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Macworld - It happens to me a lot. It happened just a couple weeks ago when Dad bought a new iMac. And it happened just a couple days ago when Uncle Mort found that Firefox was bizarrely loading with a bunch of extra tabs that he didn't want and couldn't get rid of. And it happened when my sister-in-law Sam wanted to get access to music she'd purchased with an older Mac.
My friends and family turn to me for tech support, and I'm happy enough to offer it. But I can't always provide that help in person. I often need to do it remotely, since not everyone who seeks my Mac guidance lives near me.
Here's how I do it.
Calm, cool, and collect information
When my father first needed help with his new iMac, he tried to FaceTime me. I was on a conference call for work at the time, so I ignored the FaceTime request, along with the subsequent calls to my home and cell phone. But I knew he was trying to reach me.
I was finally able to call back about 40 minutes later. By then, I think his frustration had raised the already-high ambient temperature in the Tucson area by a few degrees. Turned out he hadn't even unboxed his new iMac yet; he was too worried about how he was going to transfer his existing POP3 email from his old iMac to his new one. The method he'd tried, under Mom's careful guidance, involved dragging mammoth mailboxes into a separate IMAP Gmail account for transport--a process that, as it turned out, had been fraught with issues: messages disappearing, inconsistent mailbox counts, and so on.
My first role, then, as the remote tech support representative assigned to the case, was to provide calm reassurance. In this case, it was easy: I asked a few questions. "Did you ever get started with CrashPlan?" I asked. "No," Dad replied, "because I found a cheap USB drive to use with Time Machine." Perfect. I walked Dad through checking on how recent his Time Machine backup was (from the Time Machine menu), confirmed it was good and healthy, and dropped a calm bomb: "No matter what, no messages are lost. We can get them all back." That immediately cooled things down.
Out of sight
Next, I did what any self-respecting, self-professed tech expert would do: I Googled for "how to move Mail mailboxes from one Mac to another." The first result pointed to a Macworld article on exactly that topic by Chris Breen.
One of Chris's steps involves navigating into Mountain Lion's hidden /Library folder and finding the Mail folder therein to copy. Now, a certain class of grizzled Mac user can come up with at least three ways to get to that folder and copy it in an instant. My dad, a retired orthopedic surgeon, is great at reading x-rays and fixing bones, and he does just fine with his Mac, iPhone, and iPad most of the time--but he's not a member of that grizzled class.
As I tried to get Dad to hold down the Option key while accessing the Finder's Go menu, to make Library appear therein, what he reported seeing on his screen didn't match my expectations. We tried to get screen-sharing going with Messages, but that proved difficult for other reasons, and I hate going down the rabbit-hole of solving problems a degree or more removed from the initial issue.
Originally published on www.macworld.com. Click here to read the original story.