New tech device? How to set up gadget you got as a gift like a pro | News Coverage from USA

New tech device? How to set up gadget you got as a gift like a pro

 

You got the shiny new gadget you’ve been wanting, now what?

If you set it up the right way, you might wonder how you ever lived without it. But set it up wrong and you could open yourself up to all kinds of headaches and security issues.

From unboxing to troubleshooting issues that crop up and upcycling your old gadgets, using your new piece of tech may not be as simple as opening the package and heading out the door, at least not right away.

Here are a few pro tips and tricks to get you up and running – hassle and curse-free – in no time.

Unboxing basics

Once you rip the wrapping paper off, be a little more gentle with the box and everything in it. Don’t tear, destroy or discard anything. Label the charging cable. (I use a label-maker, but a sticky note and tape work too.) Put the original box and everything that came in it in a Ziplock and use a permanent marker to write the name of the gadget and date before you store it out of sight.

This is especially important with anything from Apple, such as a new Mac laptop, iPad or iPhone, or any other gadgets that hold their value, so you can sell them when you upgrade down the road. It’s also a saving grace should you need to return anything. Either way, you’re protecting your investment and it only takes a few moments of your time, so don’t forget!

Most gadgets come with a well-marked quickstart guide. It gives you the bare basics, which typically tells you to charge up your new device, download an app, connect it to Bluetooth or WiFi and link it to an existing email account. At least half of the time I’m setting up new gadgets, it takes a while to find Bluetooth or WiFi. Don’t get discouraged. Sometimes you have to turn off or unplug your new gadget and start from scratch again to get it to work.

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Troubleshooting

If you try more than half a dozen times to connect your gadget and still no luck, go to the product page or do a quick online search for the name of it. Usually, a lot of other people have had the same problem you’re having and there are online resources to help you out. Start with a free YouTube tutorial – there are thousands of them just for setting up new gadgets. Then, go to the product FAQ section, company chatbots or call or email customer service. If those don’t work, download the free GetHuman app (available for iOS and Android) or visit gethuman.com/phone-number to help you track down a real person to talk with at the company.

Sometimes new gadgets are defective. It doesn’t happen often, but if you find that something just isn’t working the way the manual or guide says it should, you might have a broken gadget on your hands, and you’ll need to return it.

When you connect an email account, be sure to create a smart password and/or use a password manager. Overall, getting started is now pretty simple, as long as you follow directions.

If you’re helping someone out remotely, or have a super tech-savvy family member or friend, set up screen-sharing with an app like TeamViewer or LogMeIn. It lets you take temporary control of their screen so you can walk them through the steps without having to describe it. Teaching someone tech tricks is a whole lot easier if you can actually show them what to do instead of just talking about it.

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Hire help

If you’re really struggling and just need a tech guardian angel to walk you through things, there are people who do just that. Puls will send an all-knowing technician right to your door to walk you through the do’s and don’ts of setting up everything from a new TV to a whole suite of smart home gadgets.

But Puls isn’t the only game in town when it comes to in-person tech help. HelloTech and Best Buy’s Geek Squad are also popular in the come-to-you gadget assistant space, letting you choose from a list of issues or support needs and then waiting while the company summons one of several thousand agents to your home.

All three companies stand behind their techs with guarantees on the work they perform, so you can be sure you’re getting top-tier help that is a cut above what you’d find in the electronics section of most department stores.

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Back it up

If a smartphone or tablet was on your wish list this year there’s a good chance you’re upgrading from an older device. If you’re ditching an aging iPhone for a new model you can make things so much easier on yourself by using a backup of your current smartphone to set up your new one, nixing the need to download all your apps again and customizing various things you’ve already changed.

Apple makes it easy to transfer all the content on your old device to your new phone or tablet using iCloud. You’ll head into your Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud > iCloud Backup to make a new backup on your old device and then select ‘Restore from iCloud Backup’ on your new phone or tablet. Apple has a detailed guide to walk you through the nuances, but it won’t take you long.

It’s just as easy on Android, where you’ll head into Settings > System > Backup and then make sure the backup is being saved to Google Drive. On your new Android phone, you’ll choose to set up your phone using a backup from another Android device. As is usually the case with Android, the specific prompts may be different depending on your phone’s manufacturer, so if you’re stuck, it’s always a good idea to visit the manufacturer’s support site for more information.

Lock it down

One of the most important things you can do with any new high-tech gadget is enable built-in security features.

For a phone or tablet that means activating passcodes, screen locks and biometrics like facial recognition or fingerprint sensors. When setting up a new iOS or Android device you’ll be prompted to set up these features right out of the gate. Don’t skip them! Newer iPhones without home buttons have Face ID as well as passcodes for dual-layer security. Setting these up not only ensures that prying eyes won’t be able to break into your phone, but it also makes it less appealing to potential thieves who can’t do anything with a locked-down smartphone.

Android devices usually have a mix of facial recognition features and fingerprint sensors, but Android has a wealth of security options built in as well. You can choose simple or complex passcodes, so always take the extra time to come up with a longer code that you’ll never forget but that others wouldn’t be able to guess. There are no excuses for easy-to-hack passwords like “12345” or “00000,” so spend the time to craft a memorable login.

If you’ve been gifted a new smart speaker or something potentially more invasive, like a Facebook Portal, tackle the security section of the manual to understand how to keep yourself safe. Many other “smart screens” have built-in webcam covers that you can operate automatically or manually to keep the lens from turning on when you’re not using it. If you’re worried about your privacy this is something to keep an eye on.

Missed connections

Few things in this world are more frustrating than hooking up a shiny new gadget only to realize that it refuses to connect to the internet or sync via Bluetooth. There are a million reasons why a device might not connect the way you expect it to, but there are some pretty simple solutions that tend to work more often than not≥

First, reboot the device completely, meaning turn it all the way off and then all the way back on. As I mentioned earlier, typically that does the trick.

When trying to connect to your home WiFi network make sure your password is correct and that you’re not accidentally connecting to your neighbor’s network that just happens to be within range. If your router has a WPS button it can make things a lot easier, and all you’ll have to do is select WPS in your gadget’s settings and then press the button on your router.

Oh, and the old “turn it off and back on again” trick works for your router, too, so give that a try as a last resort before diving into the support section of the manufacturer’s website and you’ll probably save yourself a lot of headaches.

Upcycle old tech

As you stare wide-eyed at your new tech toys don’t forget about the gadgets you’re replacing. Rather than let them collect dust, you can score cash by selling them yourself or take advantage of post-holiday promotions at retailers like GameStop.

Through Jan. 11, GameStop will pay the same value in cash as it does for credit on older game systems, smartphones, tablets and more. As is the case with most gadget trade-in deals, GameStop usually pays more in-store credit than it does in cash, so take advantage of these rare “cash value same as credit” promotions whenever you can.

Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech contributor and host of USA TODAY’s digital video show TECH NOW. Email her at jj@techish.com. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferJolly.

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