Visiting family for Thanksgiving? Share these iPhone, iPad, and Mac tune-up tips

Many of us will travel to be with various family members over Thanksgiving. If you are like me, you are the resident “tech person” in your family, so for many family members that you only see once or twice a year, this is their one shot to get you to help with the problems and run routine maintenance on their devices. Here’s our list of family tune-up tips for the Holidays.

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There will likely be no shortage of iOS devices around the Thanksgiving table, so here are some iPhone and iPad family tune-up tips for the Holidays.


When you are looking over a family members’ iOS device, the first thing you will want to do is make sure they are signed into iCloud. I know it may seem crazy that in 2018 someone could use iOS without iCloud, but it can happen. Go to Settings > iCloud to verify they are signed in. While you are in that section, scroll down to Backups and make sure they’ve completed a backup recently.

Next, go back to the main iCloud screen and verify that iCloud Photos is enabled. If it’s not, check to see if they will have enough iCloud space to start using it. Losing photos due to a damaged device is one of the worst things that can happen, and it’s 100% preventable.

If they don’t have enough space, talk to them about upgrade options. If they refuse to upgrade, let them know the risks of losing photos, data, etc. in case of a damaged or lost device. If they are in good shape here, you may mention BestPhotos as a way to clean up their library as well.

holiday tech support

iOS Updates

iOS 12 has been out for a few months, so there is little risk in updating at this point. Let them know you will be upgrading their devices, and then get the process started by going to Settings > General > Software Update. Once the process is finished, I like to verify that iCloud Backups and iCloud Photos are still enabled.

Verify iMessage Settings

Go to Settings > Messages and verify they have it set up correctly. I want my outgoing messages to always come from my phone. You might also look at their kids’ devices and verify iMessages to the parents are not being sent there as well.

Discuss Parental Control Options

holiday tech support

Earlier this year, I wrote a quick guide over at 9to5Toys on protecting your kids when they are online. There are a number of free and paid options, so send them to that article so they can start doing some basic things to protect their kids from inappropriate content. At minimum, be sure to set up OpenDNS Family Shield.

OpenDNS Family Shield involves changing your DNS servers at the router level. Each router is different, so you’ll want to use the instructions that came with it for reference. Look for the DNS Servers section, and change it to this:

Once you are done, save it, and then visit this page to test it. Once it’s set up, all devices on your network will be filtered by OpenDNS Family Shield.


Did your favorite Uncle bring his MacBook to Thanksgiving? Here’s a quick list of family tune-up tips for the Holidays.

Verify they don’t have Malware.

While macOS is very secure, you can still get malware by clicking on a random pop-up ad that tells you to download a new flash player, etc. My favorite tool for cleaning up malware is Malwarebytes. It’s a free download, and there are paid options for automatic scanning in the future. If you just want to run a quick scan and remove, you can do that for free.

If have a family member who’s complaining about pop-ups or has a weird-looking search page, but sure to run Malwarebytes to clean things up.

After you’re done, click on the Help menu bar item. You’ll see an uninstall button on the list.

Verify Time Machine is working

holiday tech support

While they may not have their external drive with them, you should make sure they are at least backing up their Mac on a regular basis. If they aren’t, Amazon carries multiple hard drives that are extremely inexpensive. I recommend getting at least double the size of the built-in drive. You can verify Time Machine is working by going to System Preferences > Time Machine.

Verify iCloud and iCloud Photos

holiday tech support

Like we did for iOS, you’ll want to verify that macOS is signed into iCloud and using iCloud Photos. Go to System Preferences > iCloud. Make sure an account is signed in, and that all the relevant items are checked. If they aren’t, be sure to enable them. If they aren’t using iCloud Photos, enable it for them.

After you enable it, launch the Photos app. If it asks about setting up a new database, this means they probably haven’t used the app before. Then go to the Photos preferences to see if iCloud is downloading all items or just storing them in iCloud. If they have enough storage, it’s ideal to store them offline.

Talk about offsite backups

If they don’t want to use Time Machine, you may mention a service like Backblaze (referral link) as an option. I have a few co-workers who didn’t want to deal with having to remember to plug in an external drive to make backups, so they just opted for Backblaze. Backblaze will automatically back up a Mac or PC offsite. Offsite backups are especially crucial in case of fire, flood, or theft. Once it’s installed, there is nothing left else to do.

macOS Updates

I’m confident enough in macOS Mojave at this point that I would recommend getting your family members on the most recent version of macOS. If they aren’t on Mojave already, you’ll go to Apple Logo > App Store to get them up to date. This process can take a few hours to complete, and I recommend making sure they have a good backup of their data.

If you want to plan ahead for Christmas, you can even make a bootable installer using our guide. Making a bootable installer speeds up the process because you don’t have to download a 5+ GB file ahead of time.

Wrap Up

Certainly don’t spend your entire holiday season running iOS and macOS updates, but helping your family members with a few essential tasks can keep their devices running well all year long! If you only complete one item on our family tune-up tips for the Holidays, triple check that iCloud Backup and iCloud Photos are enabled. They are the most important things!

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