tell them to back away from their computer once a week and you could log on from the comfort of your own home and do whatever maintenance you need to and everybody stays happy.

    We use Timbuktu to keep Mom's iMac running smoothly (she's in her 80s) and it's a small price to pay for the peace of mind.

  4. iBert macrumors regular


    Jul 14, 2004
    I was thinking of doing the sae thing as blackfox is thinking. Get my parents a new Mac. Just for that peace of mind of no spyware, viruses. The only suggestion I can give you is, pacience. Lots of it. I remember teaching my dad how to use the computer, had to give him a checklist of steps to do. Apparently it worked. Anyways, regarding the ISP. Try to explain to them the idea of not having to dial to anywhere. I think you might be able or this was early dsl setup, my brother had a dsl connection that had to dial-up. But, I think those are gone.

    If money is a big issue, try that remote program winwintoo talked about. I might be trying that myself. Also, firefox and thunderbird are awesome. I used to use them on my pb, but now i'm on the mail and sarafi phase. As for an anti-virus, AVG has a free virus protection program. I used for around 2 years now and it detected the virus that I strangely had. Zone alarm also has a free version of their firewall. Adware it'll look for spyware in the computer. In all this are all the programs I used to run on any windows system I touched.

    I know the concern you all have. But in the end, the switch will be the best option. At least thats me speaking. Well hope this helps any. :)
  5. joshua_msu macrumors regular


    Aug 5, 2004
    chicago (formerly detroit)
    Buy thier current computer some more RAM. Most likely it doesnt have enough. It may not help with the Spyware problem directly, but it will be cheaper and make the computer more usable with all the spyware. Since they are not computer literate, teaching them a new OS may be out of the question. At least try it and see what happens. A P4 2.7 with loads of ram will alst them a long long time if thier needs are that high. I know my parents use a P4 machine, tehy arent the most computer literate, but I have found they never have had a spyare problem.
  6. TLRedhawke macrumors 6502

    Sep 17, 2004
    I just ran into this problem recently myself. My parents' old PII had refused to read any of the numerous Windows CDs I had, and since I had to install some version of Windows (after making an attempt at Fedora), I burned a quick copy of XP Pro from my Powerbook, and installed that. Naturally, with a 300MHz processor, and 64 meg of ram, it ran like ass. So, I tried to install some more ram. Not only did the machine not recognize the ram, but the hard drive decided that was the very moment to corrupt the Windows installation. I attempted to reinstall, but the machine refused to recognize any of the 5 boot disks I had. So, I said **** it, and found a cheap G3 iMac on Ebay. It should be arriving soon, then I'll turn their crapbox into a mail server or something.
  7. coconn06 macrumors regular

    Jun 14, 2003
    King of Prussia, PA
    Buy them an eMac. They're cheap, and perfect for just internet/email/word processing.

    I think the issue of their computer illiteracy is not as significant as many people think. Just pop Safari/Word/Mail in the Dock and all they have to do is click on the icons. Using Word will be familiar, Safari is a browser (the real interface is the same, as it is determined by individual web pages), and Mail (if they even use it) would be the only thing to "learn," but that would be a matter of teaching them where the "Compose," "Check Mail," and "Send" buttons are.

    I think for your peace of mind and theirs, it will be more than worth the money.
  8. KingSleaze macrumors 6502

    Feb 24, 2004
    So. Cal
    For a dial up ISP, I've always liked Earthlink. They also have a "high speed dial up" option (I'm using cable). It's a little cheaper than AOL.
  9. bdomz macrumors member

    Sep 18, 2004
    First of all I would back up all of your parents files and all the necessary drivers and burn them to a CD. Then do a complete reformat of Windows XP. That will take care of the spyware problem. After that I'd download a copy of Mozilla Firefox and make sure your parents use this exclusively as their browser. Hide the IE icon if you have to. Firefox can also be tweeked to work very well with dial up. Also make sure they have at least 256mb of RAM. If this doesnt solve the problem then I'd say it's time to buy a G4 desktop.
  10. brap macrumors 68000

    May 10, 2004
    Re: Updates and things, Microsoft have a deal on with F-Secure. "Upgrade" them to SP2, and click on "How do I get virus protection?" in Help Centre (I was acting on a hunch!) - redirects you to a 12-month free trial of F-Secure Internet Security, a damn fine app. AVG bites - tells you you have a virus, but doesn't do anything about it! Neato!

