These days, nerds are everywhere. Twitter profiles proclaiming oneself as a nerd abound. Ironic nerd eyeglasses have been popularized by celebrities and adopted by the masses. There’s even a nerd dating website, and I swear at least one of your colleagues is on it. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Nerd candy made a comeback. Blue tongues for everyone!

No longer confined to dusty basement computer labs and all-night LAN parties, one would imagine that the great 21st century nerd outage would result in all of us getting a little smarter when it comes to all things techy. Right? Wrong. Here are 10 things I’ve learned from having my very own live-in nerd. These may sound basic, but they’ve eliminated 90% of my tech problems over the past seven years.

  1. When there’s an update, do it. It sounds silly, but I used to think that those little updates that pop up on your computer were more suggestions than mandates. I’d always push them off until later, thinking “When I really need it, the computer will force me to do it.” Guess what? It turns out that’s not true!  Doing the basic updates makes a big difference in how well your computer works. Shocker.
  2. When in doubt, restart. One of Scott’s colleagues gives the following default computer advice to family members who call for computer help: “Restart 3 times then call me if it’s still not working.” Ha! Three times sounds a bit excessive to me (think he’s just trying to avoid the work?!?), but it’s amazing how often a simple restart can fix a phone, computer, cable box, or whatever other technological device that’s pissing you off.
  3. Back up your work. No, this doesn’t mean buying 500 CDs and then putting one of your folders on each of them. Get an external hard drive, plug it in every couple of weeks and you’re good to go. I also love Dropbox, a free service that lets you save and access files from multiple computers. It’s not good for backing up your whole computer, but if you only care about a folder’s worth of documents/photos, it might be the best route for you.
  4. Don’t be afraid to Google it. The IT people from my company once worked for 4 hours and couldn’t find a lost document I’d spent hours working on. I was heartbroken. Scott came to the office, Googled the problem, and found the solution in five minutes.  So often we think of Googling basic information but get intimidated to do it when it comes to technical issues. Don’t fall into this trap! Nerds like to post solutions on Web message boards because it makes them look cool. Use this to your advantage.
  5. Mix up your passwords. Did you know it’s not cool to use the same password for all your accounts? Apparently it’s a major nerd violation. Make sure to mix up your passwords or use a password memory tool like LastPass to really secure your accounts. Bonus nerd points if you do the latter.
  6. Sometimes it’s best to start fresh. If you’re having computer problems, sometimes the best thing is to totally wipe out everything on it and start over with a clean slate. Of course, this is a lot easier to do if you’re already following #3.
  7. It’s worth it to invest in good technology. Technology is like anything else in life: you get what you pay for. If you want a reliable computer that’s going to last more than a few years, don’t expect to get it at an open box sale at Wal-Mart. If you invest in quality technology up front, it will pay off in the long run.
  8. Use the free tools available. Between LastPass, DropBox, EverNote, Xmarks, Google Docs, RunKeeper, etc. there are tons of free tech tools that not only make your life easier, but more secure. Take a look at the “top free apps” listing on your phone and check out Lifehacker’s app directories every so often. If anything looks interesting to you, try it out. If it sucks you can just delete it and blame me. What’ve you got to lose?
  9. If you don’t know what it is, don’t click on it. This should go without saying, but if you don’t know the person sending you a link, don’t click on it. If you do know the person but they don’t sound like themselves or they’re sending you something out of character, don’t click on it. You can usually tell if a message is fishy if the text sounds canned or there’s no personalized greeting. When in doubt, send a separate message to the person telling them about the message you received and asking if it’s legit. Don’t risk getting a virus.
  10. Don’t be scared. So many people have a guttural fear of technology—a fear of doing something wrong and messing up the whole computer or phone in the process. The truth is that it’s pretty hard to do anything that would permanently damage a computer or phone. Don’t be afraid to play around with things, make mistakes, and then figure out how to fix them. That’s how you learn. Who knows – if things really go wrong, you might just ask a guy in a bar to help you fix it and end up meeting your husband.
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