    Give them Firefox & Thunderbird, turn off JavaScript, and they should be reasonably secure.
  11. 12ibookg4 macrumors regular

    Dec 22, 2003
    on the high-speed dial up, if you mean the 5 times faster stuff, it's not really 5 times faster. you isp just compresses the images on the web page you are browsing so they load faster and i think it requires installing special software on your pc. with it turned to the hightest speed/greatest compression setting, the images become black and white and poor res. downloading anything where a real high-speed connections is great like movies and music, the speed is still the 56k.
    i have never used the 5X Faster service from earthlink or aol so all this is just what i have heard. does anyone have some real life experience with the high-speed dial up?
  12. spasticmutant macrumors member

    May 2, 2004
    Santa Clara

    I just did this! My mother's Gateway 2.5 Ghz P4 was choked with virii and spyware. It was spamming the crap out of my email domain. I still can't keep her from clicking on every new email come-on enticing her to infect her system with its garbage - she simply can't comprehend how her "friends" can send her a bad link, a trojan, a virus, a malicious program. Her trust models are completely in the human world. When I try to explain to her that their systems are compromised too so they're not actually doing it, their systems are, her brain just locks up. The whole thing was a total mess. To make matters worse, she lives in Montana just outside the city limits of her town so she can't get a cable modem, and I can't just pop over anytime because I live in California.

    I fixed the virii and spyware problem by throwing a new stock 15" Powerbook at it. The nice people at AppleCare helped her out with her initial setup questions, especially after she identified herself as a complete nubie to Mac and didn't want to embarrass herself with her daughter - the ol' sympathy ploy. ;) She addressed the internet access problem by getting satellite cable with internet access installed. For a while she had AOL as well as EarthLink, but the low quality dial-up line caused constant resets. The Airport Extreme wireless router's dial-up modem hid this from her for the most part, so she didn't really see it, but when she moved to satellite life got much better. She's off AOL and MSN, and uses some other service now.

    On the plus side, my father, who lives in another state, has had the same PC for 5 years and I have yet to detect a single virus, spyware, adware, trojan, or other ickyness on it. I have been successful in training my father to behave correctly when confronted with online click-enticements. He knows not to download evil things, not to use Internet Exploder unless absolutely necessary and only on specifically well known, trusted sites (He uses Mozilla instead, but I will probably move him to Firefox eventually - he doesn't like to change), not to click on stuff in email, etc. Heck, I've had more virus and adware infections then he has - then again, I'm online far more because of work. I won't need to "switch" him for that reason. I've moved to Mac at work also so I won't be at the mercy of my coworkers' indiscretions.

    So IMHO, by all means toss a nice new Mac at the problem. You'll also be able to provide better "free" technical support if you have one too. I pawned that job off on my brother, who's had a Mac for several more years than I have. I provided the hardware, so he's providing the support. I think he lucked out, because after the first month, she stopped calling for help. He keeps asking her, and she says that it's intuitive enough for her to learn about problems and fix them herself. Wow! Even the satellite install was no problem. The installer was stunned that my mother got it working in less than 5 minutes. He usually dicks with PCs for 20 minutes, and has to reboot. Not the Mac. That, along with AppleCare, has kept my mother happy and her system properly configured and updated. Oh, and she totally LOVES it. She's named it "El Guapo", and he is the envy of all who set eyes upon him.

    Anne Marie
  13. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Jul 4, 2004
    That made me smile... I like it.

    Mine just becomes 'ohhurryupyouf**kingthing' whenever it goes into a sulk.
  14. blackfox thread starter macrumors 65816


    Feb 18, 2003
    Thanks for the responses guys, a couple of follow-up comments:

    1. I liked the idea of Remote Desktop, but I feel that switching them over is a better plan, as I know more of how to control their system if it was a Mac. I also am not sure I will always have the time to work through things on their PC (even remotely). Also, my parents still use MS Works instead of Word, and if I switched them I could install MS Word X on their machine. Hell, AW would even be an improvement.

    2. As for high-speed dialup, I was thinking of Earthlink, so thanks for the recommendation. To the person who was explaining the nature of "high-speed" type of dial-up, I am aware of this, but my parents don't download much and are mainly concerned with the speed of pages loading. Relatedly, if they had a Mac, I could download system updates via cable put them on a CD and install them on their machine, as opposed to waiting for dial-up.

    3. I have been considering the eMac. It is a little more expensive than what I wanted to pay, but since it comes with a copy of Panther (which I don't have) that is worth around $100 in itself. Still, a B&W should suffice, right? (with a good amount of Ram). An early G4?

    4. Of course I will back up all of their files to CD or whatever pre-switch.

    5. FWIW, I installed a 512 dimm in their machine about 6 months is currently at 768. As for what would happen with this machine, it would probably be given to my brother and his wife, who are more computer-literate, but suffer with a P-3 Laptop between them for school.

    6. As something to keep in mind, when I hooked up their entertainment center (TV, dvd, vcr, sattellite box, receiver, cd player), I had to physically label the buttons they needed to press to change over channels etc. on their remote. Which button and in what order. So it is difficult to rely on them to take on any computer duties, as somethings seemingly remain beyond their comprehension.
  15. Mechcozmo macrumors 603


    Jul 17, 2004
    WARNING! I've seen malware that will add itself to any CD you burn. At my school there was a freebie CD that some student had made, when I popped it into my PowerBook I found an AUTOEXEC to make it auto play, and a half dozen other things that when I did some Google work, proved to by adware. You need to clean up the computer first, then reformat, otherwise those CDs are toasted.

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